From outdated VHS tapes, uncomfortable innuendos to awkward sanitary towel demos with your headmistress- we can all remember our first sex education lesson!
Ireland’s first official sex education programme was introduced in the mid-1990s throughout schools. Since then, the Department of Education requires that all schools have a policy in place regarding the teaching of Relationships and Sexuality Education (RSE).
In Ireland, RSE is designed to be taught from Junior Infants to 6th year however, while it is a mandatory programme, it is still not taught in every school.
Whatever the manner in which it was delivered, finding out about reproduction, puberty and the functions of the relevant body parts is an important issue and a monumental milestone in a child’s life.
It’s a conversation parents often dread.
Parents are the first teachers in a child’s life with a responsibility to foster and facilitate a safe environment where open conversation is encouraged and questions can be asked as needed.
As parents, we ourselves can also have so many questions;
- When is the right time?
- How much information is too much information?
- How should I deliver the talk?
No matter how open a parent is, the inevitable sex talk can still sometimes come as a surprise!
We’ve been doing our homework on the matter and have put together a short guide from our findings to provide some ideas and tips to help get you started and feel more prepared.
Puberty, changing bodies and new feelings can be overwhelming for kids. To help with this new transition, it is important that the conversation around these changes takes place ideally before they actually occur.
Most girls get their first period when they're 12 or 13 years old but some get their periods as early as age 9, while others get it as late as age 16. It is vital that girls learn about menstruation before it occurs. If they are unaware of what is happening, girls can be frightened or confused by the arrival of their period
On average, boys begin puberty a little later than girls, usually around age 10 or 11. Initial changes to look out for may include the cracking and then deepening of the voice, and growth of facial hair.
Many kids receive sex education at school however, often the lessons are segregated. It's important that girls learn about the changes boys go through and boys learn about those affecting girls.
- Start the conversation early. A series of shorter conversations throughout childhood and adolescence rather than one big “talk” can make things more comfortable for all involved.
- Ensure that the lines of communication are wide open. Commit to being an open family, where anything can be discussed at any time.
- Look for teachable moments for example when the topic may arise during movies or tv shows.
- Conduct lots of research! There are plenty of books and other resources out there to help parents get comfortable with sex talk. We’ve linked just a few below.
- Avoid any taboos. Listen and talk openly about sexual orientation and help them understand that their feelings are normal and may or may not change as time goes on.
- Provide your child with age-appropriate books or other resources for them to read with or without you.
- Ensure that your child is aware that they are in charge of their bodies and that they understand the meaning of consent in relation to themselves and others.
- LISTEN way more than you talk. Reserve judgement and be calm. Above all, let your child know that you love them and praise them for sharing their feelings with you.
- Don’t worry too much about embarrassment. Acknowledge yours and your child's discomfort from the beginning.
- Try to avoid overwhelming your child with too much information and instead perhaps break one larger talk into a series of shorter talks covering different topics.
- Avoid lecturing or preaching to your youngster. They should feel that it is a two-way conversation.
- Where possible, don’t avoid answering questions. If you feel unprepared with the “right” answer at that particular moment, explain that to them, giving them an idea of when you might have the answer.
- Don't wait for your child to come to you with questions about his or her changing body- that day may never arrive, especially if your child doesn't know it's OK to talk to you about this sensitive topic.
Talking with your child about sex, relationships and their health is a lifelong conversation and It’s never too early or late to start the conversation.
In fact, research tells us that kids and teens who have regular chats with their parents or caregivers about sex and relationships are less likely to talk risks with their sexual health, and more likely to be healthy and safe.
- Helpful resource for kids, parents and schools: https://b4udecide.ie/
- Sex Ed training courses and materials for parents: http://www.npc.ie/training-and-resources?contentid=54
- Information & support for LGBTQI+ community: http://www.belongto.org/
- Sexual Health Information for teenagers and older: https://spunout.ie/health/category/health-sexual-health
- “It’s not the stork” by Robie.H.Harris
- “It’s perfectly normal” by Robie. H. Harris
- What’s happening to me by Susan Meredith
- What’s the big secret? By Laurie Krasny Brown
- Beyond the Birds and the Bees by Bonnie J. Rough
- The Period Book by Karen Gravelle
If you enjoyed this blog, why not check out some other similar posts:
- 8 Common Menstruation Myths; Busted!
- Plastic-Free Periods; Navigating Sanitary Care in 2019
- 5 Self Care Ideas to Improve Your Period