Friday, February 5, 2010

Children and Sexuality

Children and sexuality

Opportunities for sexuality education span across the lifetime. An important population to consider providing education to is parents of younger children. Advantages of parents providing sex education is that they are able to make the most of teachable moments and teach the family values related to sexuality (American Academy of Pediatrics, 2010). However in order for parents to do this, they must be able to recognize young children as sexual beings. Fortunately, great resources are available on the web so parents can have access to quality knowledge even when a sex educator cannot be physically present for the conversation.

Last semester I went to a workshop on talking to children about sex hosted by Planned Parenthood of DE (PPDE). I saw great teaching methods used there and am going to share them along with information that can be useful to parents.

Understanding sexuality in children – Here is a link to sexual milestones in children a way to educate parents. If providing education in person, one could consider having milestones on individual cards and having parents match the milestone to the correct age (like a timeline).

Making the most of teachable moments – While parents may not schedule sex talks with young children, they should be able to answer sex questions if they come up. Here is a resource that offers suggestions for making the most of those teachable moments. If doing this is person, parents could practice by being given a scenario and role playing the response with a partner.

Know your family’s values – parents are in a positive to teach about sexuality from a point that fits within the family’s values, not societal values. This will require the parent(s) to really think about what is important to them and how they wish to convey that message to their offspring. To help parents think through their values two very different cultures and their view on sexuality could be given to help parents figure out how they fall on the spectrum.



  1. This is actually one of my most favorite topics. I was hoping to write my blog on this, but you beat me to it; and covered the subject matter beautifuly Darcie!

    Parents are in the position to arm their children with knowledge that will guide them well into adulthood. Parents can be the trusted and knowledgable adult that their children start early conversations with prior to encountering situations where they have to make sexual decisions. Parents and children can be reminded that receiving sexual information does not equal permission to have sex. So, discussion is not a green light to engage in sexual activity, but rather a tool to assist with making healthy decisions.

    Parents can use the media as a teachable moment and conversation starter. Even negative sexual messages in the news and movies can spark healthy sexual conversation.

    I encourage parents and children to embrace their uniqueness. Enjoy the 7 years of being a teen!

    A compehensive sex ed reference for parents, children and teachers is Our Whole Lives (OWL) and can be found at education/curricula/


  2. Darcie I really enjoyed your post. It is amazing to me how many people never had a conversation with their parents about sex or sexuality. On the first day of my sexual health class we always talk about where we got our information about sex and there are very few students who have had a conversation about sex and as college students still have not had conversations with their parents about sex. There is such a need for parents to talk to their children about sex and sexuality and let them know that it isn't something to be ashamed of.

    There are a few resources that I found that I think are pretty good for parents

    One site that I found particularly interesting is a site by The National Sexuality Resource Center called "Cool Aunt" In their own words a "cool aunt" is described as “someone who isn't afraid to answer the hard, funny and perplexing questions about sex.”

  3. Advocates for youth has quite a bit to say on this topic. They have curriculum as well as detailed philosophy statements with studies and statistics for support. Click on the parents resource center

  4. I recently worked with New Jersey Teen PEP. It is an education program, which works with students and helps them become sexually educated. It is an excellent program and encourages students to make healthy decisions. When speaking with the director, I found one of their goals was to get parents more involved. There is a general concern regarding parental involvement. For more information on Teen PEP, check out their website: www.

    Although studies have not confirmed that talking about sex leads to less sexual activity, some research has revealed that increased parental communication helps adolescents make healthier sexual decisions (Zamboni & Silver, 2009). Personally, think parents should refer to the internet for help. Darcie, I agree with what you stated regarding parents answering questions. It may be difficult for parents to be comfortable enough to talk with their child about sex, as well as know the answers to all of their questions. But these days, an important point to get across to children is how to get their answers from valid sources. It is important for parents to teach and show their children good websites to visit if they are curious about sex topics. The internet is filled with fallacious websites and it is easy for children of all ages to find wrong information if they don’t know where to look.

    In my opinion, the best way for parents to discuss sex with their children is with heart-to-heart chats in person, but to pretend that children are not hearing false information from illogical sources is absurd. The internet is everywhere and children will search for answers to the questions they don’t feel comfortable asking their parents. With this in mind, parents should not ignore the fact that their children need guidance and teach their kids where to find information.

    Zamboni, B. D. & Silver, R. (2009). Family Sex Communication and the
    Sexual Desire, Attitudes, and Behavior of Late Adolescents.
    American Journal of Sexuality Education, 4(1), 58-78.

  5. To follow up... I have personally used the Family Life and Sexual Health (F.L.A.S.H) curriculum for students with developmental disablilities. The lesson plans and curriculum for all student levels. These are evidence based teaching methods. I have found that having a evidence based curriculum is very helpfull when creating rational for am education based intervention, as nowadays many professionals are not interested in the opinions of a consortium or individual with a advanced degree unless there is some sort of proof. The pdf's and powerpoint modules are located on the advocates for youth website listed on my previous post. The specific link for all of them are listed below. Please let me know if I can answer any questions about my own experience using them!

  6. What a great topic, Darcie, and you covered it well! I agree with Danielle... teaching high school health class puts me in the position to have these conversations with students. Many of them have not had those conversations with their parents and need someone to talk to. Even in high school, they have many questions.

    Working with my community partner is giving me the opportunity to talk to parents about talking to their kids about sex. I am very excited to see this side of sexuality education and plan on using as well as passing along some of the resources.

    It is necessary, in my opinion, for parents to have open conversations with their children. It will help them align their beliefs and values and give them the opportunity to learn together. It is not, as Alice said, giving permission for them to have sex rather allowing for healthy, informed decision making. Children Now and the Kaiser Family Foundation run, which is an initiative to encourage parents to talk early and often to their children about difficult topics.

    Some websites are give parents tips on how to talk about sex within the constraits of their beliefs, which can certainly be difficult. One such example is

  7. Darcie~I found myself reflecting on my years as a parent as I read your post. As a parent almost all of those teachable moments happened in the van. I don't know what it is about being in the back seat while being driven around that creates the right mood for children.

    I am lucky I didn't have an accident in all those years. The questions/statements that came out of nowhere sometimes startled me. They should put warning labels on the steering wheels of cars/vans .....

    As a parent I did not have good role models for supporting my children as sexual beings. I knew things I wouldn't say or do...but that is not the same as having a framework around values and open communication.

    I had a lot of catching up to do when I figured it out as my children entered their teen years. I do know they were told the correct scientific or medical terminology. But that was due in large part to their dad being a physician.

    I also responded to your post as a sexuality educator, one that has a great deal of empathy for the disconnect between parents' desires to educate and their abilities/comfort levels.

    I have found Debra Haffner's books to be spot on - easy to read, humorous, accurate, and affirming. Here are three that I recommend sexuality educators add to their libraries and recommend to parents:

    From Diapers to Dating: A Parent's Guide to Raising Sexually Healthy Children (infancy to middle school). ISBN 978-1-55704-810-3. Original publication date is 1999 with several reprintings.

    Beyond the Big Talk: A Parent's Guide to Raising SExually Healthy Teens (middle school - high school and beyond). ISBN 978-1-55704-811-0. Originally published 2001.

    What Every 21st Century Parent Needs To Know. ISBN 978-1-55704-726-7. Published in 2008.

    Haffner is a career sexuality educator, having been in this field for over 25 years. She was the Chief and CEO of SIECUS for 12 years. In 2003 she was ordained as a Unitarian Universalist minister. She is current the Director of the Religious Institute on Sexual Morality, Justice and Healing.


  8. Jeremy, I just wanted to say thank you for posting the information F.L.A.S.H. curriculum - I am currently putting together a lesson plan on dating for individuals with autistic spectrum disorder. If you have anymore resources on curricula for individuals with a learning disability please let me know.

  9. Also, this resource was passed onto me recently and is recommended for parents of children with down syndrome. You can find it on Amazon for about $15.
    Teaching Children with Down Syndrome about Their Bodies, Boundaries, and Sexuality. A Guide for Parents and Professionals. Terri Couwenhoven. Woodbine House, 2007.

  10. Another great resource that can be used to educate parents about teaching their children about sexuality is SIECUS’s Guidelines for Comprehensive Sexuality Education: Kindergarten through 12th grade. SIECUS created a National Guidelines Task Force comprised of experts on adolescent development, health care and education. This task force created these guidelines to help identify what sexuality topics and messages are appropriate at each age level.

    The guidelines list 6 key sexuality concepts: human development, relationships, personal skills, sexual behavior, sexual health and society and culture. Each key concept has 6 or 7 sub-concepts which identify the main topics which should be covered. Each topic or sub-concept then has the important messages for each age group.

    For example the key concept is human development, one of the important topics related to human development is reproductive and sexual anatomy and physiology, and children ages 5-8 should be learning that each body part has a correct name and specific function.

    While these guidelines were created for educators they can be helpful in guiding parents to age appropriate topics and messages.

    SIECUS’s Guidelines for Comprehensive Sexuality Education: Kindergarten through 12th grade can be found at


  11. Children and Sexuality
    I personally love conversing about children and their need for Sex education. Parental sexuality education should begin around the age of three. At the age of three children begin to ask about babies and where they come from or begin exploring the body. During this developmental stage some parents are often apprehensive about what to say or how to educate their child. I find it helpful to give parents resources on developmentally appropriate sexuality materials for their children. So, some resources include:
    Values in Sex Education: From Principles to Practice By J. Mark Halstead, Michael J. Reiss