British Columbia·Point of View

Sex and kids: When it comes to talking to your children about it, knowledge is power

Many parents struggle to talk with their children about sex and rely on schools to educate their children about the birds, the bees and their ABCs. How can we make sure they're getting the best information?

Talking about sex with your kids can be tough, but the more they learn, the better they'll be

Sexual education in B.C. schools is inclusive and ever-evolving. (CBC)

This story is part of Amy Bell's Parental Guidance  column that airs on CBC Radio One's The Early Edition.

You know what I don't like thinking about? My children having sex!

But as uncomfortable as it may be, sex will likely become an important part of all our children's lives at some point —whether we're ready for it or not.

And while many parents—myself included—have felt themselves breaking out in a cold sweat when faced with "the talk," we need to make sure our children get the right information before it's too late. 

And sometimes, we need a little help. 

In Canada, we're lucky that our kids, not only learn about the ABCs and 123s at school, they also learn about the birds and the bees.

While sexual education curricula can vary from province to province, schools in B.C. actually have a modern and inclusive mandate to teach children about their bodies and sexual health. 

Recent updates have included gender identity and gender fluidity.  But it comes down to the individual teacher to share these lessons with their class and that's where things can vary widely from school to school and teacher to teacher.

Our kids are hyper-sexualised at at younger and younger ages. - Saleema Noon

Many schools opt to bring in a supplementary educator to host more in-depth lessons specifically on sexual and body health.  

Saleema Noon is a sexual health educator who—along with her team of colleagues—has been helping parents and kids navigate, for nearly 20 years, what can still be a relatively taboo subject.

She's seen firsthand the increasing amount of information kids are exposed to at younger and younger ages and constantly updates her teachings to make sure they are able to process and question what they've seen and heard. 

"Some things don't change. Puberty is puberty, " she says. "Our kids are hyper-sexualized at younger and younger ages. We don't have an option. We need to have these conversations. We need to be open with them, so that they're coming to us." 

Noon also says that questions she once faced from Grade 10 students are now coming from students as young as Grade 7.

"I can't help but guess that's an immediate response to things they've seen online," said Noon. "Or in the nature of the TV shows and movies that they're watching. Even our song lyrics have changed" 

But even if teachers and parents get on board with a more in-depth sexual education plan, it's not going to be an easy sell. I spoke with a normally rowdy group of  12-year-olds to see how comfortable they were learning about sexual health. 

"I find it uncomfortable to learn with my peers, " said one girl. " Just, over all, not very good," said another. 

Our kids know a lot more than they probably let on — and we need to accept and acknowledge that. 

We put a lot of importance on our children learning subjects like math, social studies and science, so why shouldn't sex education be just as important? 

We don't know that our kids are going to grow up to multiply fractions on a regular basis, but chances are they are going to have sex—or are already having it. So, let's make sure that they have the information to be safe, respectful, fully consensual and prepared for when they do decide to "do it."

About the Author

Amy Bell is a digital contributor to CBC. She can be heard weekdays on The Early Edition as the traffic and weather reporter and parenting columnist.


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