By Louise Gleeson
I stepped into my almost 13-year-old’s room the other day, to gather up some of her laundry, and I saw the book I had given her about puberty lying face down and open on the floor beside her bed.
That’s how it has been since I first left the book on her pillow a couple of years ago.
She was heading off to her first sleep-away camp then, and although she was a couple years from experiencing puberty herself, there would likely be girls around her going through it and chatter about those experiences would be happening.
As parents, we got off easy when it came to starting the conversation about body parts and sex with our kids. Our daughter was seven when I became pregnant with her youngest sister, which meant she was old enough to have some very pointed questions. Her younger brother and sister became part of the dialogue because we decided to make it a family discussion.
We turned to books because at their grade level the Ontario curriculum hadn’t covered the birds and the bees, so to speak. We started with the It's Not the Stork! series (which comes in different age-appropriate versions) and we went from there. We answered whatever questions they had openly and honestly with age-appropriate answers, and we’ve kept the conversation going since.
This is a drawing by my son (then 4 years old) showing me pregnant with his sister, and my husband "pregnant" with smiling sperm (note the wavy tails).
My husband and I met the announcement there would be a new sex education curriculum introduced across Ontario this September with enthusiasm (the last update to the curriculum occurred in 1998).
Because as much as we have been open with our children about body science (as one retired B.C. nurse and pioneer in the field of sex education calls it – click here to listen to her compelling interview), we also understand that our children are facing challenges we didn’t, like social media posts and sexting.
And we’ve read the research, which tells us that talking and teaching kids about their bodies and providing positive sex messaging does not encourage them to have sex earlier. In fact, evidence from across the globe shows young adults are more likely to demonstrate responsible sexual behavior if they have the words and knowledge they need to make informed decisions.
In addition to online photo sharing and sexting, my husband and I are glad to see the new curriculum address topics like gender identity, same-sex relationships and consent.
And again, like the books we read and shared with our kids when they were younger, we hope it will start an ongoing conversation, as well as empower our children to understand their bodies and seek healthy sexual relationships.
As far as hearing this information from a source other than us, we are looking to the curriculum to provide our kids with the facts. We are well aware that advice from mom and dad doesn’t always hold the same weight, especially as we enter the teen years.
And being that peers become increasingly influential, we are relieved there will be curriculum provided in the classrooms to help guide the conversations they have with friends.
What about you? Are you ready for Ontario’s new sex education curriculum?
Louise Gleeson has four children; a dog; an abundance of free time, as you can imagine; and a blog about it all called Late Night Plays. She also contributes to Today's Parent, Canadian Family and other lifestyle sites