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Sex-education lessons

Sex education is still a very controversial issue in our society. Parents, teachers, churches and the media often have completely contradictory opinions about when and to what extent children are to be introduced to the subject of sexuality for the first time. Strangely: Children are much less concerned than adults and deal more natural with this issue. In addition, approaches and legislation partly very different in the individual parts of Germany.

Sex education in school
Sex education in school | ©: momanuma - Fotolia

It is, therefore, necessary to approach the issue of sex education very sensitive. It is important to be honest about it and not to sweep anything under the carpet. The more open everybody involved can be with this topic; the more efficient arrangements can be made an adverse outcome can be prevented.

Moreover, still the issue of sex education raises many questions:

What is appropriate age? Can the sexual education go beyond previous limits and indeed can children be asked to describe their favourite sex position? Do children in 8th grade really need a "condom license"?

In the face of such facts children-protectionists already raise the alarm and make such claims responsible for the rampant sexual violence and brutalization of moral responsibility. Whether this is true, and in which situations, the most problems occur the following guide answered will respond to this.

Sex education in practice

As already indicated, opinions regarding sex education are very far apart. To even be able to shed an objective light on this issue, we should look at two very controversial opinions first.

Traditional conservative churches are in this context. No surprise there that the sex education in church schools traditionally take on the backburner than in normal schools - if at all. Issues such as homosexuality, are as expected, almost never discussed.

In politics, on the other hand - particularly the red-green coalition - calls for liberalization of the sex education. In their context children are supposed to come up with brothel facilities and discuss their favourite positions and anal sex with an adult. Leading sex educators, such as the Kassel Professor Elisabeth Tuider share the same opinion. However, they do find fierce resistance by many parents and churches.

However, the fact is: Sexual encounters start earlier and earlier in a child’s life.

sex-education - contraception
sex-education - contraception | ©: full image - Fotolia

Whether the actual sexuality in itself begins much earlier than a few decades ago is doubted by many experts. The only thing they agree upon is that nowadays sexuality is discussed much more publicly than in the past. Children experience nudity and sexuality in advertisements, on the Internet and in many other places of our daily lives. For parents, this often presents a significant problem. They feel insecure and do not know how to deal with their children in this context.

At what age is sex education reasonable?

Sometimes dealing with sexuality begins for some children as early as in kindergarten age. However, the children's cognitive development is not at the right age for those teachings. Experts recommend, for sex education to begin, in the third or fourth grade. Here, attempts can be made to talk about the different bodies of men and women, the changes of puberty, feelings and love, maternity and birth.

How should sex education be taught?

In earlier times scientifically worksheets, diagrams, etc., were issued as part of sex education. However, the children often were unable to establish a relation to their own body. Today, with few exceptions – we are one step further and explain issues such as puberty or the cycle of women by dolls or plastic body models. To make sexuality and gender differences, etc. palatable for children in the truest sense of the word, aids, such as little ping-pong balls, which depict the ova, are used.

Who should teach sex education?

Education and sex education are not one and the same. It is, therefore, important for both parents as well as teachers and other educators, to each taking on their part. Even today parents are responsible for the classic sex education. They are the ideal caregivers. Teachers and youth workers can convey any other sexual educational content. However, beware, even before the classical sex education by parents, caregivers such as kindergarten teachers are required. It is quite possible that there is a demand at this age, and it can come to sexual activities between children there too. More of this further down.

Where do most of the problems regarding the sexual development of children, and adolescents show up?

Children discover their sexuality in a playful manner which is characterized by spontaneity, innocence and joy of discovery. These include the famous Doctor Games, which usually are harmless and do not constitute a cause for alarm for parents and other carers. In those situations, children live their sexuality regarding themselves, following their instinct of physical closeness. However, this only applies if it is based on the principle of voluntariness.

However, problems arise whenever this principle is violated, and sexual acts are forced by violence, pressure or promises. It should be noted: Here we are talking solely about actions between children that are almost the same age. In the case of such encroachments, clearly boundaries are overstepped, and the privacy of the victim is highly disregarded. It is important to prepare adults, where those incidences can occur to respond properly in such situations. However, they also need to know what is normal and absolutely harmless. Here are three examples:

In kindergarten

The kindergarten is the first place where children are dealing intensively with groups and establish a social structure. Since kindergarten groups are getting bigger, educators have increasing problems to keep track of every child. Therefore, it is possible that children already experience situations with a sexual connotation. Partly even in the form of encroachment. Since the social fabric is building up rather slowly and each child first must find his particular place in this structure, such incidents can be in be particularly dramatic. An immediate intervention is, therefore, essential.

At school

The school is the second home for most of the childhood of every human being. We spend nine years there and sometimes even considerably more. The social structure which starts already in kindergarten continues seamlessly into school. However, possible incidents and actions with a clearly sexual connotation are much more likely at school because no longer are children monitored every single minute but do enjoy some freedom as, for example, during recess. In this context, the attention of every teacher and guardian is required because we want to uncover possible incidents as quickly as possible and also take appropriate measures.

At children's birthday parties, parties, etc.

The same as for school applies to children's birthday parties, parties, etc. as well. Here again, children come together in larger groups were, regarding sexuality, problems can occur. Sometimes it starts with familiar and totally harmless party games like spin the bottle, etc. However, uncontrolled this can lead to sexual activities at times, which are age inappropriate. Also, to sexual encroachments are one sided exertions of power in this context. Therefore, parents, carers and guardians are asked to exercise greater attention, to intervene as early as possible.

How should adults (parents, teachers, caregivers, etc.) react if there was an "incident" with children or teens, or when children ask sexual questions?

Many adults feel as if the rug was pulled under their feet, as soon as their child asks sexual questions for the first time. The uncertainty only increases when it comes to sexual activities between children or young people and the parents learn of it. Even more so should they happen to be direct eyewitnesses.

What should be done in this case, or how do parents, teachers, youth workers, etc. respond correctly?

First it is essential to establish, whether the incident was consensual or if we are dealing here with a sexual assault. Let us first consider the case of sexual assault. This is an incident in which the imbalance of power plays a decisive role. Precisely this means: A child or teenager exerts power over another, and the whole thing is done in a sexual context.

In this case, if adults are direct witnesses, it is their duty of care to intervene immediately. The attack must be stopped instantly. This should be followed by individual discussions with the victim as well as with the assailant. The afflicted child needs immediate attention and care. That comes first. In the subsequent discussions, the assailant needs to understand that he has overstepped boundaries. He should be shown where, how and which boundaries were overstepped. In addition, appropriate measures must be taken to prevent a recurrence. The affected child should be taken to a quiet room and in an open atmosphere, it should receive consolation and compassion. By clearly siding with the afflicted child, it will gain trust and the incident can then be processed through conversations.

How should parents respond correctly, if the sexual activity among children and young people was consensual?

Here the facts are somewhat different than in the case described above. The sexual acts were consensual and by mutual agreement. However, many parents do ask, what am I supposed to do now?

Try to find common ground when talking to both kids. Maintain a relaxed and open atmosphere. Make your point clear and show the possible consequences of their sexual activity - for both children. However, the discussion should not happen with a raised finger but in an amicable and empathetic manner.

The same goes if the child comes to asking you sexual questions. Here too, the open and honest conversation should be sought, without false modesty and prudery.

Sex education and youth work

Confidently, we can leave sex education to parents and schools. However, having some know-how when it comes to sex and teens can never hurt. Inevitably, every youth worker will be confronted with this issue at some point. Either directly, (through questions), by observing or listening. Just as different the opinions of experts, just as different will every youth worker respond to the children in his care. Not at least because of their own upbringing, experience and sex education. Some are very open and unencumbered, while others may be uncertain, embarrassed, prudish or even take the moral high ground. As already mentioned, young people deal with this much more freely than most adult. On the other side, young people have the greater uncertainty when it comes to their sexuality. That sexuality in itself is something beautiful and natural is often destroyed as many adults deal with it by moralizing it, seeing it as something punishable or just simply overreact. That makes young people insecure. My advice would be a little more openness, and less morality would help young people much on the way to find their sexuality.

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