I read this article in the Jerusalem Post this morning entitled: Israeli Religious Schools Balk at Sex Education (which you can find here: http://www.jpost.com/National-News/Israeli-religious-schools-balk-at-sex-education-325317) and I wanted to share some thoughts with you on the topic.
I, personally, am one who believes that we adults should be open with our children, especially on the topic of bodies, sexual reproduction, dating, relationships, and intimacy. The reason I feel this way is because I believe in having open lines of communication with our children (and in ALL of our relationships) AND I believe that we should be the ones educating our children, especially on this topic. Let’s be honest, our children are curious and going to find out this information one way or another, be it from friends, or older siblings of friends, books, and of course, the internet. My feeling is that it is my responsibility to give my children the right information.
But not everyone is comfortable speaking openly about sex or their bodies, even in their own relationships, which would make it difficult to speak openly about the topic with their children, at any age. Or one may not feel it is appropriate, as the sited article above suggests, to teach children about sex, or sexual reproduction, before they, the children themselves, are at at the age when it is necessary for them to know this information (which according to the National Religious Israeli Schools’ decision is in 10th or 11th grade.) While other parents may just leave it to fate, which reminds me of a cute story a woman from a Chassidic sect once shared with me.
She shared a story of a mother who had just married off her son, who was in his early 20s. Shortly after getting married, her son came over to his mother’s home asking for help to fill out some legal forms. This family only spoke Yiddish in their home and as he was filling out the form, this young man turned to his mother and asked her: “Mom, what does ‘sex’ mean?” The mother’s heart skipped a beat and replied to her son’s quest with a question of her own: “You don’t know what sex means?” she asked. “Well,” he responded, “at the top of the form, it says, ‘sex.’ What does it mean? What are they asking me?” The mom took a deep breath and smiled in relief and responded: “Oh, they just want to know if you are a man or a woman.”
Cute story, and I am sure many of us have similar ones to tell, because in all honesty how many of us have had frank conversations with our parents about sex? And still I think that the best people to learn it from are the ones we feel the closest to. And the age at which to discuss all things related to bodies and babies, in my opinion (which is also based on the training I received as a sexual abuse prevention counselor) is much earlier than when our children hit puberty. It’s when all those hormones kick in when the conversation becomes uncomfortable, isn’t it? But even when it is brought up later, or during the age of puberty, and beyond, at the very least, we are giving permission to our kids to talk about something that is very much, and will very much will be, part of their lives.
When I was in the seventh grade (I attended an all girls religious school) we were given a talk about the reproductive system. While I had no clue what the awkward pictures the instructor was drawing on the board were, (that she said were, in fact, in my body…what?!) or how they really functioned, nor had I any intention of reading the book they handed out at the end of the lecture (that we all made fun of afterwards), I did know one thing. I knew that whatever they were talking about not only had to do with me, but was universal to all of us girls and females, in general. This ‘talk’, as awkward as it was, gave a green light, so to speak, to explore the topic further, either on my own, or with a trusted friend or adult.
So, here are the questions I have for you:
- Who, in your opinion, should be teaching our children about sex, sexual reproduction, intimacy / relationships?
- At what age should we start educating our kids (in pre-school, elementary age, middle-school, high school, or right before they get married?)
- What really holds us back from educating our kids about sex (and all things related), is it about our kids, or is it really about us? (Yes, I realize that was a bit of a deeper question.)
I look forward to hearing your comments!