Watch above: As school officials rethink their strategies on sex education others question the role of the parents. Meaghan Craig finds out who should have the loudest voice when it comes to teaching children about the birds and the bees.
SASKATOON – On Monday, the province of Ontario revealed it’s new sexual education curriculum revamped from 1998. Grade 3 students will learn about same-sex marriage and three years later about masturbation.
It’s sex ed that has sparked controversy and perhaps an overdue conversation about how much children really need to know and when.
According to Dr. Julie Kryzanowski, deputy medical health officer with the Saskatoon Health Region (SHR), part of raising a healthy children is being able to talk about things like sex at home as well as at school.
“What providing sex education in the schools does is ensure that children and youth have access to factual information from a trusted resource.”
In 2009, presentations about sexual health to students by public health nurses from the SHR stopped.
“At that time we looked at what public health nurses were doing in schools in terms of providing education, realizing we didn’t have enough capacity to do an excellent job across the health region and also recognizing that teachers are the ones that have the expertise and excellence in teaching.”
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While the support of the public health nurses is still there, the information since 2009 is provided to students by their teachers.
“Public health services in SHR at that time developed a resource education package to help teachers provide sexual health education that is based in evidence and provides all of the medical and factual knowledge that teachers need in order to provide that education.”
Resource packages that are age appropriate and full of information that’s proven to be beneficial.
“What that means is reducing rates of sexually transmitted infections, reducing rates of teens pregnancy and delaying onset of sexual initiation there’s positive benefits associated with sexual health information provided to children and youth,” added Kryzanowski.
Information is power especially since rates for sexually transmitted infections like chlamydia are almost 40 per cent higher in our health region than the national average.
“We do see a difference in terms of men and women and they’re rates so the rates among females are higher by about 40 per cent in that young adult age group. We also see that rates are highest for girls 15 to 19 years of age and highest for men between 20 and 25 years of age.”
Health officials also stress that sexual health information is not only about preventing adverse effects from sexual activity but what healthy sexuality is.
“Autonomy, about self-expression and about making choices and informed choices.”
Conversations officials with the Saskatchewan Prevention Institute say need to start at home and early.
“We believe here at the institute that healthy sexuality really starts at birth,” said Jackie Eaton, a sexual and reproductive health program coordinator for the institute.
Teaching your child the correct names for their body parts including genitalia and establishing healthy boundaries for their own bodies.
“Parents really need to feel comfortable in having these conversations so the younger you start you provide those honest interactions with your children so that as they develop and become adolescents that they will be wanting to come and talk to their parents about their reproductive and sexual health choices.”
Eaton recommends parents lead conversations about sexual health with their children and connect with health professionals or health educators if there are questions.
“Young people are, they most often, will first go to their parents with those questions so it’s important that people become informed.”
By creating open and honest lines of communication, Eaton adds that it will likely lead to better outcomes in the future and children who are less inclined to surf the web for information.
“It can be a danger as there are many resources that are not necessarily appropriate for younger audiences.”
To access helpful resources regarding sexual health you can visit the Saskatchewan Prevention Institute.