Sex Education: 101

Letters of birds and the bees

There’s been a flurry of controversy in print, radio and social media about the newly revised Ontario Sex Education Curriculum, due to start in Ontario’s elementary schools this fall.

It’s complicated. Talking about the birds and the bees is probably one of the toughest topics for parents to tackle with their children. When we were kids we didn’t have the World Wide Web, cell phones and Facebook. Sexting (sending explicit sexual images or messages electronically), date rape drugs, reality TV and online social networks were non-existent. There is no question that the primary ‘teacher’ of sexual and social values should be parents—but what is their level of competence and comfort?

I recall my Mom sitting down with my sister Carol and me for our talk about menstruation and how babies are made – Mom was equipped with the handy Kotex booklet and a sanitary belt. She did a great job. Later that evening my Dad asked Carol and I to come into the living room for a chat—“Did we have any questions we’d like to ask?”  Are you kidding???  I know this sounds like a page from Leave It To Beaver, but this open and frank discussion set the stage for ongoing communication. But let’s face it—it’s tough to raise children in today’s society which is multi-cultural, multi-ethnic, multi-gendered, multi-networked and LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, transgendered, questioning). Accurate and reliable information is more vital than ever if children are ‘to become informed, productive, caring, responsible, healthy and active citizens in their communities’. (The Ontario Curriculum, Grades 1-8 – preface).

Many parents believe that this program is pushing the curriculum too fast. That it is taking away the innocence of childhood and does not support family values. As a Registered Nurse I believe that health is a whole person experience—it is holistic in nature and addresses the physical, emotional, cognitive, social, religious and sexual needs of a person. These essentials help to develop a person’s self-esteem which is the foundation for healthy growth and development. A positive self-esteem helps a child:

  • to feel good about who they are,
  • to understand and solve problems,
  • to say NO or YES as appropriate,
  • to trust they are a person of worth,
  • to not be a follower,
  • to not succumb to peer pressure, and
  • to be free to develop their personal beliefs and values.

The sex education curriculum provides timely information that most students would have already gleaned from the internet or TV, but at least all students will receive the same accurate information, at the same time, by caring and knowledgeable teachers. Kids are then able to go home and discuss the material with their parents. Some schools offer workshops for parents so they have an understanding of the content and teacher prompts which help to bring the lessons to life. Parents do have the right to have their children opt out of any class.

Summary of the sex education topics by grade level:

Grade Topics
One ·         Names of body parts
Two ·         Stages of growth and development
Three ·         Healthy family relationships – i.e. children raised by a single parent, grandparents, guardian, 2 mothers, 2 fathers or in a traditional family setting·         Showing respect for individuals
Four ·         Safe use of technology·         Bullying and abuse

·         Puberty

Five ·         Bullying and violence·         Menstruation and spermatogenesis – emotional and interpersonal changes
Six ·         Development of self-concept·         Sexual orientation

·         Homophobia

·         Masturbation

·         Racism and discrimination

Seven ·         Dangers of technology – i.e. sexting·         Delaying sexual activity

·         Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs)

·         Pregnancy prevention – contraception

·         Consent

·         Moral and ethical considerations

Eight ·         Sexual assault and dating violence·         Decisions about sexual activity

·         Gender identity and sexual orientation

·         Self-concept

·         Consent at every stage

·         Setting personal limits

 

Check out the new curriculum and Parent’s Guide at: www.edu.gov.on.ca/eng

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Three Faces of Widowhood – Part ll: Working Through

eye of grief

Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, a Swiss Psychiatrist identified in 1969, the five stages of Loss and Grief (similar to the 5 stages of dying): denial and isolation, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. It describes the emotional stages that survivors experience after the death of a loved one (or the loss of a pet, friend, limb, breast etc.) Grief does not have a schedule—there are no deadlines for the resolution of grief. Of course these stages can occur in any order and can be re-visited over time as one moves to peaceful acceptance.

Another way of looking at the grieving process is through three broad and overlapping phases:

  1. Retreating – the experience of disbelief, shock, confusion and disorientation
  2. Working Through – the experience of feeling the full impact of the death – the expression of feelings and responses
  3. Resolving – the integration of the loss into one’s life

Jayne, Sandi and Monica are transitioning through their wall of grief and are now in the Working Through phase. It is a deeply personal and singular journey; therefore the following experiences do not necessarily describe any one person, but is the collective culmination of courage, choices and clarity on their journeys of recovery.

The first year is tough as they re-live the ABCD’s of the post-death period—anniversary, birthday, Christmas and death. Sandi is almost through her first year after the death of Trent. She describes the task of transitioning to a single person as lonely: from we to me, from ours to mine, and from us to my—the aloneness enveloped her in a state of acute vulnerability that was hard to shake. But through the process of re-discovering herself she realized that she liked being a couple and set about to explore online dating. Actually her daughter set her profile up and Sandi has now been on a few dates. She had to learn to trust again and not look at relationships through rose-coloured glasses – instead she looks at life with eyes wide open.

Jayne’s journey through the thicket of grief required her to sort through her shards of emotional shrapnel—she was always the one to resolve problems, keep peace in the family, and go the extra mile to meet work obligations. She said ‘yes’ to everyone but herself. She has learned to be kind to herself and not be afraid of the boogie man—she has stopped the tape running incessantly in her head, about all the ‘what-ifs’ that might be just around the corner. Instead she enjoys just watching the flames of a fire or going for long walks to distract her from the intensity of life. Jayne is starting to get comfortable in her own skin.

Monica has discovered that by focusing on her own health and well-being, she can begin to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Grief shakes one’s foundations and one of the pillars is self-esteem. Being in a new city was like double jeopardy but she joined a yoga group, met new people, attended a learn-to-knit class and found satisfaction in creating wooly gifts for her grandchildren and friends.

Mourning time is really convalescent time for the body, mind and spirit. My three widowed friends are slowly regaining their equilibrium as they look inward to relax their bodies, re-focus attention on themselves and inspire their spirits to a new transformation.