Comment: Let's talk about sex and relationships
Thursday 4 June 2009
The first National Family Week (25-31 May)
promoted quality time for parents, carers and children. But did the
spring backdrop of birds singing and bees buzzing prompt families
to talk about sex and relationships?
The Sex Education Forum (SEF) knows children value talking
openly with parents and carers about sex and relationships. One
young person said in a 2008 SEF survey: "I can always ask my
parents anything, they are happy to tell me and talk through
stuff." But the reverse is also true: "Most parents don't know how
to bring the topic up without their children running in disgust. As
this is ultimately avoided, children may not know any facts and
learn from friends."
This is why an entitlement to sex and relationships education
(SRE) through statutory personal, social, health and economic
(PSHE) education is so crucial - to ensure every child gets the
information they need to stay safe and be healthy.
Published in April, Sir Alasdair MacDonald's review into making
PSHE education statutory describes the responsibility parents and
carers have to make sure their child knows about sex and
relationships. MacDonald points out that parents who take their
children out of SRE lessons must provide an alternative.
Schools, parents and carers all play a role, but effective SRE
is a partnership. Young people acknowledge that parents "could
benefit from a lesson or two" and parents generally welcome
support. Some schools invite parents to discuss teaching resources
and SRE policy; and some provide regular updates, suggesting
talking points parents can follow up at home.
Many adults say their own SRE was inadequate. Supportive
partnerships can get past embarrassment and foster the open,
inter-generational conversations about sex and relationships that
Lucy Emmerson, acting co-ordinator, Sex Education Forum.