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Your child's sexuality education

How you can have a say

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Feature

Knowing what is taught to your child during sexuality education classes can be helpful to you as a parent, and help your child’s learning.

It’s common for parents and guardians to have mixed feelings about sexuality education – the desire for a child to feel prepared for the changes ahead can be mixed with sadness that a child is growing up.

Many parents are reassured by knowing what will be taught to their child during sexuality education and when certain topics will be introduced.

State and integrated schools in New Zealand must consult with their local community every two years about the content of the health and sexuality education they plan to teach.  

Our Chief Executive Jackie Edmond says parents are entitled, and encouraged, to have a say in the content that will be taught in this part of the curriculum.

“We recommend that you talk to your child’s teacher or principal about the school’s sexuality education programme, and what content you would like to see taught to your child,” Ms Edmond says.

Schools usually hold an information evening for parents, where the curriculum will be discussed, ideas can be shared, and any concerns or questions can be raised.

Some things to think about:

  • What you would like your child to learn now, and what do you want them to learn as they get older?
  • It can be helpful to think about what was it like for you as a child or teenager. What worries or questions did you have? Put yourself in their shoes.
  • It’s better to teach children about puberty, sexuality, and intimate relationships before they need to know, rather than when they have already reached that stage of development or learn it from other sources – wrong or no information can be confusing, or even dangerous.

“It’s a really good idea to go along to the meeting, even if you don’t think you have any suggestions about the content – it’s important to be aware of and understand what will be taught,” Ms Edmond says.

Knowing what is being taught means you can continue to talk about the topics at home and discuss with your child your own family’s views about sex and relationships.

Being able to talk to your child about these issues also reinforces what they are learning about at school. Children who get the same positive messages from school and whānau will be able to draw on their learning and make decisions with more confidence when they face difficult situations in the future.

Providing children and teenagers with knowledge and skills about sexual and reproductive health and rights does not mean you are encouraging them to become sexually active.

Comprehensive sexuality education sets children up for healthier and safer futures. International research shows sexuality education can delay young people first having sex, reduce the number of sexual partners, and increase their use of contraception.

“We strongly encourage you to support your child and allow them to attend sexuality education at school, so they can get age-appropriate, factually correct information.”

Ms Edmond says comprehensive sexuality education is vital to equip young people with the right knowledge, skills and values for their future.

“We want children and young people to be comfortable with their changing bodies, to be confident, and have the skills to develop positive and healthy relationships.”

Did you know?

  • You have the right to withdraw your child from sexuality education specific classes. To do so, you need to write to the principal.  The school will provide your child with an alternative activity for the duration of the classes.
  • Sexuality education must be offered by schools from Year 1 up to Year 10.
  • Sexuality education sits within the Health and Physical Education part of the curriculum. Health is the only area which schools are required to consult on with their local community.
  • Family Planning is the largest provider of sexuality education training in New Zealand. We have resources especially designed to be used in schools. If you think your school might be interested in resources to help teach sexuality education, you can read more here.

More information:

Family Planning has clinics located throughout New Zealand. Use the clinic finder to find your nearest clinic.

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