Electronic Journal of Human Sexuality, Volume 5, May 14, 2002


National Family Sex Education Month
October, 2002


Parents are the primary sex educators of their own children, whether they do it well or badly. Silence and evasiveness are just as powerful teachers as are the facts.

Everybody says parents should be the primary sex educators, but who is preparing the parents for this role? Indeed, in terms of the values and spiritual life of the child, no outside group or agency could replace the family. Thus we see sex education taking place within the context of the family's value system which hopefully strives toward a family life free of racism, sexism, and prejudices against people with other values. Most religions and educators officially support this position, but few are doing anything about it.

Studies have consistently revealed that children do not acquire the information they need from parents; isn't it about time parents assumed this responsibility? No parent can be the sole educator; if he or she wanted to, they would have to prevent their children from reading books, newspapers and magazines, keep them away from television, movies and public bathrooms, and certainly prohibit them from having any friends at all.

But parents should be the main educators, with schools, religious and community groups as partners in the process. There are many ways parents can prepare for this role. That's why Advocates for Youth, a Washington, D.C.-based center dedicated to strengthening the American family and reducing unwanted pregnancies and venereal disease, especially among youth, will be launching Family Sex Education Month this October. The month is designed to promote national interest in preparing parents
and potential parents to educate their own children.

It's not that difficult. Society consistently underestimates the maturity of parents and their children. You can't tell a child too much. Knowledge doesn't stimulate inappropriate behavior, ignorance does. If you tell children more than they can understand, they will ask another question or turn you off. Parents must work toward being ASKABLE. We know that most parents want to educate their children, but they are often uncomfortable and don't know how. Obviously parents who find it difficult to talk to their children about any important issue will not be ready to talk about sex. However, our "reading" indicates that most parents are ready, but want some support. One very simple message to parents: If a child--no matter what age--asks you a question about sex, your first response should be, "That's a very good question."

It is essential for parents to be alert to extremist propaganda and political maneuvering, especially by those groups claiming to have a monopoly on the Judeo-Christian ethic. Censorship in the schools and media is one method used by extremist groups who want to impose their views on everybody. Parents should not be intimidated by scare tactics used as subterfuges for acquiring power on school boards or in churches.

We are calling upon PTA's, foundations, church and synagogue related groups and community organizations to develop ongoing institutes, workshops, seminars and media presentations. We urge them to use Family Sex Education month to put together bibliographies and library and bookstore displays, to get the public involved. (We are more in favor of continuing education than onset lectures.) It is expected that religious groups in particular will develop programs based on their own moral beliefs. We urge community minded groups to prepare for this month by discovering opportunities for getting their message heard via public service options on TV and radio, as well as in newspapers and magazines. It's time that the "silent" majority expresses itself vigorously, visibly and vocally.

In addition to coordinating plans for Family Sex Education month, Advocates for Youth will conduct a workshop for professionals on preparing parents and potential parents to be effective sex educators in the course of family life.

We are especially interested in inquiries from organizations and foundations that want to initiate family life programs in their own communities. Individuals and organizations participating in this project will receive periodic mailings of action oriented suggestions for programs, media presentations, displays and resources. For further information, write to Advocates for Youth, Suite 200, 1025 Vermont Ave., N.W., Washington, DC 20005. Telephone: (202) 347-5700.

Recommended publications and books

The Surgeon General's Call to Action to Promote Sexual Health and Responsible Sexual Behavior (2001) (David Satcher, M. D.)
This publication is available on the World Wide Web at www.surgeongeneral.gov/library

Raising a Child Responsibly in a Sexually Permissive World by Sol and Judith Gordon. Adams Media Corp. (2000)

Beyond the Big Talk. Every Parent's Guide to Raising Sexually Healthy Teens by Debra W. Haffner. Newmarket Press, N. Y. (2001)

For a publication list of sexuality books for children, call Prometheus Books telephone: 1-800-421-0351

Three video tapes for parents:
A Topic for Conversation by Sol Gordon
Texas Media Projects, Inc.
5215 Homer Street Dallas, TX 75206
telephone: (214) 826-3863

For the Religious Declaration on Sexual Morality, Justice and Healing Contact the web site of the Religious Institute at www.religiousinstitute.org

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