Sex Education in Kindergarten Doesn't Mean Giving 5-Year-Olds TMI

sex edTalking about sex with your kids is an experience most of us dread. It's awkward, it's high stakes, and the questions you get...dear God, the questions. It makes you want to put it off forever. There is a good argument for having these conversations earlier rather than later, however. Kindergarten early. That's what they do in the Netherlands after all.

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Sex education programs in Dutch schools were recently compared to those in the United States. In the Netherlands, sex education doesn't just begin in kindergarten but it's also mandatory, while in the United States more than half of all states do not require comprehensive sex ed and in those that do, most focus on abstinence, STDs, and heterosexual sex. Based on studies cited in the PBS article that look at things like birth control use and positive first sexual experiences, American kids are paying the price for our fear of and discomfort with sexuality.

I gave my kids a "nuts and bolts" sex talk (pun very much intended) last year, when they were in kindergarten. I strongly believe that knowledge is power when it comes to sexuality. I wanted my kids to know as early as possible what the real names of their private parts were, and how babies are made. I wanted them to know about good touches and bad touches, that their bodies are theirs and no one else's, and that there is nothing shameful about any part of them. Kindergarten is plenty old enough for those kinds of discussions.

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Now, did we talk about how to achieve multiple orgasms or what dominants and submissives are? No. As a Danish health promotion official said in the PBS article:

People often think we are starting right away to talk about sexual intercourse [with kindergartners]...Sexuality is so much more than that. It's also about self-image, developing your own identity, gender roles, and it's about learning to express yourself, your wishes and your boundaries.

I don't think I need to go into all the variations and nitty gritty details with my kids just yet. But to be honest, if they heard about oral sex and S & M somewhere and asked me what they were, I would tell them. Having the facts about sex at an age when kids are curious and exploring is only a good thing. Having the facts doesn't mean that they are going to do something with it. My kids also know that adults drink beer because they like it, but that kids aren't allowed to. That doesn't mean my son is going to crack open a Bud after school. Why? Because he would have good enough taste to choose an IPA. (That's a joke. Just a joke.)

There are no guarantees about the kinds of choices kids are going to make. Kids do stupid things and take stupid risks - we all know that because we were all kids once. But I would rather that my kids take informed risks as opposed to being at the mercy of another person's possibly faulty point of view.

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Kindergartners should know that they have penises and vaginas, folks. They should know what sex is. They should understand and love their bodies. It's about recognizing that our children are people who will most likely have sex one day, and wanting that day to be safe, happy, and far, far away. And it's about not being the parent of the kid who thinks you can get pregnant by kissing someone or that babies come out of women's butts. Don't let your kid be that kid.

Do you think kindergarten is too young for sex ed?


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