Parents' Latest Health Class Freak Out Isn't About Sex


health class dummyI've sort of been expecting someone to blame schools for introducing teenagers to the dangerous world of eating disorders. After all, parents are more than willing to blame MTV for teen pregnancy and Facebook for "letting" their kids cyberbully. But the XO Jane article titled "Health Class Taught Me How to Have an Eating Disorder" was still a tough read.

I once was that teenage girl sitting in a classroom learning that some girls lose weight by throwing up everything they eat. And yes, I would go on to battle bulimia for many years, despite the warnings that it was one of the absolute worst ways to attack the battle of the bulge. But I'm still not buying the argument that talking to our kids about tough topics is the wrong way to go. It sounds like a cop-out.

Jane writer Jessica recalls a movie that kicked off an eating disorder unit, detailing all the dangerous -- but different -- ways people could lose weight:

Had one of us already been suffering from anorexia, this may have served as a much needed wake-up call and a reason to reach out for help. Unfortunately, for those of us who hadn't yet considered slimming down, the movie ended up serving not so much as a warning but an instruction manual on how to develop an unhealthy relationship with food.

It's true, teachers unwittingly gave me a quick how-to on throwing up my food. But that doesn't make it their fault. I was bulimic because I was a depressed teenager with an unhealthy attitude toward food and my body. I would have figured out how to stick a finger down my throat eventually.

As a mother, I have found myself falling into the trap of blaming other people for presenting some of the more touchy truths of life in a setting meant for kids. Just yesterday, I huddled on my couch fighting off a bug my 6-year-old brought home from first grade and making my way through a pile of YA fiction that had accumulated on my bedside table. First book: Ten Things We Did (and Probably Shouldn't Have) by Sarah Mylnowski, a fun read made considerably less so by my vision of my daughter one day taking in the tales of virginity lost and parents lied to. I had to remind myself that it was A.) just a book and B.) a book that detailed some things that kids really do. It's up to parents to raise kids NOT to do these things, and one book isn't going to undo years of parenting.

Unfortunately, we have a tendency to put our mom hats on, then pull them down tight over our eyes. Instead of acknowledging that there's a lot of tough, awful stuff that kids deal with today, and it's better our kids learn about them in safe, nurturing environments where they can hash out their feelings both for and against, we convince ourselves that our kids will not encounter these things ... ever.

News flash! Your kids will more than likely face the following at some point:

  • Drinking (and possibly driving)
  • Drugs
  • Sex (and STDs and pregnancy scares)
  • Weight issues/eating disorders
  • Heartbreak

So what's better? To let them walk into it blind? Or to risk that a few teens will encounter them a little earlier in a safe environment?


Image via US Army Africa/Flickr

drugs & alcohol, driving, tough topics


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Lucre... LucretiaMcEvil

Drinking, drugs, sex, and heartbreak are normal things for people to experience first as a teenager.

Eating disorders are not the same thing, and shouldn't be on the same list. Everything else mentioned is fun, heartbreak being a consequence of something fun.

Eating disorders are mental problems. Fewer people experience them, and while somewhat common in teens, it's definitely not normal. I don't think it needs to be discussed in school unless by a counselor who is helping a student that already has an eating disorder.

You did leave one thing off the list: Rock And Roll!

meatb... meatball77

Eating disorders and cutting, two things that some are sure would never happen if kids didn't get the idea from some outside sourse.

The reality is that a few kids are going to have these problems anyway and educating everyone about them makes it so their freinds can notice when these things start and alert someone so they don't spiral out of control.

Logan... LoganTroyMom

i suffered for many years with an eating disorder, yes i got ideas from well meaning classes and books but also other sick friends, and if my mother and stepmother hadnt planted the ugly bug in my head i wouldnt have been sick enough to think 'good idea' instead of 'sad'. Only when i developed hypoglycemia and needed to be here for my kids did i heal.

jessi... jessicasmom1

heck no I do not want DD learning about eating disorders in school, she is 11 and has enough self conscious in her head already.

GlowW... GlowWorm889

Sorry, but I don't buy that school made them have an eating disorder. Healthy body image and nutrition starts at home. All teens go through a phase where they are concerned about their weight. And why don't all of them have eating disorders? Because their parents/family take the time to instill a positive self esteem and positive body image before high school. And eating disorders rarely have to do with a person's weight, anyway. In many cases, it's the response to something going on in the home or in peer groups.

cmc638 cmc638

Thats how i always felt about the dare program. Even being in 5th grade it was like hmm there are these things in my house that i'm not supposed to get high with? why didnt i ever consider doing this before? I dont think later drug use could be contributed to this but it definately didnt work as a deterent.

nonmember avatar Gordon Green

There are pros and cons about letting them know of the various touchy issues they might face. Firstly, they might be too young to understand fully the dangers, and may even end up over protected and unwilling to be adventurous. They might become overly sensitive and may even reject certain required social interactions. On the other hand, it does gives them a safe environment to talk over problems. I feel that most importantly, parents need to let children know that it is perfectly okay to talk about any issue openly with them.

nonmember avatar Robert

He likened doing something, anything related to his art and true calling
to being a part of his day and thus a part of him.
Even Homer's idea of adventure revolves around daily, mundane activities: "I wanna shake off the dust of this one-horse town. Or, if there are also numerous players to hear everyone's response then spin a bottle so that only one particular player responds a query.

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