Helen, my six year old, has just come home from school with one of those letters. You know, one of those that explains in stark terms that your child is about to receive a lesson in sex and relationship education (SRE).
Amongst other things, her class will be taught appropriate behaviour. The lesson will include what parts of the body are private and that it is acceptable to refuse any kind of physical contact.
By chance my mother has just been to visit and I explained that this lesson would be taking place. She questioned whether it was really necessary for children so young. I guess it’s a generational thing, but I’m all for it.
I also have to confess that I’ve previously made a mistake or two in this area. I remember us leaving a social occasion and a kid trying to give Helen a hug to say goodbye. Helen was reticent and I was encouraging her to respond in kind. As the words came out of my mouth I realised I was sending completely the wrong message.
It was such a simple error to make. You can persuade yourself that it doesn’t matter while your child’s age is in single figures, but it does. These days if my kids refuse some kind of physical contact then I back them up without question. Helen and I have also had talks about it being her body and that she can say no to any form of physical contact she is unhappy with.
Not everyone comes from a home like ours. We all know that some kids unfortunately don’t get any kind of SRE from their parents. I’ve long held the belief that parents shouldn’t have the legal right to pull their kids out of SRE lessons. It’s an uncompromising stance, but if you’re the sort of person who doesn’t want your child learning this stuff then it’s probably all the more reason for your kid to attend those lessons.
Thankfully the shool system has been improved since I was at school and the approach to SRE is far superior. Back then such lessons only happened at secondary school and the lessons I received were appalling. Apart from one lesson with a surprisingly candid biology teacher (who spoke in some detail about the consistency and colour of semen and about chasing her Dutch Cap across the bathroom floor as she tried to insert it), they were delivered by a teacher very near retirement who simply wanted to talk about frogs and how they reproduced.
Mrs Adams paid me a big compliment the other day. She said I was very good at handling these discussions at home.
There’s a huge dose of irony in what she said. If anyone has taught me to be open and candid about such matters it was the very woman who questioned my six year old daughter should be receiving SRE lessons at the age of six. Yes, that’s right, it was mother. Although she can be very conservative, no matter my age she never dodged questions about sex. It’s taken me many years to realise this but I’m grateful for her honesty and forthright approach. It had a big influence on me and I’m following her lead with my own kids.
Photo credit; University of Santa Barbara, California.