Recently, there have been questions in the media about what comprehensive sexuality education is. What is it that we are teaching our youth in Unitarian Universalist and United Church of Christ churches across the country?
The Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States (SIECUS) defines sex education as “a lifelong process of acquiring information and forming attitudes, beliefs, and values that encompasses sexual development, sexual and reproductive health, interpersonal relationships, affection, intimacy, body image, and gender roles.”
The “lifelong process” means that comprehensive sexuality education is age-appropriate. The curriculum for Kindergartners will be different than that of 5th graders and that of high school students.
The UU and UCC comprehensive sexuality education curriculum, Our Whole Lives (OWL) , teaches grade K-1 students about respect for others, how each of us is unique and wonderful, that our bodies are private and that if someone tries to hurt them or touch them inappropriately that they should immediately yell and run to tell an adult they trust. It also discusses families and what to expect when your parents have or adopt another baby.
Creating dialogue with five and six year olds about respect and families is a great way to increase self-confidence and develop close relationships among parents and children. The topics and questions brought up in the curriculum are common questions many young children have.
In contrast, teenagers in the OWL Grades 10-12 curriculum discuss body image, STDs, contraception, gender roles, sexual orientation, healthy relationships and communication. These topics are appropriate for teenagers who are exploring their sexual identity and entering relationships. These topics are not taught in the K-1 curriculum.
Parents are strongly encouraged to be involved in their child’s sexuality education. The primary teacher is always the parent. Comprehensive sexuality education gives tools to both the parents and children to talk about important sexual health issues that are age appropriate.
Comprehensive sexuality education gives us the tools we need to be in communication with each other and how to respect ourselves and others. It also helps us make healthy sexual decisions when we decide we are ready to do so.