"Talking about sex with the children is too much", "I'm ashamed", "They already know everything better than us", "On the Internet today you can find many things, so why should parents even touch on this topic". If at least one the idea coincides with yours, congratulations, you are a child of a generation that giggled nervously and blushed on biology lessons, looking at the human reproductive system. And it is not surprising, because teaching on this topic in school was limited to sections on "puberty" and advice on how to protect yourself from HIV and STIs (sexually transmitted infections), and at home it was embarrassing to raise such questions.
Moreover, even today, many educators and parents are sure that the policy of silence plays into their hands, because "the longer this topic is shrouded in a veil of secrecy, the later the child will enter into sexual activity." However, statistics indicate something else: Ukraine has one of the highest rates of teenage pregnancy and the incidence of sexually transmitted infections in Europe.
For example, according to Eurostat, in 2015 the proportion of children born by adolescent girls (under 20) was less than 2% in Sweden, Denmark and the Netherlands. In Ukraine in 2017 this figure was 5.2% (Demographic situation in Ukraine in 2017 report).
Banal advice on contraception and in the fight against HIV infection does not help: as of 2016, 0.9% of the adult population of Ukraine (15-49 years old) was diagnosed with HIV or AIDS. In Sweden and the Netherlands this level is 0.2%. And the gap in indicators has only increased over the years.
This situation has arisen due to the fact that while in the USSR "there was no sex", other countries have already introduced sex education. But before talking about how it works abroad, it should be clarified that sex education is not only about pure sex and advice on how to put on a condom correctly. Sexual literacy is about hygiene, human physiology, changes that occur with age, it is about how to accept yourself and your body, to have sexual intercourse so that after there is no feeling of shame or disgust.
SEX EDUCATION: What is it and why?
"Sex Education" (British TV series from Netflix) exemplifies the importance of sexuality knowledge. In the center of the plot is an ordinary guy with typical adolescent complexes and experiences. His mother works as a sexologist, but even this does not help the woman understand her son and make him get rid of internal tension. Spoilers aside, it should be noted that the series has not only an entertainment, but also an educational function for both teenagers and their parents. It reveals the problems that children are used to being silent about - sexual identity, hypersexuality, masturbation, shyness in relationships, adolescent sexuality, early pregnancy, risky sexual behavior - what adolescents should know when entering into sex life.
As already noted, sexual literacy is not only about sexual intercourse, it is also about understanding boundaries, the ability to say "no", the ability to protect oneself, understanding the consequences of risky sexual behavior. Thanks to correctly conducted conversations, according to the age and characteristics of the child, parents can protect him from complexes, nervous disorders, early pregnancy, STIs, moreover, from violence.
"When it comes to preschool sex education, we are not talking about sex itself, but above all about safety and hygiene. We teach children what the genitals are called and how to look after them, how to protect themselves from people with bad intentions," explains psychologist, sex education coach Marta Onishkevich.
Experts advise to teach children from childhood to protect their personal boundaries (the rule of "underwear", according to which all the covered areas of the body are intimate, no one can see or touch them, a visual-figurative explanation is the cartoon "Kiko and the Hand").
“If children know at least the names of the genitals, then they have a better chance that pedophiles will bypass them. And when they grow up, they will not have a wagon of complexes and shame because of their own body,” adds the psychologist.
Another expert in this field, clinical psychologist, psychotherapist Olesya Dyundina agrees with this, and emphasizes that violence needs to be talked about, explained, because rapists often create an atmosphere of secrecy and shame around their victims, and while the child is silent, the parents do not guess anything.
It is also important to tell children about such phenomena as exhibitionism (demonstration of the genitals) and frotteurism (getting sexual pleasure from rubbing genitals against different parts of the body of other people), and how to act in such situations: in the first case, you need to rather, retire to a crowded place, in the second, try to move away from this person as far as possible, get off at the stop and wait for the next train / trolleybus / bus, or draw the attention of passengers to this situation ...
The same applies to children with disabilities, whose parents often do not understand the advisability of discussing this topic with their special children, thereby putting them in danger.
"Children with disabilities are three times more likely to become victims of sexual abuse, because they are more convenient victims for the attacker: they may not understand what is happening, they may not always tell someone that this has happened to them, so they are much more likely to suffer. At least from these considerations, the child must understand that there is such a norm, sex may be between adults who want this, and when they do this in relation to you, this is not the norm, it must be reported someone who can protect you, "says psychologist and sex education counselor Dana Yakovenko.
Also, regardless of whether the child has certain characteristics or not, he must have his own zone of intimacy (this can be a room that psychologists still advise parents to knock on). For children with disabilities who need outside help, this zone is determined by mom or dad (no one else can interfere with the bathing process, move freely around the room when the child is changing clothes, and the like).
At an older age, sexual education involves the study of such serious issues as awareness of the consequences of their actions, responsibility for them, engaging in sexual intercourse by mutual consent, so that later there is no feeling of shame or disgust for what happened. In this case, psychologists point out that the absence of shame is not synonymous with shamelessness.
Sexual education begins with the family, even if the parents are inactive, - because a child watching the relationship between mom and dad is already forming the foundation of his future attitude towards the opposite sex and an idea of his place in society. Therefore, the issue of sexuality education is global in nature, because it is based on the principles of equality and teaches mutual respect.
Psychologists are increasingly saying that a child, especially in adolescence, should have an adult friend (godmother, older brother, grandfather) - a person to whom the child can turn in a critical situation if, for some reason, he does not want to contact parents. Abroad, a teacher often becomes such a friend. But, according to Natalia Ribachik, a writer and founder of the online magazine MamaWOW, completely shifting the responsibility for raising a child to school is not a good idea: “Of course, you can include lessons on sexual literacy in a school course, but if this topic is banned at home, if parents hide their eyes when the child asks what interests him, when they tell tales about cabbage and storks, at a critical moment the child will not approach the parents with a frank conversation. "
Today, in the conditions of total computerization, when there are enough specialized literature, psychologists' webinars, video lessons on sexual literacy on Youtube, it is easier for parents to educate themselves and, keeping pace with children's issues, explain complex things in simple words. But not all parents come to this. Here the school should come to the rescue.
What should be sex education in Ukraine: world experience
The first thing to start with is that in Ukraine there is no clearly defined concept of sexuality education for children (there are separate projects and initiatives), it is in a state of formation. In schools, children are only superficially familiar with sex education within several sections of compulsory subjects: "Fundamentals of Health", "Biology", "Law", "Ethics" and "Physical Education", which, in the overwhelming majority, initially intimidated children with problems that come after early sexual intercourse, and only then explained the process itself in the context of its danger.
It should be noted that the Ukrainian education system in matters of sex education is slowly developing in the right direction. So, the new Ukrainian school (grades 1-4) is more progressive in this matter, because it is moving towards international standards, and in accordance with the latest version of the state standard of basic secondary education, older students got the opportunity to become more familiar with the topics of reproductive health and gender. These achievements seem minimal against the background of a number of important but omitted issues in Ukrainian education.
For example, the study "Sexuality Education in the WHO European Region. Fact sheets of the status of sexuality education in 25 countries of the WHO European Region" identifies the topics of sexuality education according to the following criteria: widely covered, briefly, not covered. Thus, we see that only the basic concepts in the field of sex education for the average citizen are actively covered - the biological aspects of sexual development and the risks of disease. The topics of sexual pleasure, sexual orientation, human rights and sexuality are not covered at all.
According to the results of an online survey conducted by the Women's Health and Family Planning Foundation among young people aged 15-30, knowledge of sexuality education was obtained mainly through the Internet and social networks (87.4%), radio and TV - 54.3% and friends - 42.5%. While parents and teachers accounted for 24.5% and 33% respectively. It is interesting that the overwhelming majority of respondents chose medical workers as one of the sources, thanks to which they would like to receive this information (48.2%).
Speaking about individual projects and initiatives, it should be noted that some schools and organizations are actively involved in the study of the issue of sexuality education and involve teachers and parents in this by inviting them to trainings.
"If the child is lucky and the parents sign him up for such a training or they themselves undergo training on how to talk to the child on topics related to sexuality, then he will have a chance to learn truthful information about sex. But, unfortunately, now the main sources of informing adolescents about sex is the Internet with gigabytes of incorrect information, in particular porn, which by its implausibility leads to the development of complexes not only in adolescents, but also in many adults, which contribute to the spread of dangerous "myths" and stereotypes, "says a psychologist, a trainer on sexual education Marta Onishkevich.
How does it work in the world? In the meantime, while in Ukraine sex education falls entirely on the shoulders of parents (in schools this topic is covered superficially: there is no clear concept, sequence and the very concept of "sex education"), in other developed countries it has long occupied its proper place in the school system, although its content and quality differ significantly.
For example, in Sweden, sex education as a subject has been compulsory in schools since the 1950s (from 7-10 years old and by the end of school, students are taught about a healthy lifestyle, a rational and deliberate start of sexual activity).
"The Swedish sexuality education system is still considered the most progressive to date and includes discussions on various aspects of intimate relationships between people and everything that can affect them (talking about alcohol, discussing gender issues, as well as students' ideas about their own body)", explains clinical psychologist, psychotherapist Olesya Dyundina.
In Finland, sexuality education was first included in the school curriculum as a compulsory subject back in 1970. After that, there were different periods when the school had or did not have the right to choose. Health Education is now compulsory for students aged 13 to 15. In Scotland, however, sex education is optional. According to the curriculum, 5-year-olds are taught about body parts and animal reproduction, from 7 years old - about puberty and sexual intercourse, from 11 years old - about contraception and safe sex.
In France, sex education has also become part of the school curriculum since 1973 (special courses are held at least three times a year, taking into account the specific interests and needs of the age group), which runs in parallel with government education programs. For example, in September 2013, the country's government launched a new program, the main goal of which is to "fight gender stereotypes in school", with the help of which mutual respect is fostered between boys and girls in the early stages of growing up.
Since 1971, sex education for schoolchildren between the ages of 7 and 16 has been launched in Norway. In this country, which has one of the lowest teenage pregnancy rates in the world, full sex education begins at age 4 (children are taught about relationships and what love is), and in Germany, according to legislation since 1992, sex education is the responsibility of the state.
For neighboring Poland, the topic of sexuality education is complex, but even there, in the face of the Catholic Church's denial of sex education in schools, the subject "Education for Family Life" is being studied (the school requires parental consent for children to attend this course). True, it is taught mainly by priests or teachers of religious studies, whom children do not trust and are accustomed to consider incompetent: they say, teachers express their own opinion, based on religious traditions, instead of objective information.
The ideal system of sex education in Ukraine
Based on the experience of other countries, the first thing to do is to organize educational activities about the importance of sex education, to explain the basic points of sex education.
“I believe that sexuality education in schools should be at the level of“ read and write ”, it is simply necessary for children to understand and know about intimate areas, about their bodies, that no one can touch the body without their permission. If parents talk about genitals and sexuality in grade 2-3, then they hesitated very much and missed the right moment. Now this needs to be explained already at the age of 5-6, then the child will have an adequate idea of all the organs of his body, how children are born and all that," explains clinical psychologist, psychotherapist Olesya Dyundina.
According to her, there is no need to complicate things - explain simply, look for words according to the child's age. And it is unlikely that a child of 5-6 years old will ask how exactly he was born. It is enough to listen carefully to the child's questions and to explain as simply, truthfully and, most importantly, clearly (with the help of special literature).
At the age of 9-11, children should receive information about puberty, how their bodies are changing, and at the age of 13 and older, the topics of pregnancy, contraception, transmission of HIV and other infections should be raised, as well as talk about how to build relations. Coverage of all the subtleties that should be taken into account in accordance with the age and characteristics of the child, according to psychologists, is the promotion of health.
One way or another, regardless of whether a child is learning this knowledge at home or at school, sexuality education should be based on the principles of trust and sensitivity.
"To be honest, I would like parents not to shame their children, and teachers who worked in Soviet schools not to read lectures on sexuality education. It is really difficult for them to do this. These should be people who can tactfully, openly and calmly educate children, while creating an atmosphere of safety and trust, "explains psychologist, gestalt therapist, sexologist Sasha Kostyukova.
Interestingly, according to the study "Sexuality education in the WHO European Region. Facts about the status of sexuality education in 25 countries of the WHO European Region", additional subjects and lessons, including the topics of sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR), have already been developed by national or international organizations and are recommended for study in schools.