When parents hear the words ‘sexuality’ and ‘sexual health’ their minds may go to the procreative act, but it is much more complex.
The Archdiocesan Family Life Commission (AFLC) is hosting a series to empower and equip parents to respond beyond just having ‘the talk’ with their children.
The first episode July 19, ‘Health and Family Life Education: The Parent Edition’ featured clinical psychologist Alicia Hoyte, and Chief Executive Officer of the Catholic Education Board of Management, Sharon Mangroo. They were also the guests for episode two (July 26) which focused on what parents should be teaching to prepare children for school.
Responding to host Tricia Syms, Episcopal Delegate, AFLC, about what parents can teach young children about sexuality, Hoyte first explained sexuality encompassed “all of me…all of who I am is how I relate to people”, as well as who adults choose to have sex with and why, their understanding of right and wrong, and their purpose.
“I want us parents to start to realise we are not talking about the how and when to have ‘the talk’…it is much bigger than the one talk…It is about who I am raising this person to be. When we [are] talking sexuality, we are talking about the uniqueness of this individual, the gift God created this person to be,” she said.
Dealing with the question, Hoyte said parents teach their children how to “master” their body, through potty training or holding a cup without spilling the contents. In doing these things well, the child celebrates the gift God has given them.
“What I am doing with my child is teaching their minds, bodies, who they are as individuals is a gift and is a gift to be regarded and respected”. She added that the child learns to see the other as gift also to be regarded, respected, and celebrated.
Hoyte indicated the teaching emphasis was not right and wrong but love. “The reason for doing things is because of love.” In teaching context, when and whom the person has sex with “will make sense”. Hoyte said, “I want to give myself to you in love, in the right time and in the right way, and I am going to expect that of you as well.”
Mangroo said in the early years of schooling, the teachers are getting to know their children, likes and dislikes and triggers for good behaviour. The child learns respect for self and others, “good touch and bad touch etc”.
She made the point that sexual health does not start with sexual bodies and mentioned personal care. “Personal hygiene is an area many teachers struggle with the children. You may not think a lot of work has to be done but it is something parents should pay attention to. Parents are not as aware as they should,” Mangroo said.
Children were not at the stage where they can totally control their bodily functions and accidents can still happen. Mangroo said these are opportunities to teach the child about taking care of themselves and personal hygiene.
Syms told the Catholic News, “There is this saying the Catechism teaches that parents are the first educators of their children especially with sex and sexuality, an education in love as we call it. But many parents don’t know how to have ‘the talk’.” More than this, “it is about really journeying with parents to give them tools and languages”.
Syms said the HFLE series aims “to equip and empower parents”. Caregivers are also targeted.
The Primary Health and Family Life Education Curriculum was approved by the Ministry of Education in 2006. Syms said some schools are teaching it and some “don’t know how to approach it”.
The AFLC series will use the HFLE available to schools, but Syms said discussion will be based on The Truth and Meaning of Human Sexuality, a 1995 Vatican document, and Lisa and Greg Popcak’s Beyond the Birds and the Bees.
There will be other speakers in the coming weeks as the discussion continues Tuesdays 9.30 a.m. on AFLC’s Facebook page. —LPG
Contact the AFLC at 299-1047, email: firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.