Abstinence only sex education is at first glance attractive to many parents. There are some significant drawbacks to this approach that every parent should consider. Focusing on passing your value of the importance of abstinence outside of marriage to your child is quite different than choosing not to educate your child about sex, sexuality, and related issues.
Refer to the section on values to find suggestions about how to impart your own values to your child. Whether your feel strongly about abstinence only being the single acceptable option for your child or not, your child will benefit from teaching them about anatomy, physiology, as well as the basics of contraception, STD prevention, and relationships is important. Please don’t feel that simply assuring that your child understands the importance of abstinence is all that they need to know.
You child is going to grow up in a society where at least some of their peers are sexually active. In addition it’s likely that at some point your child is going to choose to become sexually active, whether before or after marriage they still will benefit from a good, comfortable and functional understanding of these topics. Abstinence only works for a part of your child’s lifespan.
So how do you approach your child about these topics while still emphasizing that abstinence only is the acceptable option for them? One way is to introduce sex education as a subject everyone needs to learn about so that they can understand society better. It is helpful not to feel ignorant when discussions about sex, celebrities, national news stories etc. come up among their friends. It is also information that they need to know about and understand later in life.
The male anatomy, female reproductive anatomy, and reproductive physiology and sexual development subjects are straight forward, and really don’t entail a lot of values about behavior. You can approach these objectively as simply information you want your child to understand. The values aspects are at least as important when abstinence only is the goal. The STD and contraception topics are simply factual information you can present as such to your child, and it’s fine to keep this brief. How to use a condom is simply important information for every young person to know so that at the time in their life when they may want to use a condom they will be able to do so confidently and correctly.
Some schools, primarily private schools or those with a religious focus may teach abstinence only as their curriculum. It’s important for you as a parent to find out what their curriculum covers so that you will be prepared to complement their teaching, fill in any gaps that seem apparent, and to reinforce the values that you share. This is a great opportunity to bring these subjects up, and don’t hesitate to take advantage of this time in your child’s school teaching.