Sexuality Resource Center for Parents: Tools, Tips, and Tricks for Teaching Children about Human Sexuality

About Us

We’re a small staff, a very small staff. Our chief content developer is Glenn S. Quint, a former outreach educator for Planned Parenthood of Northern New England. Over the years, Glenn has talked with thousands of parents, teens, pre-teens, and young children about human sexuality. In 2011, Glenn returned from Guangzhou, China, where he had been a sexuality education consultant for 19 months. Most of his work in Guangzhou centered around the topic of sexuality and disabilities. He is the author of We are Growing Up: Sexuality Education Lesson Plans for Children with Disabilities, China’s first human sexuality curriculum for people with developmental and physical disabilities. He also created Sexuality Zone: Accurate Information without Judgment for Teens and Young Adults, the first sexuality website in China to provide a comprehensive, healthy approach to human sexuality for youth and adults. The website was online for almost five years, but has since been replaced.

It may be less important to know who we are than what we believe in. Let's start with the facts.

    • The United States has one of the highest teen pregnancy rates in the developed world – almost twice as high as those of England, Wales, and Canada, and eight times as high as those of the Netherlands and Japan.
    • Every year, roughly nine million new sexually transmitted infections occur among teens and young adults in the United States. Compared with rates among teens in Canada and Western Europe, rates of gonorrhea and Chlamydia among U.S. teens are extremely high.
    • Though teens in the United States have levels of sexual activity similar to levels among their Canadian, English, French and Swedish peers, they are less likely to use contraceptives.

So why do American teens have so many unintended pregnancies? Why do they catch so many sexually transmitted infections? A large part of the blame falls on misinformed parents who are not only doing their own children a disservice, but who seem quite eager to spread misinformation through the schools. Blame should also be shared by the politicians who encourage this kind of ignorance for their own political gain.

Most people, it seems, would rather blame the teenagers. That's a foolish waste of time.

The education a child receives depends upon where they live. Currently, most states require that sexuality education or education about HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted infections be taught. Some states do not require this. But even in the states where sexuality education is required, there are no federal rules on how it should be taught and what should be covered. So each state can do whatever it wants. It only gets worse from there. In each state, there may be hundreds or thousands of school districts. A school district may be as large as a village, a town, or a city. Rural areas have their own school districts too. These school districts decide what will be taught in their local schools. Sure, they have to follow state guidelines, but these guidelines are often vague and open to interpretation. A state may tell a school district to teach sexuality education, but there’s more than one way to teach it. Finally, it comes down to the individual classroom teacher. It’s not that hard to ignore district policy if a teacher thinks the students shouldn’t be getting any sexuality education at all.

And so sexuality education is taught in many different ways in the United States. Some of these ways work, while others don’t. Each of these different ways fits into one of two broad categories: comprehensive sexuality education or abstinence-based education. On the surface, abstinence-based education sounds like a great idea – let’s just tell teens not to have sex until they are married. Then they won’t get pregnant or catch sexually transmitted infections, and we won't have to teach them about protection. Unfortunately, this approach doesn’t work – no abstinence-based program has ever been shown to help teens delay the initiation of sex. On the other hand, comprehensive sexuality education programs do work. These programs also tell teens not to have sex, but they don’t stop there. These programs acknowledge the fact that some teens are already having sex or will soon have sex, and so we need to provide them with the information that will protect them from unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections. Comprehensive sexuality education programs cover birth control methods and they include demonstrations on how to use condoms correctly. These programs do not encourage early sexual behavior, and in fact, students who attend comprehensive sexuality education classes are more likely to postpone sexual activity than students who attend abstinence-based education classes. Why? The students attending abstinence-based education classes are told nothing, so they have to find out everything for themselves. This leads to early experimentation on their part.

In a perfect world, comprehensive sexuality education would also highlight the positive role that sexuality should play in our lives. We all want our children to grow up happy and healthy, and being sexually happy and healthy is a big part of that.

But this isn't a perfect world. And so we're afraid, dear parents, that the responsibility for raising sexually healthy and happy children falls back on you. And that's why we've created this website. To make your job easier.

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© 2017 Sexuality Resource Center for Parents