Sexual Education

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To understand what affects your sexual health and development, it’s important to understand the difference between sex and sexuality. While these terms are sometimes used interchangeably, sex is just one part of a person’s sexuality.

What is sex?

Sex is the biological characteristics that identify people as male or female at birth. While most people are either clearly male or female, some have the biological characteristics of both males and females (someone born with both a penis and a uterus).

The term "sex" is often used to mean "sexual activity" or "sexual intercourse." However, we will use the term "sex" here when talking about males and females, and "sexual activity" when talking about behaviours like kissing and intercourse.

What is sexuality?

Sexuality is an important and central part of every human being. A person’s sexuality includes everything from their biological sex, gender identity and sexual orientation and identity, to pregnancy and reproduction. While sexuality can include all of these dimensions, not all of them are always experienced or expressed. Sexuality is influenced by the interaction of biological, psychological, social, economic, political, cultural, ethical, legal, historical, religious and spiritual factors.

Sexuality is fluid. So while a person's sex at birth may be male, they may grow up to feel that they are truly female (or vice versa) and express their identity in that way as a transgendered person. They may even seek to change their physical characteristics to match their own innate concept of their sexual identity. Learn more about LGB2TQQ+ identities and issues and resources.

Parents should teach their children about sexual health, not just sex. Sexual health includes things like personal hygiene, healthy relationships, sexuality and sexual consent. A person’s sexual health includes their physical, mental, emotional and social well-being. Taking care of your sexual health is an important part of your overall health and wellness. Learning about sexual health means making sure you have the knowledge, skills and ability to protect your health and the health of others, now and later on.

The Sexuality Wheel shows how broad the idea of sexuality really is. Each part of the wheel represents 1 part of who we are, and how these parts are all connected and influenced by each other.

How do I teach my child about sex?

It's best to start openly discussing sex, sexuality and the basics of sexual activity and reproduction with your child from an early age, using age-appropriate language and levels of detail. You want to establish an open and trusting relationship with your child, so they know they can come to you for advice and accurate answers to their questions about sex and sexuality.

Here are a few books that can help you open up a dialogue with your child and further their sexual education at any age.

Books for primary school-aged children:

  • Amazing You! Getting Smart About Your Private Parts by Gail Saltz.
  • I Said No! A Kid-to-kid Guide to Keeping Private Parts Private by Kimberly King.
  • Who Has What? All About Girls’ Bodies and Boys’ Bodies by Robie H. Harris.
  • Where Did I Come From? By Peter Mayle (also on video).

Books for children undergoing puberty:

  • The Boy’s Body Book by Kelli Dunham.
  • The Period Book: Everything You Don’t Want to Ask (But Need to Know) by Karen Gravelle.
  • Growing Up: It's a Girl Thing by Mavis Jukes.
  • What's Happening to My Body? For Girls - For Boys by Lynda Madaras.

Books for teenagers:

  • S.E.X.: The All-You-Need-To-Know Progressive Sexuality Guide to Get You Through High School and College by Heather Corinna.
  • 100 Questions You'd Never Ask Your Parents: Straight Answers to Teens' Questions About Sex, Sexuality, and Health by Elisabeth Henderson and Nancy Armstrong M.D.
  • Changing Bodies, Changing Lives: A book for Teens on Sex and Relationships by Ruth Bell.
  • The New Teenage Body Book by Kathy McCoy and Dr. Charles Wibbelsman.

Resources

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