Groping in the Dark

Ruthie Patriquin
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It’s a parent’s job to help kids make sense of sexual information

Sexual information is everywhere. Some of it is definitely not appropriate for children.

Some sexual information is important to help children make sense of their developing bodies, to develop a healthy attitude toward normal sexual functioning, to help children understand relationships, and to help keep children safe. It’s never too early for parents to start addressing sexual topics, in an age-appropriate manner. You don’t have to be an expert. Just take a deep breath. Sometimes it’s OK to wait for the questions. Other times, it’s better to provide information ahead of time.

PUBERTY: Children approaching puberty need advance information. Puberty begins between ages eight and 16, depending on the child. It’s important for your child to know what to expect before these physical, emotional, and sexual changes occur. It helps to reassure them that they are normal and lets them know that they can come to you with their questions. That’s important because you may not think to cover all the questions they come up with, like “How much blood comes out when a girl has her period?” and “What does circumcised mean?” or “Is it normal for breasts to itch or hurt?” and “Does puberty mean you can make babies?”

Speaking of making babies, children need information about human reproduction too. They have questions like “Do sperm have eyes?”, and “Does the egg have a shell?” Other people could give your children information, but it’s important for parents to be involved in order to share family values as well. It’s great when home, school and community works together to address health issues, including sexual health.

What if parents need help?

At the Sexual Health Centre for Cumberland County (SHCCC), you can access a variety of books, kits, and pamphlets to help talk with children at various ages about this important topic. The Sexual Health Centre also offers healthy sexuality programming for families.

Puberty Parties: This fall, SHCCC is offering free puberty sessions in Amherst for nine- to 12-year-olds and their parents to attend together. The session for girls and parents is Thursday evening, Oct. 7. Boys and parents may attend the session on Oct. 14.

These sessions are open to all Cumberland County residents who pre-register (667-7500). With a video presentation, activities, discussion and a snack, this is a great way to initiate or build on conversations about the “changing years.”

Where Did I Come From?: If you want help discussing this topic with your nine- to 12-year-old, bring him or her to an interactive session on Thursday, Oct. 21.

Talking with kids about “sex”: Maybe you’re not really interested in bringing your children to a program but would like some tips on addressing the above topics with them. Or you may have younger children and want help answering their questions or dealing with childhood sexuality in the home. This Oct. 28 evening session will be for you.

All sessions are free and will be held 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at 11 Elmwood Dr. (side entrance). Parents must pre-register at least one week in advance.

Sexual health is part of your child’s overall health. Get involved.

For more information or to pre-register, please contact the Sexual Health Centre for Cumberland County, 11 Elmwood Dr. (side door), Amherst, 667-7500.

Other community resources relating to child and youth sexuality include the Department of Public Health at 18 South Albion St., Amherst (667-3319), the Teen Health Centre located in Amherst Regional High School (661-2383), Youth Health Centre located in Springhill High (597-4253), or your family doctor or nurse practitioner.

Parents, grandparents or other caregivers can submit questions to this column by emailing shccc@ns.aliantzinc.ca.

Organizations: Sexual Health Centre, Department of Public Health, Teen Health Centre Amherst Regional High School Youth Health Centre

Geographic location: Cumberland County, Amherst, Elmwood South Albion

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