It's never too early to have "the talk"


- Suzanne Ahearne

Most children receive their first sexual information from a source other than their parents or teachers. The main source: the Internet. As children become tethered to electronic devices at a younger and younger age, parents need to have “the talk” earlier and earlier, says Jillian Roberts, child psychologist and associate professor of educational psychology at the University of Victoria.

Roberts wanted to write a book to help parents and educators begin conversations with young children in a way that is respectful and culturally sensitive, before they see too much online.

Where Do Babies Come From: Our First Talk About Birth, just released by Orca Book Publishers, is Roberts’ first in the “Just Enough” series, designed to make difficult topics easier for parents and educators to start difficult conversations with four- to seven-year-olds. Other volumes will deal with death, divorce and diversity.

Ideally, parents should be the guiding hand helping children navigate the complexities of life, she says. “And an essential component of keeping kids safe in the internet age is a strong parent-child relationship with open lines of communication from the very beginning of life.”

“Early sex education is one of the ways we can keep children healthy. Our research tells us that children are at risk when they don’t have information, and they grow into sexually healthier adults when they have it early,” she says.

Roberts says, it’s not meant to be exhaustive. It doesn’t explain intercourse, for example. There is no nudity and body parts aren’t named. Its strength, she says, is in modeling early parent-child and educator-child conversations in a way that is respectful and culturally sensitive.

“I’m not a prof of creative writing and I didn’t get into my career as a psychologist to write children’s books,” she says. “But what I find really exciting is that as a researcher, ways of disseminating information are changing. I want to adapt the way I share my information to reach out to the community in new ways.”

Roberts will follow up on the huge success of her Facts of Life app with a new version called The Facts of Life Interactive, part of a Key Facts of Life series of apps being developed in concert with the Orca series. The first app, co-branded with Orca Book Publishers, the University of Victoria and Roberts’ corporation, is expected on the iTunes store in December.


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Keywords: children, education

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