How do we teach children about sexual health?

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Young people face important decisions on their sexual relationships. Access to good sexual education can give them the knowledge they need to make safe choices.

What is this research about?

As a natural part of human development, young people face important decisions on sexuality. Offering them access to good sexual health education can provide the understanding they need to make healthy choices.

Educators, particularly grade school teachers, are in a strong position to support young people in building lifelong habits for healthy relationships. Mental and sexual health are part of the curriculum. As a result, teachers in British Columbia (BC) seek resources for approaching these topics.

This is why the British Columbia (BC) Ministry of Education engages with the Ministry of Children and Family Development (MCFD)’s Child and Youth Mental Health Policy Branch, and the Provincial Office of Domestic Violence (PODV) and others to develop resources teachers find useful.

Lifelong healthy sexuality starts with what people learn as children.

The British Columbia (BC) curriculum includes education on sexual health, putting teachers in a position to support children in making healthy life choices. Teachers with access to helpful resources are better equipped to help students understand safe sexual relationships.

Researchers point to regular training for teachers on matching lessons to students’ needs as they grow and using stakeholder input for this training as best practices for sexual education.

This project identifies mental and sexual health resources, pulling together best practices in other provinces and internationally.

The research questions:

  • What are the best practices for effective sexual health teaching resources?
  • What resources reflect these best practices?

The researchers found that other countries such as the United Kingdom are also refreshing curriculums. At the elementary level new curriculums focus on healthy relationships. At Secondary schools the focus is relationships and sexual health.

Based on their findings the researcher recommends:

  • Training teachers so they are comfortable with sexual health material
  • Matching teaching with students’ ability to understand
  • Starting young and reinforcing key messages as learners grow
  • Getting input from all stakeholders, making sexual health everyone’s responsibility

Policymakers will find the researchers' suggestions helpful in matching sexual health education in BC with international best practices. Teachers and guardians can use the suggested resources to guide children’s learning. Sexual health and antiviolence groups may add information from the report to their programs.

The intent of this research was to give MCFD and PODV information to prepare sexual health resources for teachers.

Graduate students Satinder Virdi and Suzanne Wood completed this research for the graduate studies 505 multi-disciplinary research internship course at UVic.

Drs. Gord Miller and Wayne Mitic of the University of Victoria (UVic) School of Child and Youth Care both supervised the research project.

Facilitated by Research Partnerships and Knowledge Mobilization, this project is a partnership between the Province of BC MCFD, PODV and UVic.

We gratefully acknowledge the financial support of the Province of British Columbia through the Ministry of Children and Family Development.

Virdi, S. and Wood, S. (2017). How do we teach our children and youth? Sexual health education resources for teacher in BC. Victoria, BC: University Of Victoria.
Mental health; youth; children and family development; clinicians; cognitive behavioural therapy; training; clinical cases; professional development

Download the research PDF