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

Comprehensive Sexuality Education

(For Parents of Children with Typical Development)

The Need

If you ever doubted the need to provide sexuality education for your child, consider the following questions that were submitted to us anonymously by 13-18 year-old teenagers.

What is the hymen used for?
How often do wet dreams happen? Is once a month normal?
Does it hurt to have sex?
Can someone have sex without getting married?
At what age can you have sex?
What is homosexuality? How does it happen?
What is love? What is the connection between love and sex?
What happens if I only bleed a little during my period? Is that harmful?
When I think about a girl, my penis becomes erect – why? Is it a normal physical reaction?
How can a girl talk with her parents when she has her first period?
What harm will it cause if a person masturbates a lot?
Is it natural to kiss when two people enter a certain stage of love?
What’s a woman’s orgasm?
What’s a condom? Is there any difference in having sex with or without a condom?
How does it feel when someone has sexual desire? Will the private parts feel pain?
Why is it so easy to fall in love at my age?
Why do people like to have so much sex?
How do I meet girls?
Will you get sick if you don’t have sex?

The Goals

A comprehensive approach to sexuality education must encompass many things. The goals of comprehensive sexuality education, then, are to:

    • Provide information. All people have the right to accurate information about human growth and development, human reproduction, anatomy, physiology, masturbation, family life, pregnancy, childbirth, parenthood, sexual response, sexual orientation, contraception, abortion, sexual abuse, HIV/AIDS, and other sexually transmitted infections.
    • Develop values. Sexuality education gives young people the opportunity to question, explore, and assess attitudes, values, and insights about human sexuality. The goals of this exploration are to help young people understand family and cultural values, develop their own values, increase their self-esteem, develop insights about relationships with members of both sexes, and understand their responsibilities to others.
    • Develop interpersonal skills. Sexuality education can help young people develop skills in communication, decision-making, assertiveness, peer refusal skills, and the ability to create satisfying relationships.
    • Develop responsibility. Providing sexuality education helps young people to develop their concept of responsibility and to exercise that responsibility in sexual relationships. This is achieved by providing information about and helping young people to consider abstinence, resist pressure to become prematurely involved in sexual activities they cannot handle emotionally or physically, properly use contraception and take other health measures to prevent sexually related problems (such as unintended pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections), and to resist sexual exploitation or abuse.

When one considers the list above, it becomes clear that a great deal of information about sexuality, relationships, and the self needs to be communicated to children and teens. In addition to providing this information, parents and professionals need to allow children and teens opportunities for discussion and observation, as well as to practice important skills such as decision-making, assertiveness, and socializing. Thus, sexuality education is not achieved in a series of lectures that take place when children are approaching or experiencing puberty. Sexuality education is a life-long process and should begin as early in a child’s life as possible.


Adapted from NICHCY News Digest, Volume 1, Number 3, 1992. NICHCY is the National Dissemination Center for Children with Disabilities. It is located in Washington, DC.

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