Because of the Facebook groups that I’m in, there’s a great deal about the importance of sex education that crosses my newsfeed (and some, unfortunately, about how it’s corrupting children). I was reading it, as well as some of my other pages and thought that it isn’t sex ed that we need. That addresses part of the issue, and in many states it doesn’t do a very good job of that. People knowing what is safe sex is vital, but it needs to cover a larger range of topics. What is really needed is relationship education.
I see people say things such as ‘he throws things at me, but if he ever was violent or abusive then I’d leave,’ ‘she said that she loves me, but she always asks me to buy her things and I’m wondering if I’m being used,’ “we decided not to have any more kids, but I’m just going to sabotage my birth control – we communicate really well,’ ‘I found out that he has a wife and kid he’s been hiding from me for the last year, do you think I should leave him?’ I’m blown away that any of these are questions. They all seem like obvious red-flags to me, but if you aren’t ever taught what a healthy relationship looks like it isn’t so black and white.
There is this assumption that sexual health and nutritional health are all there is, with the occasional anti-suicide message. There are so many other ways that people need to take care of their health. People need to make sure that their relationships aren’t toxic, because that toxicity will spill over into every other aspect of your life. It can be done in an integrated way. Teach that this is what used to be acceptable in a marriage, and this is when the law changed so that marital rape is illegal. You can teach about the history surrounding birth control, and the biological advances which helped lower rates of diseases. Education in general should take a more holistic approach, this is one way in which that can happen.
It isn’t just sexual relationships that need to be addressed. Why aren’t we teaching children what healthy friendships look like? They don’t just need to learn not to bully or be bullied, but what a functioning, equal friendship looks like. If your friend does things that aren’t so friendly, kids also need to learn how to communicate that. My daughter has a ‘friend’ who tells her that she’s going to hell because we don’t go to church. I’m working to direct her towards other people, because she needs to learn that that’s not ok. Friends should be loving, understanding of differences, and able to be honest – not mean and dismissive. It seems that there is an assumption that the parents will teach this, but all too often it’s something that the parents don’t know either. Our children should be prepared to face the world with all the tools possible to succeed, academically as well as socially. Let’s make sure they have them.