An opportunity for different generations to meet and exchange ideas
Isn’t it too early?’ is one of the most frequent objections to the proposal to introduce sexual education
courses in preschools and elementary school. The fear is that addressing issues such as sexual orientation and gender identity could cause confusion or, even worse, a kind of indoctrination of young minds.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) defines sexual education as: ‘A process based on teaching and learning about the cognitive, emotional, biological and social aspects of sexuality. It aims to provide children and young people with knowledge, skills, attitudes and values that enable them to realise their own health, wellbeing and dignity; develop respectful social and sexual relationships; consider how their choices affect their own wellbeing and that of others; and understand and ensure the protection of their rights.’ Sexual education is, therefore, a pathway, not something to be completed in a meeting over a couple of hours at school.
A project that should begin, according to WHO guidelines, at the age of 5. From kindergarten onwards, children should receive information characterised by different levels of detail according to their age and without taboos or censorship, but consistently linked to scientific knowledge. Below are the thematic areas identified by the WHO:
2) Sociocultural aspects of sexuality
4) Violence and consent
5) Communication skills and techniques
6) Puberty and knowledge of the body
8) Sexually Transmitted Infections
As conceived by the WHO, sexual education is a spiral-shaped
path that has at its core key concepts such as self-respect and respect for others, consent and assertive communication. The ultimate goal is to support children and adolescents on the path towards adulthood, providing them with all the essential tools they need for balanced psycho-physical development and to defend themselves against the main threats that they may encounter as they are growing up: bullying, cyber-bullying, violence, toxic relationships. In this process of growth, adults play a fundamental role.
Today more than ever, in a society so complex and full of sources of misinformation, it is necessary for education
about emotions and sexuality to be a central theme that is addressed through numerous services and in different meeting places, formal and informal, aimed at different developmental stages.
Parents, teachers, educators, health workers, sports coaches: we are all called on to be part of the Educating Community.
A network of competent adults who are ready to support children in their growth, helping them to build a positive
concept of sexuality. I speak of ‘supporting’ because I believe it is important to walk alongside the children without
tracing a predetermined path chosen by us, but rather, providing them with the tools to make informed choices. In this journey, adults also grow: educating means, in fact, staying constantly up-to-date, questioning oneself, being ready to revise one’s points of view, going deeper. Supporting children and young people in the construction of a positive sexuality can become, even for adults, a valuable training opportunity through which they can learn new strategies to experience their own emotional and sexual lives with greater fullness.
Many adults, not having received a proper sexual education when they were young, lack training in this regard and declare themselves to have little or no background knowledge.
Building this educating community is the sense and purpose of the activities that I carry out in collaboration with a group of educators. In addition to meeting young people in schools to undertake emotional-sexual education programmes, starting in kindergarten we plan training sessions for parents and the various figures who, in their daily work, meet with children and adolescents. Moments during which, in addition to providing the means and content to promote active dialogue on issues related to sexuality and emotions, we frame the content addressed in the current sociocultural context. In order to fully understand what young people need, it is essential to immerse oneself in their world, understanding the enormous opportunities, but also the deceptions that can influence healthy psycho-sexual development.
It is also essential to create a climate that is open to dialogue and non-judgemental, where the educator acts as a
competent, not omniscient, guide. This attitude favours mutual enrichment. To paraphrase a famous animated movie, it is true that we are all part of the circle of life, and through honest and respectful dialogue each generation can enrich the others.
Credits photo Matteo Busetto (IG @chromaticdefibrillation)