The Roles of the School and Family In a Child’s Growth
Every adult who plays a significant role in the life of a child or an adolescent has a role to play in sexuality education. This includes the parents and the members of the school staff.
Parents can add to the discussion begun in school by talking to their children about the content covered in class.
The complementary nature of the educational roles played by the school and the family reinforces and optimizes their respective contributions in this area.
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Parents or guardians
Sexuality education begins at home. This is where children first become aware of the ways that men and women live and express themselves, and where they learn to:
- know themselves
- interact with various people
- receive and express affection, love and empathy
Parents can play an active role in the education of their children while respecting their values and taking their personalities into account. To do so, they can:
- create a climate of trust that will allow their children to ask questions about the issues that are of concern to them
- seek out the information and support they need, especially by participating in information sessions and drawing on the resources of the school or its partners in the health care system
Parents act as models and influence their children’s attitudes and conduct. They are in a position to fulfill their responsibility with regard to sexuality education in a straightforward and honest manner.
In addition to providing instruction and qualifications, the school is a social environment where students interact and have many opportunities to learn how to live in society through their experience of friendship, romantic relationships, egalitarian relationships, etc.
When they reach puberty, some young people prefer to discuss sexuality with their friends or with trusted adults at school, rather than with their parents.
Some parents may be embarrassed and find it difficult to broach the subject of sexuality with their children.
Events related to students’ sexuality take place on a daily basis in schools. Here are a few examples:
- Anthony, a kindergarten student who just got a little brother, asks his teacher where babies come from.
- Mary tells the educator in her school daycare that a boy pulled down his pants in front of other students.
- Justin, in Elementary 2, is in love. He asks his teacher if he can have two girlfriends.
- In a science and technology class, Martina asks the teacher at what age girls can start taking the pill.
- Allan, a teacher, speaks to two students who have been making homophobic comments.
Situations such as these highlight the need for sexuality education and require regular interventions by school staff who are equipped to answer questions and handle situations using the most appropriate educational approach. This involves, among other things, reassuring students, making them think, setting them straight about certain matters and providing balanced and accurate information.
School principal and staff
The Education Act stipulates that the school principal must develop an annual plan for sexuality education in conjunction with other school staff. This plan must establish when, how and by whom the students will be taught.
The school notifies the parents before taking any measures with regard to sexuality education.
The governing board
The curriculum plan for the compulsory learning content in sexuality education must be approved by the school’s governing board, in accordance with section 85 of the Education Act.
The health and social services system
In providing sexuality education, the school may call upon professionals in the health and social services system, such as school nurses. It can also use the services of community organizations with expertise in specific topics (e.g. the prevention of homophobia and sexual aggression).
These partners are encouraged to work closely with the school staff.