Sex Education: A Parent's Right, A Parent's Responsibility

Author: A.L.L.

Sex Education: A parent's right, A parent's responsibility Parents alone have the right to be the primary educators of their children, particularly in matters related to sexuality. This right is bestowed on them by God, Who also assigns to parents a duty to teach Christian morality to their sons and daughters. Parents are the best teachers of their children. God has ordained parents with an inalienable right to educate their children, particularly regarding sexual development. God, the Author of life, invites parents to join in the creative process of generating new human life. The role of parents continues as guardians and caretakers of the gift of a child which has been bestowed on them. The God-given right and responsibility of parents to control the education of their children is revealed in Holy Scripture: He [the Lord] set it up as a decree in Jacob, and established it as a law in Israel, / That what He commanded our fathers they should make known to their sons . . . Psalm 78:5 Train a child in the way he should go; and when he is old he will not depart from it. Proverbs 22 Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline of the Lord. Ephesians 6:4 . . . and in the Tradition of the Catholic Church: The right and duty of parents to educate their children is primary and inalienable.1 **************************************************************************** Parents have a duty to be the primary educators of their children, particularly in matters related to sex. As the Second Vatican Council recalled, "since parents have conferred life on their children, they have a most solemn obligation to educate their offspring. Hence parents must be acknowledged as the first and foremost educators of their children. The role of parents in education is of such importance that it is almost impossible to provide an adequate substitute."2 A human being's sexuality cannot be separated from who he or she is as a person. The responsibility of parents to steer the discipline and development of their child involves the child's total development including his sexual morality. Parents are called to give their children "a clear and delicate" sex education, one that is "truly and fully personal."3 "Sex education, which is a basic right and duty of parents, must always be carried out under their attentive guidance, whether at home or in education centers chosen and controlled by them"4 "Education for chastity is absolutely essential, for it is a virtue that develops a person's authentic maturity and makes him or her capable of respecting and fostering the "nuptual meaning" of the body. Indeed Christian parents, discerning the signs of God's call, will devote special attention and care to education in virginity or celibacy as the supreme form of that self-giving that constitutes the very meaning of human sexuality."5 Sexuality is interconnected with morality and spirituality; therefore, sex education cannot be taught apart from Christian principles. To "love the Lord your God with all of your heart, soul and mind" includes all of oneself. Parents are the best educators of their children. The Church reaffirms the law of subsidiarity. As such, a school that cooperates in the sex education of a child should enter into the same spirit that motivates and animates the parents.6 Schools play an important role in supporting the parents' cultivation of virtue in their children. Yet, when it comes to discussing sexual matters beyond the abstract (that is, in any detailed or descriptive way), the classroom or other public setting is not the appropriate place. As stated before, parents are called to give a clear and delicate sex education, one that is truly and fully personal. It is presumptuous-indeed, dangerous- to assume that every child is at the same level of sexual interest or understanding. One eighth-grader may need to be spoken to more candidly about sex because he is already sexually aware, where as another eighth-grader may consider the opposite sex uninteresting; therefore very little, if anything, should be discussed with him about sex. Parents are in the best position to know the developmental level and individual informational needs of their children. Moreover, only in private discussions can these needs be addressed-personally and with the delicacy the subject requires. It is particularly important not to violate a child's natural latency period (roughly from age eight to puberty, when sexual interests are dormant), which could result in the destruction of their innocence. Further, parents, regardless of their professional credentials, are best suited to be the primary educators of their children. Their loving relationship with their offspring is singular and irreplaceable and therefore cannot be delegated to others or usurped by others.7 In addition, parents are in a unique position to lead by example in teaching their children the gift of self in relation to love. The love between a husband and wife teaches their children what love is; for, by welcoming and nurturing the children who are the fruit of that love, they give their children the best possible education in sexuality and in responsible use of their sexuality.8 There can be no avoiding the duty to offer, especially to adolescents and young adults, an authentic education in sexuality and in love . . .9 1. Familiaris Consortio, Section 36. 2. Catechism of the Catholic Church, Section 2221. 3. Familiaris Consortio, Section 37. 4. Ibid. 5. Ibid. 6. Ibid. 7. Ibid, Section 36. 8. Know Your Body, Norris & Owen, p. 65. 9. Evangelium Vitae, Paragraph 97. If parents do not feel comfortable speaking to their teenagers regarding sexual issues, they have a responsibility to seek the resources to learn how better to handle such matters. The following are organizations that can provide the necessary resources. Simply ask for a catalog of materials related to chastity and the sex education of your children from a Christian moral perspective. The Couple to Couple League, Inc. P.O. Box 111184 Cincinnati, OH 45211 513-661-7812 Family of the Americas P.O. Box 1170 Dunkirk, MD 20754-1170 301-627-3346 Human Life International 7885 Airpark Road, Suite E Gaithersburg, MD 20879 301-670-7884 Saint Paul's Media and Books 50 Saint Paul's Avenue Boston, MA 02130 800-876-4463 In addition to: American Life League, Inc. P.O. Box 1350, Stafford, VA 22555 (540) 659-4171 **************************************************************************** Copyright A.L.L. 1995

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