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Adequate sex education

It is vitally important that all children and young people know about safe touch, safe sex and sexual development including information about contraception. It is also important that young people develop an understanding of non-exploitative sexual relationships. If a child with sexually reactive behaviours has an experience of sexual abuse themselves, sex education can be a delicate task, as it may trigger painful memories. However, support for a child to understand their body, sex, sexuality, and healthy and unhealthy sexual behaviour and relationships is a human right and helps children make safe choices.

Recommendations for addressing a child’s sex education include:

  • assessing whether the child has adequate age appropriate knowledge about sexual development and if applicable, contraception, sexuality and sexual health
  • assessing who is the most suitable person to provide the education. Consider cultural safety for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children or children who are culturally and linguistically diverse.
  • determine who will have primary responsibility for ensuring the child or young person receives appropriate sex education on an ongoing basis as their developmental needs change.
  • depending on the child’s needs, determine if engaging a professional service may also be appropriate. For example, if a young person has an intellectual disability, tailored sex education that caters to their disability is necessary.

Attention

Sex education is not a ‘once only’ conversation. Children and young people require ongoing conversations throughout the developmental stages of their lives. For children in care, particularly children with unstable care arrangements, opportunities for appropriate sex education are limited. Ensure consideration is given to addressing a child or young person’s sex education when reviewing the child’s case plan or placement agreement.

Further reading

True is an organisation that provides expert reproductive and sexual health services to women. True provides professional and workforce development for medical professionals, teachers, youth and social workers and more. They have a range of resources and information on a broad range of topics on their website.

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