For both children and adults, sexuality can be an awkward topic. Even to say or read the word "s-e-x" or discuss relationships can make people squirm. The fact that so many people avoid and find this subject uncomfortable is tantamount to its importance, and the sensitivity surrounding sexuality is representative of the need to be aware of and learn how to navigate this area from an early age.
Throughout the week of September 23, 2019, Susie March, a global Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE) expert, came to BCIS to deliver a series of workshops to parents, community members, teachers, and students. These workshops focused on the complexity of young people growing up in a world surrounded by social media and the ubiquity of communications devices. CSE teaches young people how to make responsible and safe choices in relationships with others. It takes a look at human development throughout life, covering social, emotional, physical and spiritual development.
Parent workshops were delivered in two sessions, split into Elementary School (ES) and Secondary School (SS) groups, parents were also welcomed to bring guests and friends to spread the impact of these workshops. During the ES workshop, Susie March introduced CSE as taking place both at school and in the home. She discussed with participants the importance of parents promoting safe and healthy relationships to their children from an early age. Adopting an active and open approach allows parents to have greater awareness of their child's sexual development. As with the S-E-X word, normalizing language surrounding the body is key to having conversations surrounding sexuality. This involves parents learning and becoming comfortable talking about body parts and sexual development in their native language and English too, to facilitate dialogue on this crucial topic.
The SS parent workshop also began by addressing the need for conversation and dialogue between parents and children as puberty, a critical step in sexual development, takes place. Further to making efforts to normalize language surrounding the body, parents can also buy literature on sexuality and allow opportunities for their child to approach them on this often-sensitive topic rather than forcing a conversation. This session took a deep focus on the impact of technology and social media on the sexual development of children. Heightened sexualization, which is the imposition of adult sexual behaviors and practices on immature children, via social platforms, advertisements and across online communication in general can impact the sexual development of children, especially if a child's device time is unfettered and unlimited. Susie March encouraged parents to lead by example regarding cell phone use, setting clear guidelines for time spent on devices, as well as asking parents to be open to having non-judgmental conversations on what their child may see online. Online safety not only relates to the content children and young people may be exposed to, but online bullying, harassment and blackmail. Teaching children to be wary of strangers online is fundamental to their online safety, especially when sharing images and videos is so easy and the creation of fake accounts and profiles is equally as easy and common.
These workshops provided an extremely valuable opportunity for parents to become familiar with CSE and to engage with an expert in this subject area. BCIS is building upon its sexual safety campus infrastructure and curriculum by expanding CSE across the ES and SS, working with the Council of International Schools guidelines to best prepare students for adulthood. "Giving children and young people the tools to safeguard their health and wellbeing is as vital a part of their education as Math and English" – Susie March.