OCTEVAW Releases Parents’ Guide on Issues Raised in New Sex Ed Curriculum
(Ottawa)—February 23, 2015. The Ottawa Coalition to End Violence Against Women (OCTEVAW) says parents should be ready to continue the conversations raised in the newly updated Ontario sex-ed curriculum at home.
“We are thrilled that Ontario’s first sex ed curriculum update since 1998 includes consent education,” says Erin Leigh, Executive Director of the Ottawa Coalition to End Violence Against Women. “Now we need parents to be equipped to answer the new questions their kids come home with, which is why OCTEVAW is releasing the kNOw More guide,” she says.
Available for free online, kNOw More is a practical how-to for parents and guardians on talking to their children about sex, relationships and consent. The Ontario Ministry of Community and Social Services funded the project, which draws on interviews with Ontario youth, parents, teachers, as well as research and sex education resources from across North America. The guide offers advice on integrating consent education into everyday conversation, helping young people develop healthy relationships and helping them navigate sexual activity on and offline.
“With ‘sexting’ and online harassment gaining increasing exposure in the media, we ensured the guide specifically addressed how parents can talk to their kids about online safety without shaming them or feeding into sexist double standards,” says Leigh. “The perception that boys who send sexual pictures or messages are just being boys—while girls who do so are causing irreversible harm to themselves—is one of the double standards we came across a lot while developing this guide,” she says.
Jenn Harju, who opened up her Ottawa home for a kNOw More parents focus group, says she thinks parents are often more scared than their kids to spark conversations on sex and relationships.
“I think many parents fear that discussing these issues can become a self-fulfilling prophecy—that they are somehow encouraging their kids to have sex or engage in certain behaviours,” Harju says. “However, it is so important that we do have these conversations, because parents can have an enormous influence on their kids.”
Now is the time to build on the success of public calls for consent education in Ontario schools by pushing for better consent education at home, according to Catherine Macnab, Executive Director of Planned Parenthood Ottawa.
“Our community needs more resources like the the kNOw More guide,” says Macnab. “Parents are the first and most important sources of sexual health information in their children’s lives, and conversations about consent and healthy relationships can’t just happen in the classroom. They need to begin at home,” she says.