Sex Ed for Kids
Guest blog by Melissa Wong, Registered Physiotherapist
Given the recent media coverage and heated discussion over the new Sexual Education Curriculum in Ontario, I thought that this topic would be quite appropriate to blog about. Whether or not you support the new curriculum, most parents will agree that having an open conversation with your kids about sex is important.
Typically in Ontario, children are taught about the changes that occur with puberty (body changes, hair growth, menstruation), in grade 5. The new curriculum will move some of these concepts to grade 4 and, as awkward as it might be, I believe that these years are the ideal time to discuss a variety of other topics with your kids.
For daughters that have begun menstruating, teaching them to use pads and tampons is important. It is essential that they feel comfortable inserting and removing a tampon, but also that they don’t feel pain or burning with insertion or removal. Research has shown that pain during the first tampon insertion can be predictive of adolescent pain during intercourse (Landry et al, 2010), If this initial pain does not get resolved, girls may likely avoid tampons altogether. The research showed that girls who avoided tampon use were linked to a four-fold increased risk for painful intercourse.
The same research by Landry and colleagues also showed that detrimental vulvar hygiene habits were linked to painful intercourse. So when you do have those ever-uncomfortable conversations with your daughters, make sure you bring up how to take care of their developing bodies. Encourage breathable, cotton underwear. Encourage healthy washing habits – with only warm water, no harsh soaps or douching. Encourage proper wiping technique when in the bathroom. For more tips and tricks for good vulvar care, check out Angelique’s blog post from January 18, 2015.
Occasionally a woman may feel a “wall” stopping the insertion of the tampon (or even with attempted penile penetration). It may not be perceived as painful, but may be a sign of the pelvic floor muscles tightening in response to the attempted penetration. It may be a sign of a condition called vaginismus. As horrible as the term sounds, there are lots of treatment options (including physiotherapy!) to treat this condition. The important point is to make sure you are having the appropriate conversations and asking the best questions to your daughters.
Pain, adverse reactions to sexual experiences, proper hygiene, and an overall confusion of what is going on “down there” can all be overwhelming for a young woman. Left unaddressed, these can often be potential predictors for future sexual dysfuction and chronic pelvic pain in the future. Whether or not these issues are addressed in a formal classroom setting, in grades 4, 5, 6, 7, or 8 or whether or not you even have your child participate in sexual education in school, I encourage you to take charge in educating your children about the birds and the bees. Let’s take some time to have open, honest conversations with our kids and help them find help and support if needed.