Sex education benefits preschoolers to young adults

Recently I was with my sister and her two young grandsons. Peggy needed to use the restroom and the boys joined her.

Two-year-old Jack said, "You don't have a penis, right Grandma?" To which my sister replied, "No, I don't." Then Jack said, "You have a vulva because you are a girl, right?" My sister said, "Yes, I have a vulva because I am a girl." Her daughter had obviously explained this to Jack previously. Five-year-old Parker said, "Wait! What is a vulva? How does Jack know what a vulva is, and I don't?!" The likely answer to that is that Jack asked, and Parker did not.

Children are naturally curious about their bodies and often ask questions about them. The topic of sex education can be a difficult one for families to navigate, but these are exactly the types of conversations that begin to build an age-appropriate dialogue with children.

Laying the foundation for sex education should start at a very young age, although it is sometimes challenging for parents to do so on their own. Often adults do not want to navigate the more difficult topics that should be presented as children enter adolescence.

Most parents believe that sex education should be taught in schools. Polling has found that 96 percent of parents support providing sex education in high school and 93 percent support sex education in middle school.

Currently, only 30 states require sex education in schools. Illinois is not one of those states, although there are specific pieces of legislation related to sex education that are required in all Illinois schools.

Gov. Pritzker recently signed Senate Bill 818 (Aug. 20), which further explains what should be addressed in schools that teach sex education in grades six through 12. This bill helps to bring Illinois sex education into alignment with National Sexuality Education Standards by including newly required topics.

Here is a list of sex education topics from SB 818: consent and healthy relationships, anatomy and physiology, puberty and adolescent development, gender identity and expression, sexual orientation and identity, sexual health, interpersonal violence and internet safety, including social media and sexting. Additionally, this bill indicates that sex education is to be delivered using a trauma-informed and non-biased approach.

We at Candor Health Education believe that age-appropriate, science-based sex education is critical to the health and personal safety of children and young people. Our programs are developed for students in grades four through eight. These programs touch on many of the topics from SB 818. These topics are presented to students in scenario-based discussion formats, so students learn best how to manage various situations they encounter while navigating through their teen years and beyond.

We know that early sexual activity, teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections can be avoided by providing sex education to young people. Many teen mothers drop out of high school or go into the welfare system. Prevention education can help ensure that teens stay in school and provide them with the start they need in reaching their long-term goals.

Kids are naturally curious about their bodies, and they should be given accurate information about them. Sex education should start early, as with 2-year-old Jack learning the appropriate terms for body parts, and continue through puberty, human reproduction, healthy relationships and sexual health.

There are some fantastic resources available online for parents to learn the proper information about how to talk to their kids about sex education. Candor offers many on our website at

- Barb Thayer is the executive

director of Candor Health

Education in Hinsdale.