Dear Family Coach: My school district has a sex education program that I don't care for. Parents have the option of signing their children out of the class. I opted out for my two older children. However, this year all of my younger child's friends are taking the class, and I'm receiving a lot of pressure for her to attend. I'm not sure I want my eighth-grader forced to endure several weeks of content on sexually transmitted diseases, contraception and even a childbirth video. Am I wrong to want to shield her from the information in this class? — Sex-Can-Wait Mom
Dear Mom: I think you are asking the wrong question. You may not be wrong to want to shield your daughter from information you deem inappropriate for her age. However, the real question is: Is it even possible to shield your daughter at this point? And the answer to that question, whether or not you allow her to attend the class, is a resounding no. The kids are going to talk the second they exit the classroom. Your daughter will miss out on the information from the teacher and only get the highlights from her friends. She will likely then Google the information secretly to learn what you are working so hard avoid.
While your daughter may seem too young to hear the ins and outs of sex and relationships, she really isn't. Many other cultures begin sex education in kindergarten, as they should. Waiting until the teen years to begin the conversation is like trying to cram AP Calculus into just a few sessions. It takes years for children to learn just about anatomy. Sadly, I know some adults who don't know that only men have prostates. A comprehensive sexuality education class includes information on gender, stereotypes, contraception, childbirth, sexually transmitted diseases, culture, gender equality, consent, boundaries and even abuse.
If you aren't going to allow your daughter to get the education in school, you will leave her with an unnecessary deficit. Let her learn with her peers, and make sure to keep the conversation going at home. Provide an open space for your kids to ask questions and express their opinions and you will ensure that sex and relationships are not something that has to be endured but instead embraced safely and knowledgably.
Dear Family Coach: I'm tired of the PTA and the bake sales and the elementary school theme days. I feel like I can't possibly cook another healthy meal or pack a decent lunch. I'm exhausted from working, and caring for my kids and my parents. Yet I feel an immense sense of guilt when I try to back off some of my responsibilities. Please, help me sort out how to keep on keeping on when I can barely make it through each day. — Past My Prime Parent
Dear Parent: Lean in, because I want to make sure you hear this clearly: You cannot do it all, and you don't have to even try. There — I said it. As a parenting expert, I can happily report that your kids don't really need freshly baked brownies or your company on every field trip. They don't need you to be the class parent every single year, or for you to volunteer to make the class of 36 pinatas for the big end-of-year celebration. In the grand scheme of what kids need, these are all at the very bottom of the list.
Here's what's most important: that you give love, support, a safe home and room to grow. Sure, a healthy meal is important. But will anything terrible happen if you order a pizza or even go through the drive-thru at McDonald's? I assure you it won't. Put your feet up and lose the guilt. You are doing just fine.
Dr. Catherine Pearlman is the author of "Ignore It! How Selectively Looking the Other Way Can Decrease Behavioral Problems and Increase Parenting Satisfaction." To write to Dr. Pearlman, send her an email at [email protected] To find out more about Dr. Catherine Pearlman and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.