Children are perfect examples of innocence, but because they are so precious to us, it could be difficult to teach them things that are important.
Recently, there has been conversation about whether young children should be learning some version of sex education. The topic became subject to debate during New Jersey’s 2022 congressional primaries, in the race for the Seventh Congressional District where Republican candidate Tom Kean Jr. hoped to unseat democratic incumbent Tom Malinowski. Tracey Tully from The New York Times wrote, “Nowhere have the sex-education standards, which will be taught for the first time this school year, attracted more attention than in the campaign for the Seventh Congressional District…”
If your definition of sex-ed is talking about intercourse or genitalia, then kindergarteners are not ready to learn about that. Of course kindergarteners are too young to learn about sex. They need to wait until they are mature enough to understand what sex really is. Kindergarteners should not be exposed to things they are not mature enough to understand.
However, there is more to sex-ed than just sex.
Some topics within of sex-ed should be taught to children like consent, bodily autonomy and examples of healthy relationships are all aspects of sex education that would be beneficial for kindergarteners and other elementary-age students to learn.
Nora Gelperin, director of sex education and training at Advocates for Youth told National Public Radio (NPR), “When we’re talking about consent with kindergartners, that means getting permission before you touch someone else; asking permission to borrow somebody’s toy or pencil or game, so that kids start to learn about personal boundaries and consent in really age- and developmentally appropriate ways.”
This way of teaching kindergarteners consent is beneficial to both them and the rest of society. Children should know that it is not right to touch someone if they are not comfortable with it and vice versa. They should learn that nobody has the right to do anything to their body that they do not want, and access to these lessons in classrooms is a great place to start building personal boundaries.
Offering this type of education at an early age also gives kids a chance to learn what a healthy relationship looks like. Whether it is a romantic or platonic relationship, any human being should know that there are boundaries to these relationships and they should learn the signs of what an unhealthy relationship looks like. Giving them these tools also gives them the tools to report toxic or unhealthy behaviors about themselves and others.
There is also a chance for these kids to grow into respectful adults that can break cycles of abuse and educate others on bodily autonomy. Children who might not know any better could finally learn how to be respectful in society. Children who have had bad examples of what a relationship looks like can now see what they really look like.
Another aspect of sex-ed that would be beneficial for young children to know is that people in the LGBTQ+ community exist. It is likely that a lot of children will question their sexuality and identity in their adolescence, and they should know that there are communities of people that accept who they are.
The normalization of these topics, by just showing children that these communities exist, can have a lasting positive effect on them. A lot of people in the LGBTQ+ community go through periods of feeling that they are not normal, and normalizing the existence of LGBTQ+ people can create a better environment for developing tolerance and acceptance across the country.
Children are naturally curious and it’s good that they have questions about the world around us, and they should know there are people around them that provide safe environments to ask questions.
Nico Brazill can be contacted at