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Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Brain Development in Young Children

Our brain is made of a number of cells called neurons that process the information it receives. As a result of brain development in fetus, a baby is born with around 1 million neurons. As far as the structural development of brain with respect to the brain cells is concerned, it is almost complete. However, the functional maturity is attained as a child grows up. Although the brain cells are there, transfer of impulses is crucial for the brain to function in a coordinated way. This transfer of impulses and information within the cells takes place through synapses or 'wiring' in the brain. Although we are born with some of the genetic wiring, most of it develops during the development of the brain in early childhood. This development is shaped by the environment and experiences of a child in his early years. Hence, the first few years of a child's life is very crucial as far as his intellectual as well as socio-emotional abilities are concerned.

Emotional bonding with parents and child care during early years guide the formation of connections between the neurons. Then as a child grows and enters his preschool years, activities in the school help his brain to further develop in a coordinated way. These experiences organize and reorganize the brain. The development in children takes place most rapidly within the first three years. This growth reaches its peak during the first year when the brain cells go about setting new connections and terminating those that are not required. This 'pruning' of the synapses or connections between various cells depends on how the baby is handled by its caregivers. The result of setting of these connections is reflected in the behavioral developments that a child show at various stages of development of various skills.

The Development Timeline

1. First 4 Months - During this stage of brain development in infants, a baby starts responding to motor and sensory stimulation. He begins to smile and track objects and people with his eyes. However, he lacks the understanding of existence of objects outside his range of vision. The brain responds to bright colors and various sounds of a language.

2. 5 to 6 Months - A child often smiles and recognizes parents and siblings. He responds to language stimulation by responding every time he is spoken to. Babies laugh, gurgle and imitate sounds. They try to explore the world around by stretching out their limbs and putting things in their mouth. They are able to sit when propped, roll over, bounce and grasp things without using the thumb.

3. 7 to 12 Months - Greater mental development is evident as babies can remember actions and repeat them from memory and find hidden objects. They identify themselves, their body parts and familiar voices. They produce their own sounds and may also speak their first meaningful words. They can sit alone, stand up and some even take their first steps.

4. 1 to 2 Years - During this stage, children show greater motor skills as they run and climb stairs. However, they are more careful about unfamiliar objects as compared to the previous stage. They imitate actions of the grown ups, understand stories and even strike up friendship with other children.

5. 2 to 3 Years - Children attain greater motor skills as they gain coordination in their movements. They develop greater understanding of people who are close to them and dislike being separated from family or friends. Spatial understanding is enhanced as they know where things are supposed to be in their environment.

6. 3 to 6 Years - During this stage of child development a child has greater attention span. He talks a lot, is very curious about his surroundings. He is boisterous and active and shows keenness to test his physical abilities, although with some caution. He reflects a strong desire to do things that grown ups do and likes to play with friends.

Role of Caregivers

Be Loving and Responsive
If you think that your baby just eats, sleeps and occasionally smiles at you, think twice! There is a lot that is continually going on inside your child's head. The emotional bonding between parents and children is the deciding factor behind the brain development in babies. We already spoke about the connections between neurons being set during early childhood. A child whose emotional needs are met has healthy connections being set in his brain. As per educator Stephen Santos Rico, M.A, brain development is "use dependent". So the more it experiences some emotions the more connections related to it will be established. For example, pick up your child when he is crying. This sense of emotional security will develop those connections in brain that will enable him to deal better with crisis in later life.

Converse With Your Child
Your baby may be too young to understand the meanings of your words. But as he listens to your words, the part of the brain that is associated with speech and language develops faster. In fact, every time your baby hears you speak, cascades of impulses run through his neurons. These connections are strengthened every time the words are repeated. The changes in the intonation of your voice communicates different emotions to the baby. Although the baby may not communicate in a literal sense, his brain is undergoing enough stimulation to ensure that it develops proper language skills and thinking abilities.

Follow Routines
Following routines gives a sense of security to children. This is very important for development of confidence in children that decides their place in the society once they are adults. This also makes you predictable for your child and children learn to count on you.

Encourage the Child to Explore and Play
However, this must be done giving the child's safety utmost priority. Allow your child to explore things on his own. Let him meet new people and play with other children. This promotes better motor skills, interpersonal and communication skills in children.

Role of Preschool Activities

Activities like daily morning greetings subject a child to same words and repeated actions that reinforce the connections associated with speech and expression. When children sit for story time, they get an opportunity to think and express their feelings. For this exercise to be effective, it is important that a teacher has a small group so that each gets a chance to express himself. Finger play, free play and snack time all allow a child the same opportunities for exploration and developing motor skills that he gets from his parents at home. Although the development continues along the same lines in preschool as it did at home, the activities are a little more complex which is in consonance of the child's age in his preschool.

Those parents who are concerned about the intellectual development of their children may feel that this very angle is missing in this article. However, it is very important for such parent to know that by meeting the natural emotional needs of their children, they are aiding healthy brain development in early childhood that provides the basis for intellectual development in the years to come. Just tend to the way nature has made us. If by the works of nature we are supposed to complete our brain development outside the womb, then nature has itself provided for the feeling of affection and care in us for our babies that is crucial for brain development in early childhood. Respond to your parental instincts. This is the best you can do to ensure adequate brain development in infants and during early childhood.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Personal Development Goals

We all have hopes and dreams, and aspire to reach ever greater heights, whether it be in school, work or family. Personal development goals are used to accomplish this task, and allow us to gauge our success and our progress.

Everyone has a desire to get  ahead, to set goals for themselves and seek personal growth in all walks of life. Life in itself can be challenging and sometimes basic survival becomes the need of the hour, furthermore competition, work pressure and responsibilities have to be dealt with. Faced with this scenario, sometimes self-improvement and personal growth can be pushed into the background. One way to deal with the need for constant improvement is to develop and plan your personal development goals. 

'If you have an hour, will you not improve that hour, instead of idling it away?'

Personal Development Goals Overview

Personal development is an important aspect of an individuals life. Personal development is a lifelong major undertaking. Cultures all over the world, since ancient times, have added a lot of value on personal development in order to bring children and youth into the society and fulfill and assume meaningful roles within it. Religion, philosophy, and ethics all encompass methods for personal development and self improvement. I have made a list of a few areas where one can set personal development goals. Though far from comprehensive, this list includes areas which constitute a large part of our lives. The areas are
self-improvement, career, health, lifestyle, family, relationships, education, art and culture.

Personal Development Goals: Examples

Self Improvement: This is an area where constant growth and improvement is possible. You can enhance your skill set, you can take up something new, or you could finally get those projects done that you've been putting off. A personal development goal example would be to stop procrastinating and finally get your garden landscaped.

Career: Career growth is one of the most important areas for setting up goals. Work is what one does for a major part of time and also one's identity and self esteem is based on where they work and what they do. Working towards a promotion, increase in responsibility, or an increment in salary are all examples of career related goals.

Health: Working on aspects of your health such as losing weight, increasing your stamina, or eating healthier may be on your mind. The right thing to do would be to select one as a personal goal and act on it.

Lifestyle: Many people are looking for ways to enhance their lifestyles, and you can easily do so by setting a personal goal, such as enrollment in a wine tasting club. Other ways that include are taking a class for music/art appreciation, attending a sculpting workshop, planning a meaningful vacation, or taking up any new sport.

Family: Personal goals regarding family could be, setting a date for marriage, having a child, meeting family members you haven't met for a long time, organizing a family get together, etc.

Relationships: Setting up personal goals for relationships is a good way to approach them and helps you to monitor your progress. Goals could include finding that special someone, going steady, setting a date for engagement, etc.

Education: Education is a key area of
personal development in two ways. It often describes who you and where you work. Continuing and enhancing your education for a career or out of interest is always a good goal for development. You could finally take that foreign language class you've been thinking of, or take some time out to study art history or Renaissance studies. Other options could include taking advanced courses in your area of work or an advanced degree in management.

Art: Art is an important aspect of human life which has the potential to give a lot of satisfaction and personal growth. Attending art lessons, taking up a musical instrument, or attending an acting workshop could get you started in this area.

Culture: Culture is a vast area to explore and you could do this by learning a new cuisine, traveling, going on an archaeological dig, learning a traditional dance form, etc.

As seen in the above paragraphs, setting personal development goals require a few basic steps. One is to set up the goal by identifying an area and setting up a sample personal development goal within it. The next step is to put a time boundary on the activity, that is, when to start and how long it should take. The next step is to setup the personal development plans. Once the goal is decided and the time boundaries are set, it is simply a matter of putting the plans into action.

"We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit." - Aristotle

Examples of personal goals may include
  • Building your own identity
  • Becoming the person you aspire to
  • Fixing your priorities
  • Specifying your values
  • Determining your lifestyle
  • Defining your ethics
  • Improving your knowledge, potential and awareness
  • Enhancing the quality of your life
  • Developing strengths, learning techniques or methods to achieve wisdom
  • Fulfilling aspirations
  • Building human capital
  • Defining and executing personal development plans.
Have you ever noticed that major religious practices such as prayer, music, dance, singing, chanting, poetry, writing and sports etc., are nothing but personal development programs or tools. These tools were designed to help perform various functions, such as health improvement or aesthetic satisfaction, but they can also be linked to 'final goals' of personal development such as discovering the true meaning of life or living good life. Examples of personal goals can not be considered as 'personal' forever as they often continue to influence family values, education, management at workplace or rather every aspect of life. Personal development goals play an important role in leadership and management. Here are some examples of personal development goals at work.

Examples of Personal Development Goals at Work

Here are sample personal development goals:
  • To increase level of professionalism and efficiency
  • To communicate effectively with all colleagues and boss
  • To recognize and appreciate work of others
  • To create a new strategy for maximum output with minimum resources
  • Learn what is required to enhance your performance (continuing education)
  • Learn stress relieving techniques
I think you would accept the fact that your goals at this point of time would be surrounded by the roles that you are currently fulfilling.

Setting personal development goals for managers is crucial, since without these goals their career can be ruined. Learning new
management skills, developing positive thinking, learning new techniques of human resource management, adopting negotiation skills, learning the art of dealing with difficult people are some examples of personal goals for managers.

While setting a goal, you should just check how this goal is going to affect you in the four areas of life; body, heart, mind, and spirit? You should set meaningful, realistic and professional 'development goals' to make progress towards your ideal life. Setting long term goals is as essential as setting weekly or daily goals. You need to set SMART goals, no matter where you work or what you do, as SMART goals are based on the principle that goals could be easily achieved if they are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-Bound.

Properly set goals lead you towards the path of success, allow you to take risks and set challenges. If you have set goals, then only, you keep trying, if at first you don't succeed. Goals help you control your emotions and fears when the going gets rough. Achieving small goals makes you more and more confident and you can easily set and achieve big goals then. Goal setting is very personal but I hope you find the above 'personal development goals examples' helpful while setting new goals. While setting new goals, you must look inward to understand what it is you truly want to accomplish. Setting personal goals requires discipline, time, and an ardent desire to make personal change.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Spending Quality Time with Children

In this fast-paced world, we have to make space for our kids, and assure them that we care about them and will always be there as pillars of support. They need our love, kindness, and strength, so that they feel secure and confident with themselves...

Every child needs to feel like he is cared for and loved in equal measures by both his parents. Unfortunately, it often happens that children become closer to one parent, while the other parent stays out of touch, for long hours on business and work commitments. Today, family has become a part of parents' schedule, and not vice versa. The ideal way to spend leisure time with children, should be to keep work and family time separate from each other, while giving due justice to both areas of our life.

There is no doubt about the fact that, any parent would want to get to know their children better, learn new things about them, and the quirky events in their lives. However, time is a precious commodity and is hard to get by. Parents today, are overworking themselves so that they can provide their children with the comforts and privileges, that they themselves could not enjoy while growing up. They want their kids to grow up feeling that their parents did the best they could for them. The sad part is that, what children crave the most is for the affection of their parents and to be able to spend as much time as possible with them. Childhood is fleeting and is also the most crucial phase, when unbreakable and deep-rooted bonds are developed.

Ways to Spend Time with Your Kids

1. Family Comes First
You will need to reschedule your timetable, so that half an hour or more, each day is devoted only for the children. This time must be spent doing various activities such as, playing, listening to music, rolling on the carpet or the garden, playing catch, or simply taking a walk, while talking. If you have more than one child, you will need to ensure that you give individual attention to each child everyday, so that none feels left out or less loved. Speak to your spouse about this new change and set a fixed hour for each parent. The ideal option is to eat breakfast or dinner together as a family, each and every day. Parents can sit together and read a story for their kids, before tucking the kids in bed. Praying together is also an excellent time for bonding.

2. Quality vs Quantity
The objective is to spend the free time you get with your children, in a productive and positive manner. Utilize every bit of free time you get, which could include the time when you are driving your child to school and back, or when they come back from school and have not yet sat down to start their homework. Wake them up half an hour earlier on school days, so that you can have fun preparing breakfast together. Make it a point to start no TV time so that the kids do not while away this precious time watching cartoons and advertisements. You can have fun preparing dinner together and washing the dishes thereafter. You can have fun selecting what clothes the kids will be wearing the next day to school, by dressing up and poking fun at each other. All of this need not be done within one day and can be spread over the entire week as well as the weekend.

3. Always Thinking of You
If your job drags you down into late hours, you will naturally not be able to accomplish the usual daily bonding activities. Instead, you could always keep reminding the kids that you are constantly thinking about them and missing them. Leave small notes in the lunch bag or on top of their neatly piled clothes for the day. Make them their favorite breakfast and set it on the table, so that when the kids wake up, they will know you made it specially for them. If you are on a business trip and cannot make it home for the next few days, you can leave voice recorded messages on the machine or the cell phone. Make it a point to video chat with them online every night, so that you can talk about their day and wish them goodnight.

4. Peer vs Parent
When it comes to dealing with teenagers, the dynamics of the relationship can turn tricky. At times you will need to put yourself in their shoes, so as to help you understand what they're going through. You will need to treat your teenager as a peer in order to gain his trust, however hard it may seem. Nonetheless, you must know where to draw the line, so that they don't get carried away. You must make sure that you step in as the parent, when required. The best way to deepen the bond with your teenager is to share your experiences with him/her. Talk about your heartbreaks and dilemmas that you faced, while growing up. The confusion and the resentment you experienced as a teenager and how you dealt with them and found appropriate solutions. Talk about the mistakes you made and how you tried to mend your way, through the years. Your teenager will respect your honesty and will gain invaluable insight about life.

Importance of Spending Quality Time with Children

1. Unbreakable Bonds
It takes time to create and maintain relationships. Similarly as parents, we need to take time out for our kids. Everyday is important and every free minute counts. Making an effort to utilize every moment possible, will allow you to spend more a good amount of time with your kids. You may not see much coming off it now, but this practice will yield its positive results in the future, when the kids are in high school and college etc. Gaining the trust of your children is the greatest asset any parent can hope for and once you're in their good books, you can be assured that your children will never make wrong decisions, when it comes to their own lives. It is important for parents to be aware of the events happening in their child's life, and must participate in discussion, so as to guide them to the right path. Growing up can be confusing and adolescence difficult. Parents can share their own experiences and failures with their children, so that the child is made aware of the consequences of their thoughts and actions.

2. Instilling Everlasting Values
Children observe, process, and assimilate values from their parents as well as their immediate surrounding. Everything they learn is through years and years of ingraining of morals and principles, which the family upholds. Children learn to be respectful towards elders and protective towards younger siblings and cousins. They learn the difference between right and wrong, safe and unsafe. They grow up to understand the value of education, hard work, honesty, kindness, and forgiveness. Children gradually become more receptive to the challenges their parents face and all the hardships they have undergone in their own personal lives for attaining the standard of life they enjoy today.

3. Acceptance and Strength of Character
A family offers the perfect environment for the child to develop a healthy and balanced personality. 
Good parents accept their children for who they are and never compare them or judge them. Children must be given the freedom to express their feelings, and creativity without a worry in the world. Parents must be aware of their children's talents and accordingly provide them with further training and encouragement, so that the children feel more confident about themselves. Confidence can take people far and help them contribute positively to the society. Similarly your child too can grow up to become a confident individual, only and only if you give him/her your support.

Negative Impact of Less Family Time

1. Guilt and Its Effects
When parents are not able to spend time with their children, they feel guilty and left out. Which loving father or mother wouldn't wish to spend some time having fun with their kids, and getting to know each other better? When parents are on a time crunch and find themselves reaching home late, they too feel disappointed with themselves for not having done enough. This guilt can make them avoid their kids all together, or get too bogged down by stress, which makes them snap and get irritated with the children and the spouse. So much of misery simply states that the anger is coming from love and the inability to express it. The flip side to this guilt is that, parents end up trying to buy love from their children by giving them gifts, toys, candies, and more pocket-money. This results in children throwing tantrums, when parents don't buy them something they want. Children innocently perceive gifts as the modus operandi of how their parents show affection towards them.

2. Children Feel Weary
When a child doesn't get to see and interact with a parent or both his parents, he/she is bound to feel unloved and detached. The answer to a good upbringing is not to raise the child through a nanny, babysitter or grandparents. What children need is quality time with parents, as often as possible. Remember quality does not imply quantity, as the two are very different aspects. Parents may spend hours with their children, but if those hours are spent admonishing, criticizing, and arguing with the children and the spouse, then the entire objective is defeated. Children end up feeling weary of their parents and often tend to ignore and shun interaction.

3. Communication Gap
In cases, where parents and children do not get to spend much time talking to one another, children often end up answering back and being rude. Children feel alienated, uncared for and retaliatory against their parents. This problem is conventionally associated with adolescence and teenagers, but even children as young as 6-8 are increasingly showing similar rebellious behavior. Such children feel that their parents do not understand them and are too wound up in their own lives and their jobs. Children who are looked after by loving grandparents are comparatively luckier than kids who grow up with babysitters. This is where things can take a turn for the worse. Unhappy children will make friends with the wrong company at school, they will become rude and troublesome during class and may even take to bullying other kids. All these actions are blatant signs that the child is not being given the care and love he deserves. It's the parents' responsibility to ensure such an eventuality does not occur.

4. Educational Lapse
Unless there is at least one parent monitoring the child's education during the initial few years, the lack of educational assistance can severely hamper the learning aptitude of the child. Learning has to be made fun and interactive for the child, by both the parents. A recent study shows that children who are taught by the father are relatively sharper and more receptive to new information. Such kids fare better in academic and IQ results. They are also naturally tuned to be more street-smart, thereby making them gear up for looking after their own interests and security as they grow older. Children who are left to care for themselves, often score lesser in studies, as they get easily distracted by toys, Internet and TV. Even if there is a babysitter at hand for helping in the homework, the end results will not be as satisfactory as compared to when parents take interest in teaching the child themselves. Always remember that children need dollops of love and affection, and at the same time need soothing discipline, so as to help them mend their errors.

No matter how busy you may be or how wound up with chores, always remember to hug your children and let them know that you love them. You'd be surprised if you found out how much these gestures matter, in the long run. 

Thursday, June 14, 2012

The Secrets of Happy Marriage

1.       Building and maintaining a healthy marriage is not that easy. It needs a lot of efforts and enough time. Both the partners should equally take efforts to make their marital relationship enjoyable and comfortable. Given below are some helpful tips that you can practice for a successful married life.

    1.  Communication is the most important key to a healthy relationship. Effective communication helps develop a strong bond between the couple. You should be able to express your feelings and share all your joys, worries and concerns with your partner. However, communication is not restricted to talking only. You should also be able to carefully listen to your partner. 
    1. For being able to communicate effectively, you need to keep aside enough time for each other from your busy schedule. You must spend some time with each other for a meaningful conversation. Try to have a lunch or dinner together everyday.
    1. You both should take hard efforts to develop the relationship. You can take a review of past moments and find out your mistakes and problems in your relationship. By this, you can decide the areas to be strengthened and improved. You can also seek help from a professional marriage counselor.
    1. Another important thing for a healthy marriage is to express an appreciation. Saying 'Thank you' can make your partner feel special and appreciated. You should never miss to appreciate your partner even for everyday things such as cooking the meals, cleaning or taking care of the kids. It would make your partner happy and more enthusiastic.
    1. Commitment is one of the most important factors in a healthy marriage. Your relationship with your partner should be a priority in your life. A relationship needs an attention and efforts to grow. Although you are too busy with your work, do spend some quality time together.
    1. Always be honest with each other. It is the most important thing for a successful marriage. Infidelity of one or both partners can ruin a marital relationship. If you commit any mistake, admit it to your partner. Being honest with each other, you can build a strong relationship.
    1. Trust is the strong foundation of a marriage. You should fully trust your partner. It not only gives a solid base, but also helps develop the relationship.
    1. Compromise is a very essential for any relationship. But it is especially important for a healthy marriage. Always keep in mind; your partner may be brought up in a different culture. Hence, you should be ready to accept his/her views and opinions. Even if you disagree on any issue, discuss it calmly. Try to find the ways to meet each other in the middle. If your partner makes any mistake, don't panic or don't hurt him/her by using harsh words. Control your anger and forgive your partner. By this, your partner will start to respect you.
    1. Maintain your sense of humor. Have fun with your partner and laugh often. It helps relieve stress and helps get through a difficult time together.
    1. Most marriages are romantic in the beginning. However, as time passes, a couple becomes distracted by work, business and kids. You should keep the romance alive and make your partner feel special by some romantic things. Go for a date with your partner, or arrange a picnic, or have a walk on the beach.
     Marriage is a very precious and important commitment. It is a bonding of not only two individuals, but also of two families. Marriage offers personal, emotional and economical stability to a person. Hence, every person strives to maintain the marital relationship. 

    However, only living together is not a sign of successful marriage. It should be pleasant and enjoyable for both the partners. Successful marriage means commitment, caring and tolerance for each other. It is responsibility of both partners to make their marital relation healthy and cheerful. By adopting these useful tips, you can make your marriage a healthy and successful affair for years.

    Wednesday, June 13, 2012

    National Sexuality Education Standards Set the New Gold Standard for Sexuality Education in Public Schools

    Today, four leading health organizations released the first-ever national standards for sexuality education in schools. Published in the Journal of School Health, the ground-breaking National Sexuality Education Standards: Core Content and Skills, K–12 provide clear, consistent, and straightforward guidance on the essential minimum, core content for sexuality education that is developmentally and age-appropriate for students in grades Kindergarten through grade 12.

    The standards are the result of a cooperative effort by the American Association for Health Education, the American School Health Association, the National Education Association Health Information Network, and the Society of State Leaders of Health and Physical Education, in coordination with the Future of Sex Education (FoSE) Initiative. Nearly 40 stakeholders including content experts, medical and public health professionals, teachers, sexuality educators, and young people developed the standards in a two-year process.

    “These National Sexuality Education Standards provide teachers, schools, school districts, and state education agencies with a new national standard—the minimum they need to teach to set students on a path to sexual health and responsible adulthood,” said Jerry Newberry, Executive Director of the National Education Association Health Information Network (NEA HIN). “They set forth essential sexuality education core content and skills responsive to the needs of students and in service to their overall academic achievement.”

    For years, research has highlighted the need to provide effective, comprehensive sexuality education to young people. The United States has one of the highest teen pregnancy rates in the industrialized world and teens bear a disproportionate impact of the sexually transmitted disease (STD) and HIV epidemics facing our nation. One in four sexually active teens has a STD and two young people every hour become HIV positive. Furthermore, there is also a pressing need to address harassment, bullying, and relationship violence in our schools, which have a significant impact on a student’s emotional and physical well-being as well as their academic success. The National Sexuality Education Standards set the groundwork for the minimum of what sexuality education should look like in America’s public schools.

    “These standards are presented in a user-friendly way, making it possible for a health education teacher or parent, say, of a seventh-grader, to easily find out what is the next step in the learning process for a thirteen-year-old in regards to sexual health,” said Stephen Conley, Executive Director of the American School Health Association.

    The standardsfocus on seven topics as the minimum, essential content and skills for K–12 education: Anatomy and Physiology; Puberty and Adolescent Development; Identity; Pregnancy and Reproduction; Sexually Transmitted Diseases and HIV; Healthy Relationships; and, Personal Safety. Topics are presented using performance indicators—what students should know and be able to do by the end of grades 2, 5, 8, and 12—and are based on the National Health Education Standards.

    “The National Sexuality Education Standards translate an emerging body of research related to school-based sexuality education so that it can be put into practice in the classroom,” said Brian Griffith, President Elect ofthe Society of State Leaders of Health and Physical Education. “These standards, developed by education and health professionals, present sexual development as a normal, natural, healthy part of human development that should be a part of every health education curriculum.”

    The National Sexuality Education Standards were developed to address the inconsistent implementation of sexuality education nationwide and the limited time allocated to teaching the topic. General health education is given very little time in the school curriculum. Even less time is dedicated to sexuality education. According to the School Health Policies and Practices Study, a national survey conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Division of Adolescent School Health, a median total of 17.2 hours is devoted to instruction in HIV, pregnancy, and STD prevention: 3.1 hours in elementary, 6 hours in middle, and 8.1 hours in high school. Studies have repeatedly found that health programs in school can help young people succeed academically and programs that included health education have a positive effect on overall academic outcomes, including reading and math scores.

    The American Association for Health Education serves educators and other professionals who promote the health of all people through education and health promotion strategies.

    The American School Health Association works to build the capacity of its members to plan, develop, coordinate, implement, evaluate and advocate for effective school health strategies that contribute to optimal health and academic outcomes for all children and youth.

    The National Education Association – Health Information Network works to improve the health and safety of the school community through disseminating information that empowers school professionals and positively impacts the lives of their students.

    The Society of State Leaders of Health and Physical Education utilizes advocacy, partnerships, professional development and resources to build the capacity of school health leaders to implement effective health education and physical education policies and practices that support success in school, work and life.

    The Future of Sex Education (FoSE) Initiative is a partnership between Advocates for Youth, Answer, and the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the U.S. (SIECUS) that seeks to create a national dialogue about the future of sex education and to promote the institutionalization of comprehensive sexuality education in public schools. To learn more and view the complete National Sexuality Education Standards.

    Monday, April 23, 2012

    Comprehensive Sex Education Has Been Proven Effective

    Evaluations of comprehensive sex education programs show that these programs can help youth delay onset of sexual activity, reduce the frequency of sexual activity, reduce number of sexual partners, and increase condom and contraceptive use. Importantly, the evidence shows youth  who receive comprehensive sex education are NOT more likely to become sexually active, increase sexual activity, or experience negative sexual health outcomes. Effective programs exist for youth from a variety of racial, cultural, and socioeconomic backgrounds.
      1. Researchers studied the National Survey of Family Growth to determine the impact of sexuality education on youth sexual risk-taking for young people ages 15-19, and found that teens who received comprehensive sex education were 50 percent less likely to experience pregnancy than those who received abstinence-only education.

      2. Researcher Douglas Kirby for the National Campaign to End Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy examined studies of prevention programs which had a strong experimental design and used appropriate analysis. Two-thirds of the 48 comprehensive sex education programs studied had positive effects.
    a)  40 percent delayed sexual initiation, reduced the number of sexual partners, or increased condom or contraceptive use.
    b)  30 percent reduced the frequency of sex, including a return to abstinence.
    c)  60 percent reduced unprotected sex.

    3. The other programs were early childhood interventions. Of the effective, comprehensive sex education programs:

    Abstinence-Only Programs Are Inaccurate, Ineffective and May Even Cause Harm
    While there is ample research to prove that comprehensive sex education programs give young people the tools they need to protect themselves from negative sexual health outcomes, there is little if any evidence to show that flawed abstinence-only programs are effective – even at achieving abstinence among teens.

    1.      A congressionally mandated study of four popular abstinence-only programs by the Mathematica found that they were entirely ineffective. Students who participated in the programs were no more likely to abstain from sex than other students.
    2.      Evaluations of publicly funded abstinence-only programs in at least 13 states have shown no positive changes in sexual behaviors over time.
    3.      In December 2004, the U.S. House of Representative’s Committee on Government Reform led by Rep. Henry A.Waxman released a report showing that 80 percent of the most popular federally funded abstinence-only education programs use curricula that distort information about the effectiveness of contraceptives, misrepresent the risks of abortion, blur religion and science, treat stereotypes about girls and boys as scientific fact, and contain basic scientific errors.
    4.   Among youth participating in “virginity pledge” programs, researchers found among sexually experienced youth who were re-pledging abstinence, 88 percent broke the pledge and had sex before marriage. Further, among all participants, once pledgers began to have sex, they had more partners in a shorter period of time and were less likely to use contraception or condoms than were their non-pledging peers.
    5.      No abstinence-only program has yet been proven through rigorous evaluation to help youth delay sex for a significant period of time, help youth decrease their number of sex partners, or reduce STI or pregnancy rates among teens.

    Public Opinion on Comprehensive Sex Education versus Abstinence-Only
    Public opinion polls consistently show that more than 80 percent of Americans support teaching comprehensive sex education in high schools and in middle or junior high schools. In one poll, 85 percent believed that teens should be taught about birth control and preventing pregnancy; in another, seven in 10 opposed government funding for abstinence-only programs.Support for comprehensive sex education also cuts across party lines.In a poll of 1,000 self-identified Republicans and Independents, 60 percent of Republicans and 81 percent of Independents think that public schools should teach comprehensive sex education.

    Young People Need Comprehensive Sex Education
    The health and future of every adolescent is shadowed by risk of sexually transmitted infections (STIs), including HIV, as well as by risk of involvement in unintended pregnancy.

                     1. The rate of STIs is high among young people in the United States. Young people ages 15-24 contract almost half the nation’s 19 million new STIs every year; and the CDC estimates that one in four young women ages 15-19 has an STI.
                     2. Expert’s estimate that about one young person in the United States is infected with HIV every hour of every day.
                3. Nearly 15 percent of the 56,000 annual new cases of HIV infections in the United States occurred in youth ages 13 through 24 in 2006.
                      4. African American and Hispanic youth are disproportionately affected by the HIV and AIDS pandemic. Although only 17 percent of the adolescent population in the United States is African American, these teens experienced 69 percent of new AIDS cases among teens in 2006. Latinos ages 20 – 24 experienced 23 percent of new AIDS cases in 2006 but represented only18 percent of U.S. young adults.
                    5. A November 2006 study of declining pregnancy rates among teens concluded that the reduction in teen pregnancy between 1995 and 2002 was primarily the result of increased use of contraceptives.19 However, new data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) show that teen birth rates are again on the rise.
                  6. The NCHS reports a five percent national increase between 2005 and 2007 in teenage birthrates in the U.S; from 40.5 to 42.5 births per 1,000 young women aged 15-19.
               7.Approximately one in five teens reports some kind of abuse in a romantic relationship, with girls who experience dating violence having sex earlier than their peers and being less likely to use birth control and more likely to engage in a wide variety of high-risk behaviors.

    Research clearly shows that comprehensive sex education programs do not encourage teens to start having sexual intercourse; do not increase the frequency with which teens have intercourse; and do not increase the number of a teen’s sexual partners. At the same time, evaluations of publicly funded abstinence-only programs have repeatedly shown no positive changes in sexual behaviors over time. Young people need honest, effective sex education – not ineffective, shame-based abstinence only programs.