"Young people and families need affection and special accompaniment."

The need to help, love and accompany young people and families was highlighted last week in a course on Education of affectivity held at the University of Navarra. The breakdown of six out of ten marriages in Spain today generates many real emotional wounds.

Rafael Miner-May 31, 2021-Reading time: 6 minutes

Photo credit: Nathan Dunlao / Unsplash

The beauty of human sexuality was the first common denominator of the practical sessions that starred the experts in the course organized by the Core Curriculum Institute, whose first speaker was Professor Juan José Pérez Soba, as reported by this portal

A second concept on which they agreed was the need to help and accompany young people, who have a deep yearning to give themselves to another person, he said. Jokin de IralaProfessor of Preventive Medicine and Public Health and researcher of the Education of Affectivity and Human Sexuality project of the Culture and Society Institute of the University of Navarra. "We can help them on their path of growth. The first step is for them to feel sincerely welcomed, loved, by those who accompany them".

The teacher Nieves González Rico, academic director of the Instituto "Desarrollo y Persona" of the Universidad Francisco de Vitoria, wanted to contextualize from the beginning the framework they were talking about: "We need to listen well, to truly embrace the real situations we are dealing with in the educational centers where we work. Every day we know that there are more and more students who do not grow up in a framework of family stability. Two out of three children are born out of wedlock, and six out of ten marriages in Spain break up. There is much suffering in the bosom of homes, and many real emotional wounds".

The Francisco de Vitoria expert then launched another message of accompaniment: "The family is a reality that generates society, culture, which needs to be accompanied in order to carry out its great mission of transmitting meaning to its children. Especially in the times it is going through, of difficulty, loneliness, abandonment, it needs to be especially accompanied".

A third core aspect of agreement was that the first and fundamental educators are the parents, but then there is the school, the teachers. "Our mission is to train educators to announce the greatness and beauty of sexuality, but the first and fundamental educators are the parents, and we address ourselves to them," said Nieves González Rico. And then, in her opinion, "teachers have a fundamental task to be able to approach these issues with simplicity and also with naturalness, which have to do with personal identity: I, who am I, which is linked to another question: I, who am I for, vocation, which is the family vocation in adult life, which is spousal, and also the professional vocation, which we are working to build a common good".

"If we don't answer, others will."

Professor Jokin de Irala addressed the need for sex education from the outset, and stated in his initial approach: "Sex education is indeed necessary. Parents are the primary educators, but other educators are important, for example, educational centers, which help", he pointed out. And he added clearly: "Affective-sex education is preparation for love. Therefore, there is no age to do this. If we were talking about the sexual relationship, there would be ages. And this has two large sections: character education, where a lot of work is done in primary education. And then, there are other aspects, more biological, which begin in secondary school.

The expert from Navarra also wondered "if sex education can be harmful". This was his answer: "Yes, when it is not integrated, when it is not in its age context, when there are no values behind it, when there is no preparation for love. It is not harmful when it is integrated. And it can also protect from the incitement of other messages. When it seeks to grow in skills to be loved and to love".

Continuing with the argument, Professor De Irala stressed that if we do not do this task, others will do it. "Let's not lose sight of the fact that if we don't do our job, let's be sure that others are doing their job: in networks, internet, governments, Netflix, etc. There is a continuous performance on young people. On the other hand, if we do our job, young people will be able to choose between what they see on the internet and what you are transmitting to them."

Options in French public schools

The professor presented a real case related to this educational issue in France because, he said, "schools are going to be important in this paradigm. In some public schools in France, parents met to decide who would talk to their children about affectivity and sexuality. And in a public school there could be three groups of parents. Well, three sex education programs were given in parallel. We may think that it is not the ideal situation, but I certainly prefer that to what is given is what the government of the day has decided. At least then parents could decide who was going to talk to their children about certain topics".

When talking to our children about these topics, Dr. De Irala pointed out, it is important to "integrate the information in four aspects: biological information, educating for human love, educating in a healthy lifestyle and attitudes, and openness to transcendence. These are four opportunities or dimensions that should be taken into account in the dialogues.

Moving from theory to practice

Another important aspect is what could be called "empowerment, which we will call know-how. That is, they may know the theory, but not the practice. When I speak to young people in schools, I like to show them that they know the theory, but not the practice," adds Jokin de Irala.

And the teacher gave the following example of a session in an educational center: "a girl sees that the handsome guy in town wants to dance with you; you look around, her friends encourage him, that is, go ahead. She starts dancing with him, and the guy starts doing things she doesn't like. How do you get out of that situation gracefully, without making a fool of yourself?

Some answers were: I'm running away from the discotheque, but it may not be the best option if explanations have to be given the next day; or it is possible that it was. In any case, having thought about it, when a similar situation happens to them, they act and react much more easily. This can also be done with university students, so that they do not become blocked. Know-how training is very important," says this professor, who is married and has five children.

Accurate, true and sufficient information

In the workshops with parents one of the criteria he offers is: "better to be an hour early than five minutes late. And if he is told: I'm afraid to be early, he replies: better to be early than late.

"It's about educating and training as well as informing. What zoological, veterinary sex education does, what some call sexual plumbing, is to talk about how, but you have to talk about why. The information has to be accurate, true and sufficient.". And the professor gave an example to illustrate each of these concepts.

"Precisa: A mother once told him: "I told my son that he was born from my belly button. Did I do the right thing, doctor? I look at him and ask him: "But your son came out of your navel? He answers me. No. Well, I don't think it's a good idea. Your son will end up saying that his mother doesn't know anything about these matters and he will end up asking his friends.

Enough: if they ask where the children come out, tell them where they come out, and not necessarily how they got in.

True: according to the degree of personal and progressive development, with a positive vision of love and sexuality. My advice is to train in responsibility, from freedom. Promote attitudes and behaviors. Based on dialogue and respecting one's own intimacy".

Early access to technologies

How many times have we seen very young children, really children, with electronic gadgets, even cell phones. From the beginning of her speech, Professor Nieves González Rico said: "we know that our students have very early access to technologies, that they are touched by the consumption of pornography at an early age, that they are offered sexual relations detached from affection, even facilitated through the platforms they have in their hands".

"And new existential questions emerge, which have to do with affectivity, with sexuality, because of the cultural climate that surrounds us. Because our children from 5 to 11 years old spend two hours in front of the screens, and from the age of 11 we can go up to 3, 4 and even 5 hours a day. Through these screens, answers are being offered that are linked to a new anthropology", warned the director of the Development and Person Institute of the Francisco de Vitoria University, whose materials are available for consultation. here.

Some of the final messages of Nieves González-Rico, who has been directing the Family Orientation Center of the Archdiocese of Valladolid for years, were: "To educate is to love. It welcomes and values. Open an intelligent question, Why do you think that...? What can you do with...? Listen even in silence. Trust and heal in love".

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