If my child needs counselling or treatment about sexual health, can my child seek medical treatment without my permission?
Yes in most cases. Before a minor can receive any medical treatment, a physician must first get informed consent from him or her. Your child is considered a minor if he or she is under 18 years of age. Under Alberta law, there is no set age that allows a minor to consent to medical treatment. The health care professional that your child goes to see must decide if your child is a “mature minor”. If your child is a mature minor, you can only access the information shared with a health care professional if you have your child’s consent. If your child is not a mature minor, you can generally access information your child shared with their health care professional. Regardless of whether or not your child is a mature minor, in certain situations the health care professional may choose not to release information. For example, information might not be released if it could harm your child’s mental or physical health or safety, if it threatens the mental or physical health or safety of another individual, or if it identifies a person who provided information in confidence.
What would make my child a “mature minor”?
A health care professional will decide that your child is a “mature minor” if your child understands the nature of the particular medical treatment as well as the consequences of going ahead with the medical treatment or refusing it. Whether or not your child is a mature minor is determined on a case-by-case basis. A 14 year old can be a mature minor while a 16 year old may not be. Similarly, your child might be mature enough to consent to one medical treatment but not another.
Can my child purchase condoms or other sexual health products without my permission?
Stores are not allowed to check identification before selling condoms, spermicides or contraceptive sponges. Unlike cigarettes, for example, in Canada there is no age restriction for purchasing condoms. Sexual health products such as spermicides and the morning after pill, may be kept on the store shelves or behind the pharmacy counter due to legal requirements, pharmacist preference and/or lack of shelf space. The pharmacist usually interacts with your child regarding the use of a sexual health product when such products are kept behind the counter. If your child gets a prescription filled for the birth control pill, the pharmacist will review usage instructions and answer any questions, as they do when they dispense any prescription medication.
What is the age of consent for sexual intercourse (when is it too young)?
The legal age of consent for sexual activity is 16 years for a teenager who has sex with someone of the same age or older; however, teens age 14 and 15 years old may only legally engage in consensual sexual activity with individuals who are no more than 5 years older than themselves. Young people age 12 and 13 years old may not legally engage in consensual sex with anyone more than 2 years older than them and a child aged 11 or younger cannot legally consent to sexual activity with anyone. Consent means two people (or more) deciding to do the same thing at the same time, in the same way with each other. Any sexual act that is initiated upon someone without consent is illegal. When it comes to sex between two people who violate the age of consent laws, the older person is always the one held accountable, never the younger person.
What is the average age that most teens have sex for the first time?
The statistics vary depending on what source of information you consult. The average age that teens start having sex is 16.5. For first and second generation immigrant youth it is 17.5. This does not mean that they are having regular sexual intercours, just that on average they have had at least one sexual experience by this age. (http://www.sexualityandu.ca/teachers/data-1.aspx)
Becoming a safe and compassionate source of sexual information for your child is a task that starts when your child is very young and that grows along with your child. Parents give children their basis for understanding their sexual identity and what constitutes a healthy sexual relationship. Each conversation lays the foundation for another.
These days, it might seem like young people know more about sex than their parents do but they don’t. Sometimes children repeat sexual words or phrases without full understanding of what they are saying. They may "know" about sex but it doesn’t mean they comprehend what it means. Sex and sexuality includes learning about caring, responsible relationships and healthy decision making, not to mention having the skills to follow through on those decisions throughout life.
This section will help you learn more sexuality education, sexual facts and stages of child development so you feel better prepared to talk with your child. You can explore your own beliefs and find helpful communication tips and resources. Parents of disabled children will also find additional information about their special needs. Believe it or not, parents are still the primary source of sexuality education for their children. What you say or do not say makes a difference.