Deborah Roffman is the subject of in-depth profile in The Atlantic.

As part of their project “On Teaching,” The Atlantic today published Sarah Carr’s profile of Deborah Roffman, “The Questions Sex-Ed Students Always Ask.”
For 45 years, Deborah Roffman has let students’ curiosities guide her lessons on sexuality and relationships.” (Sarah Carr, The Atlantic, January 13, 2020.)  “For 45 years, Deborah Roffman has let students’ curiosities guide her lessons on sexuality and relationships.”    More excerpts …

“Roffman’s title of human-sexuality educator has not changed since she arrived at the Park School in 1975, but the dimensions of her role there have steadily grown. So, too, has her outside work in consulting and teacher training: Over the years, she has advised at nearly 400 schools, most of them private.

“Initially, Roffman taught elective classes in sexuality to the juniors and seniors at Park, but within two years, she had expanded to seventh and eighth graders. In the 1980s, she added fourth and fifth graders to her roster. She also meets annually with the parents of students as young as kindergartners, to coach them on how to talk with their children about sexuality, and she leads summer training for the Park’s elementary-school teachers on incorporating sexuality instruction into their classrooms. “There is this knowledge that we keep in a box about sexuality, waiting until kids are ‘old enough,’” Roffman told me. “My job is to change that.”


“During the next several years, Roffman not only made sure the school remembered to talk to students about sex but steadily built up the curriculum. At Park, students learn about standard fare like birth control and sexually transmitted diseases but also delve into issues such as the history of abortion rights, changing conceptions of gender roles, and how to build respectful, intimate relationships.”

Looking to train your PreK-Lower School faculty to teach sexuality education? Learn what Debbie can provide for schools and for national and regional associations. Get the Program Overview | More Information about Presentations | See a List of Schools where Debbie has Presented

Debbie joins Third Space on VoicEd Radio with Jen Cort to discuss her insights on understanding gender, gender identity, gender expression, talking about sexuality with kids and more. (Original podcast May 13, 2019.)

Listen to “Deborah Roffman – Talk Sexuality” on Spreaker.



How Do You Talk To Young Kids About Sex?

Click for the Complete Video Series

About Debbie Roffman

Named one of Time Magazine’s “Top Sixteen Parenting Experts for the 21st Century,” Debbie Roffman is a sexuality educator, consultant, and author based in Baltimore, Maryland, where she has taught sexuality education in grades 4-12 at the Park School for more than 35 years. Debbie’s most recent book, Talk to Me First: Everything You Need to Know to Become Your Kids’ “Go-To” Person About Sex, was published in 2013 by Perseus Books. In addition to her constant writing and teaching, she’s worked with parents, teachers, counselors, administrators, students, alumni, and trustees at more than 400 schools and organizations across the country, and she publishes widely throughout the national media. She’s referred to by her colleagues as the most articulate professional voice in the US on the need for broad-based human sexuality education. Her ability to find common ground by keeping the focus on young people and their universal needs around healthy sexual development is one of her gifts.

More about Debbie Roffman

Click to enlarge.

The “THIRTEEN GOOD IDEAS TO LIVE BY” poster was developed as a learning and discussion tool to help everyday adults in children’s lives get ahead of the unhealthy, inaccurate, and misleading messages to which children inevitably will be exposed.

 The Thirteen Good Ideas Project was conceived under the auspices of the ADVOC8 PROGRAM at The Park School of Baltimore, a progressive, coeducational K-12 Independent School.

 ALL PROCEEDS from poster sales will directly support Park’s 8th grade Social Justice initiatives in and around Baltimore City.

 For information about ordering, write us at:  ADVOC8@parkschool.net

General Pricing for Flat Posters (bulk discounts and foam backing are also available):

13” X 17” = $10.00 ea.     24” X “32”= $15.00 ea.  Place orders at:  ADVOC8 @parkschool.net

Holding-off Talking to Your Child About Sex? Talk Sooner, Not Later

Debbie Roffman is quted extensively in a recent article by Kristin Shaw on AlphaMom

The article discusses the short videos from AMAZE, like “How Do You Talk to Young Kids about Sex?” which represent Debbie’s views and suggestions. An excerpt:

1. It is never too early to start having conversations, and it’s on you to start them. Remember, brief, more frequent talks are more effective than one big talk.

2. Kids just want the basics. Find out what they know and go from there. You can’t share too much. What they don’t understand goes over their heads.

3. You don’t need to know all the answers. Be honest and tell them you don’t know but you can research it and get back to them. Then follow-up.

4. There are no gender-based rules when it comes to conversations.

Talk to your young kids about consent early on. It’s about body autonomy, not sex.

We Just Can’t Let Boys Be Boys

The New York Times published Debbie’s letter (New York Times, Oct 9, 2018) in response to Peggy Orenstein’s article “We Just Can’t Let Boys Be Boys,” New York Times, September 29, 2018).

Here is an excerpt from Peggy Orenstein’s article:

For the past two years I have been interviewing high school and college-age men for a book on their experience of physical and emotional intimacy. I’m not convinced they are always reliable narrators of their own experience. At times, I can almost see the shadow of a girl behind them as they speak — a girl who is furious, traumatized, grieving over harms big and small that the boy in question simply didn’t recognize, or didn’t want to. 

At some point in our conversation, these young men usually referred to themselves as “good guys,” and mostly, I would say, they were. They had also all been duly admonished by some adult in their lives — a parent, a coach — to “respect women.” But that, along with “don’t get anyone pregnant,” was pretty much the totality of their sex education. As one college sophomore said to me, “That’s kind of like telling someone who’s learning to drive not to run over any little old ladies and then handing him the car keys. Well, of course, you think you’re not going to run over an old lady. But you still don’t know how to drive.”

And here is an excerpt from Debbie’s comment:

Peggy Orenstein is right. Too many parents — and schools — abdicate responsibility for talking with boys about sexual ethics and emotional intimacy, in effect turning them over to the default options of peers, older boys and siblings, misogynistic locker room banter and digital street corners.

The “boys will be boys” stereotype certainly gives license for boys to disrespect, devalue and mistreat girls, but deeper analysis of it also reveals the fundamentally demeaning ways in which we think about boys.

AMAZE, the Sex Ed playlist for 10-14-year-olds featuring over 50 animated videos on the nuances of puberty and growing up, is launching theAMAZE Parent Playlistfor parents of 4-9 year-olds. The Parent Playlist marks a new target audience for the AMAZE series and is designed specifically to help parents as they broach these complicated topics with even younger children in an informative and age-appropriate manner.

“The earlier that parents can begin a dialogue with their children, the better – and while it may feel difficult to talk to very young children about sensitive topics, our kids will be healthier in the future,” said Deborah Roffman, sexuality educator and content expert for the AMAZE Parents Playlist. “For so many parents, the idea of talking to young children about sexuality sparks existential dread. But it doesn’t have to be that way – these videos will help parents ease their fears, leave embarrassment at the door, and find comfortable ways to lay the groundwork for a healthy outlook on everything from relationships, consent, body image, and much more.”

With titles ranging from “How Do You Talk to Young Kids About ‘Sex’” to “Where Do Babies Come From” to “Is Playing Doctor OK?,” the first 10 animated videos in the AMAZE Parent Playlist will help parents continue building an open dialogue with their kids and lay the groundwork to lead safe and healthy lives.

All 10 videos are available here.

 AMAZE, funded by the Westwind Foundation, is a collaboration between Advocates for Youth, Answer, and Youth Tech Health working to create an engaging, age appropriate, online sex education resource for young people aged 4-14. There’s help for parents and teachers too. Visit AMAZE.org for tools to help facilitate a healthy discussion with your kids and students about these essential but sensitive subjects.

Supporting Healthy Relationships Amoung Youth

Click image for a larger view.

The Value of Childhood Crushes

Debbie was quoted in “The Value of Childhood Crushes,” by Bonnie Rough in The New York Times, Feb 13, 2009. [Crushes are] “a normal part of development, when kids start to see each other in ways that are a little bit different. I really do believe that they get a little zing in their heart[s].”


It’s not about sex: Teaching young children where babies come from (and other stuff)

It’s not about sex: Teaching young children where babies come from (and other stuff), The Hechinger Report (Lillian Mongeau, September 23, 2019). Same article in Lifestyle section of The Washington Post, September 23, 2019.

Debbie Roffman contributed to an article in The Hechinger Report and The Washington Post on “Teaching Young Children Where Babies Come From.” An excerpt:

… few grown-ups feel ready to talk about sex with kids younger than 10, said longtime sexual health educator Deborah Roffman.

“As soon as adults think things have to do with sex, they lose their common sense,” she said.

Here’s the thing though: “[Kids’] questions are not about sex,” Roffman said. “They don’t know anything about it. They are asking about their origins.”

And since young children are the ultimate egoists, wanting to know everything they can about themselves and their surroundings, both parents and teachers should be prepared for lots of questions about who can touch who, what the body parts between our legs are called, why Sammy gets to have two mommies and, yes, where babies come from. Experts say offering age-appropriate answers to kids’ questions about humans as social and sexual beings lays the groundwork for those important (if still cringe-worthy) conversations about puberty and sex the kids will need when they’re teens. Yet, like everything about raising and educating children, it’s one thing to know how you intend to handle a situation and another to actually handle it.

Ten Tips for Talking to Teenagers About Consent and Sexual Boundaries

Debbie’s article, “Ten Tips for Talking to Teenagers About Consent and Sexual Boundaries,” was published on The Kojo Nnamdi Show Blog, September 24, 2018. The Kojo Nnamdi Show is on American University Radio, 12 pm to 1 pm ET on Monday through Friday. An excerpt:

“The one constant in young people’s lives are their parents and guardians. Decades of research demonstrates that it’s open communication at home about sexual topics that is the most significant factor in keeping teens out of harm’s way. So regardless of the current public spectacle on our screens, or the prevailing cultural or social milieu, parents can be the consistent voice of reason and reality that helps kids make wise decisions.

Debbie Roffman is available for presentations, consulting.  Go to Presentations to learn about the full range of Debbie’s activities and to request an engagement.

And go to In the News for more news and writing by and about Debbie Roffman.

Permanent link to this article: http://sexandsensibility.net/