Sex education: Parents best people to teach children

Two students getting ready for their sex education class.
Two students getting ready for their sex education class.PHOTO: ST FILE

The recent spate of statutory rape cases has renewed attention on the need for sexuality education for children and teenagers (Do you know what your 11-year-old is doing?; March 11).

We affirm the call to educate children about sex early, with this important responsibility being best undertaken by parents (Educating kids about sex early - at home and in school; March 11).

If children do not learn about sexuality from their parents - the people who care the most about them - they will learn it from people or places that might not have the children's best interests in mind.

However, parents often feel under-equipped for these conversations.

A 2012 Health Promotion Board-sponsored poll found that 80 per cent of Singapore households with children aged 10 to 17 believe it is vital to educate children about sexuality.

Despite that, less than half of the parents actually talk to their children about sex (Many parents shy to talk about sex; Aug 1, 2012).

Our own recent survey confirms this - 79 per cent of youths and young adults believe that parents have the primary responsibility to teach children about sex, but 85 per cent of them turned to the Internet or social media, peers and teachers for information about sexuality.

Parents can start by recognising that a holistic approach to sexuality education involves all the different aspects of the human person: physical and emotional health; social relationships; and intellectual and ethical values.

They can begin conversations on any of these aspects in age-appropriate ways.

Additionally, a crucial foundation that allows children to share their concerns and questions about sexuality with their parents is a trusting and close relationship with them.

It is essential for parents to consistently make time to listen to their children about whatever is on their minds and hearts, even if these seem mundane.

Their children will then grow up knowing that they can turn to their parents for advice or help for anything of greater consequence.

These teachable moments allow parents to guide their children on the values that are important to them as a family, including those pertaining to sexuality.

Sarah Chua (Ms)

Parenting Specialist

Focus on the Family Singapore