Forum: Child's best sexuality education teachers are his parents

We agree with Workers' Party MP Raeesah Khan about the need to start sexuality education from a young age, and the important role schools play especially in cases where there is abuse at home (Modules on respect and appropriate behaviour part of curriculum in university and schools, July 7).

Aside from these circumstances, the best - and first - teachers for children in sexuality education should be their parents, a child's most trusted adults.

In fact, we urge parents to start in early childhood. As toddlers develop body awareness, they can be taught body safety and the body parts that make them a boy or a girl.

Ms Khan said sexuality education "isn't just about sex. It's about teaching the concepts of normal relationships, boundaries, and respect for one another's feelings and bodies", taught in age-appropriate ways.

Therefore, sexuality education needs to be an ongoing dialogue throughout a child's developmental years, coupled with timely teachable moments, which go beyond a school curriculum.

The relational and values aspects of sexuality are also best conveyed in the context of a loving parent-child relationship, where parents model healthy sexuality and are a safe resource for discussions about how to apply family values in sexual choices and strategies such as consent.

We reiterate Ms Khan's point that sexual consent is complex.

Therefore, parents need to help their children develop sexual intelligence, particularly during the teenage years when the brain is still developing and can hamper a young person's ability to properly assess risk and make informed decisions.

Research has shown parental involvement to be a key indicator of children's success in life, which includes relational and sexual health.

As a charity that has been promoting sexuality education among young people and parents for almost 20 years, we are now observing that today's parents want those critical conversations with their children.

Many adults did not experience sexuality education from their parents, but together with school sexuality education, this can be changed for future generations.

Elisa Ng

Head, Research and Development

Focus on the Family Singapore