By Marcus Goh and Adrian Kuek
Grade Expectations is a weekly feature on education in Singapore. Expect fun activities, useful tips and insightful news on learning. It’s not just about your child’s grades – it’s about raising a great child!
The birds and the bees are an uncomfortable subject for most parents, especially Asian ones. Most adults flinch at the mention of the subject of sex, even in the company of those they are close to. It just feels taboo to talk about such things, especially to young children.
In any case, few of us remember our own parents talking discussing it with us when we were younger, and we turned out just fine. So why is it important that parents educate their children about this topic? After all, children have the Internet and schools will have mandatory talks in class, so they’ll know all they need to know, right?
Here are six good reasons why it’s important to educate your child about sex.
1. Parents should show that they are comfortable with the subject
Imagine if a parent shows that they are uncomfortable with an academic subject, like English. Children will probably follow the example of their parents, and this attitude is likely to manifest when they are learning English, too.
Likewise, if parents show that they are uncomfortable with the topic of sex, children will probably be, too. That’s not to say children should treat the topic like it’s something they can talk about to all and sundry, however.
However, children need to be comfortable with talking about the topic, and be educated on the right terms about sex. Otherwise they may be stuck in a juvenile state towards the topic, which isn’t healthy for their physical and mental development.
2. Children need to feel that their parents are approachable and competent about the subject
Ignorance is not bliss, especially not when it comes to this topic. When the time comes, children will want to know more about the subject.
Would you rather your children try to find out about sex from online sources (which can include dubious websites), or would you rather they came to ask you for clarification? Even if you don’t know how to answer their questions (especially if it’s a mother-son or father-daughter conversation), you could always find out from reliable sources and then educate them about it. It’s infinitely better that their answers come from a trusted source that you know of, than one you don’t know about.
This will help to prevent misconceptions about the topic, or unwanted problems from cropping up in the future.
3. In the event of an emergency, children should turn to parents for help
Having educated children on the topic means that in the event of an emergency, children will turn to parents for help. To be blunt, all sorts of accidents can occur, especially when it comes to curious teenagers who may be in an experimental phase.
If children feel that parents aren’t approachable about the topic, they may keep the problem to themselves. They’ll already be in a panicked state, so they won’t be thinking clearly. So it’s imperative that parents have educated them and show they are there to help walk children through any issues they may be facing.
4. Children need to be aware of cultural attitudes towards the topic
While schools do cover the topic in technical terms, children also need to be educated about attitudes towards sex. This tends to be cultural specific, and there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to the topic.
That’s where parents come in. If parents have have had open conversations with the child, they can also impart the desired attitudes towards the topic. But without such conversations, the chance to steer children down the paths won’t even exist.
Therefore it’s important to educate children about this early, so that the right attitudes can be formed.
5. Education can prevent children from engaging in sexual vices in future
Educating children about the birds and the bees also means that children learn of of the possible dangers and pitfalls involved. They need to know what is dangerous and harmful so that they avoid it in the future.
Think of it like road safety. Children aren’t going to be aware of road safety if don’t know the consequences, and they won’t know how to practise road safety if they don’t know how.
Similarly, having a frank talk with your child about the topic will educate them about consequences of dangerous sexual acts and preventive measures to avoid such situations. Remember that this also involves solo activities.
6. Puberty will be easier for teens
Having had educational conversations about sex will be especially useful for children when they’re going through puberty. It will be an awkward phase for them, and if they have scant knowledge about it, it’ll make the transition even worse. This will mean they won’t seek help when necessary, and may even end up with horrible misconceptions that are never cleared up.
Education goes beyond the classroom, and sometimes the most difficult topics can be the most important ones. The first few conversations with your child may not be easy. However, by getting used to such discussions, it will ultimately benefit your child.
Adrian Kuek runs Joyous Learning, an enrichment centre that specialises in English, Mathematics, Science and Creative Writing for Primary. He previously served as the academic director of one of Singapore’s largest enrichment centre chains for over seven years.
Marcus Goh runs Write-Handed, a creative writing studio. At the same time, he teaches Secondary English at The Write Connection. He has been a specialist tutor for English and Literature (Secondary) since 2005.