City Parents’ recent workshops on sex education highlighted the importance of parental guidance in an age where external influences and social pressures abound.
Over two days — May 19 and 26 — City Parents, a support network for parents at City Harvest Church, pastors Jeremy Choy and Edmund Tay, as well as mother of two teenage girls, Carol Loi, shared candidly about the sensitive topic of sex.
The “Why” of Sex Education
Choy shared statistics which showed that, among a group of youth surveyed, 78 percent expect their parents to teach them about sex. However, only 13 percent learned about sex from parents; the majority of them (55 percent) learned about sex from the media, friends or through personal experience.
Choy also showed that among the youth who have had sex, more than half the boys and 39 percent of girls experienced sex out of curiosity. As such, there is a need for parents to take on the responsibility to educate their children on sex, especially with present social attitudes and accessibility of material on sex.
Choy also warned that in America, sexting is gaining popularity. Sexting refers to sex-related messages sent through messaging platforms. In these messages, youth may even send compromising and revealing photographs of themselves. Even in Singapore, statistics have shown that secondary school students who engage in sexting has doubled from a year ago, with 4.2 percent of upper secondary students and 1.9 percent of lower secondary students posting or sending sexually explicit content via their mobile phones.
Choy advised parents to start sex education as soon as possible; a survey conducted by Media Development Authority of Singapore (MDA) reported that 33 percent of all children under the age 6 have online exposure, and on the average, children up to age 14 spend an average of 4.7 hours on media activities daily. As such, parents may not know when their children will be exposed to sexual material online; it is essential that they prepare their children sufficiently.
The “What” of Sex Education
Regarding the approach to premature sex, Choy taught that parents may sometimes choose to deny or ignore the problem, hoping that it would go away. Some might start teaching their children on the use of condoms. However, the best approach is for parents to educate their children to save sex for marriage. He elaborated that sex education should comprise health education, relationship education and value education.
On health education, parents should teach the children on the name of the human body and its parts, the gender differences between the male and the female body, basic biology of sex and reproduction and boundaries for appropriate touch.
Choy highlighted the importance of calling body parts by their given name instead of using nicknames. This sends the message that children can raise questions and be open regarding their private parts instead of “hiding” them or feeling ashamed of them.
On the issue of appropriate touch, parents may want to teach their young children that areas covered by the swimwear or underwear should not be touched by others. This helps younger children to better understand areas of their bodies that are off limits to physical contact.
When the children are older, parents should teach them about the harmful effects of sexual activity outside marriage and the negative consequences of bearing a child out of wedlock.
Regarding relationship education, parents should teach their children to understand the difference between love, lust and infatuation. This is especially important for girls. The social and psychological gains of abstinence and purity should also be highlighted. When parents talk openly about it, it encourages children to consider their parents as a safe and trusted source of information. With this, parents can help their children work out the appropriate social and physical boundaries. It is highlighted that any physical intimacy beyond a simple goodnight kiss while dating would be difficult for both parties to hold back.
Regarding values education, it is important for parents to highlight to the children that they should attain wholeness and maturity before engaging in sexual activity and that a mutually faithful monogamous marriage is the expected standard of human sexual activity. This will help their children to develop a personal conscience and a sense of what is morally right and wrong. It is also highlighted that children from the age of 8 to 13 love to take their cues from their heroes and parents. As such, it is essential for the parents to engage them during this critical stage of development.
The “How” of Sex Education
In another session, Loi expounded on how parents can approach the topic of sex—casually, naturally and factually. Parents should also intentionally look for teachable moments so that they can engage their children at the most suitable moment. Instead of just lecturing their children, parents should do reflective listening, to encourage their children to talk and ask questions. Next, parents should be age-appropriate in their sharing.
For example, during the preschool years, parents should talk about how to take care of their body; during the schooling years, parents can raise awareness of appropriate social boundaries. Lastly, parents should affirm that sex is good and pleasurable and can bind two persons together, but only within the boundary of marriage.
Loi also taught that when children are younger, more boundaries and rules should be set. However, as the children grow up, they should be taught to identify values and expectations. It is only when they know these values and expectations that they can have more freedom and choices. Loi taught that while teaching children about values and expectations, it is important for parents to affirm them and build their self-esteem as many times, children with lower esteem are more likely to put themselves in compromising positions. It is also important that parents are aware of the going-ons in their children’s lives so that they can walk with them at various stages of their growing years.
Loi ended the session by introducing books that parents can use to aid them in approaching sex education (see box below).
BOOKS TO HELP PARENTS
Beautifully Made! edited by Julie Hiramine
This set of booklets is specifically designed to help guide girls and their mothers through the passage from girlhood to womanhood. These books focus on the puberty stage and explore the idea that women are blessed with God’s gift to be able to give life.
Passport2Purity from Family Life
This book (with CD set) helps your child begins the journey into adolescence in a world of sexting and bullying. The Passport2Purity Weekend Getaway will help you plan an interactive and memorable retreat with your pre-teen and assist you in setting your son or daughter on a journey of moral integrity, and strengthen communication between parent and child.
Guardians Of Purity by Julie Hiramine
In our morally deteriorating culture, how do we teach our children to walk in purity of heart, mind and body? Julie Hiramine, founder of Generations of Virtue, offers a battle plan. This practical guide equips parents to be an effective gatekeeper in the home, have age-appropriate conversations with children about sex and navigate the influence of the media.
Six Ways To Keep The Good In Your Boy by Dannah Gresh
Dannah Greshes tackles the challenge of teaching tween boys to be honest, confident and respectful amid external pressures to make bad decisions. The book offers six proactive ways to help boys honor their bodies and play unplugged while living out their faith, and includes a Connection IQ inventory test, activity ideas, and Scripture prayers.
All books available at the Bible Resource Centre @ Bible House at 7 Armenian Street.