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Teens can benefit from mutually respectful parent-child dialogues about sex

As parents, we naturally cherish our bonds with our children, which can be some of the most rewarding parts of our lives.

Teens can benefit from mutually respectful parent-child dialogues about sex

As parents, we want our children to know that no matter what happens, they can come to us and we will still love them, writes the author.

Tan Joo Hymn

As parents, we naturally cherish our bonds with our children, which can be some of the most rewarding parts of our lives.

Yet, while it is important to share our ideological values with our children, as the writer suggested in the letter, “The rightful role of parents in sex education” (Feb 14), doing so must not be at the expense of healthy, loving relationships.

Just as we hope our children will obey and respect us, we also owe it to our children to listen to their points of view.

And try as we might, parents will never be able to predict and give instructions for all the scenarios that children might face. Therefore, instead of telling children that abstinence is the only conceivable choice they can make, we have to acknowledge the possibility that pre-marital sex may come up in their lives — whether they seek it out or not. 

For example, one may come across incidents of young people being sexually assaulted and believing it was their fault, and therefore feeling too guilty or afraid to tell their parents.

What could be more tragic than a child feeling like she has no one to turn to after one of the worst experiences in her life?

As parents, we want our children to know that no matter what happens, they can come to us and we will still love them.

On its website, the Ministry of Education states that parents play the “primary role” in sex education, while schools play a “complementary role”.

Unlike mathematics or science, sex education is not a subject that parents can delegate to teachers.

Our children, too, want us to take up the mantle.

Research has shown that teens do want their parents’ guidance in sexual matters, provided that it is done in a warm and loving manner.

Mutually respectful parent-child communication around sexuality has many positive benefits for teens, including delaying initiating sexual intercourse and lower sexual risk behaviours.

A survey done in 2016-2017 by the Association of Women for Action and Research (Aware) with more than 800 young persons aged 16 to 25 saw close to 70 per cent of the respondents saying that they did not think their parents were interested in their thoughts on sexual matters, or did not know if their parents would be interested. Around half of the respondents were unsure if their parents would show support if they spoke to them about sexual matters.

We parents can push our children away from us, ruining that precious bond by being overly strict in enforcing rules. Or we can open ourselves to have dialogues with our children, and show them that we value our loving bond above all else.

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