A version of this letter was published on The Straits Times Forum at Forum: Child's best sexuality education teachers are his parents.
We refer to the parliamentary speech by Ms Raeesah Khan on sexuality education. We agree with the need to start sexuality education from young, and the important role schools play, especially in unfortunate circumstances where there is abuse at home.
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 from early childhood. As a toddler develops body awareness, they can be taught body safety and their body parts that make them a boy or a girl.
As Ms Khan pointed out, "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". This means 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 avail themselves as a safe go-to "resource' for open discussions about how to apply their family values in sexual choices and strategies such as "consent"1.
We reiterate Ms Khan’s point that sexual consent is "complex", so we need to help our 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 decisions2. Based on a local survey of more than 6500 youth and young adults aged 13 to 35 years old3, 79% expect parents to be their primary source of trusted guidance on sexuality.
Research4 has consistently shown parental involvement to be a key indicator of children’s success in life, and that will include relational and sexual health. As a charity that has been promoting sexuality education amongst both youth and parents for almost 20 years, we are now observing positive signs that today’s parents desire those critical conversations with their children.
Children are precious and everyone should play their part. Many of us did not experience sexuality education from our parents, but in partnership with school sexuality education, we can change that for our future generations!
Head, Research and Development
Focus on the Family Singapore
Commentary: Sexuality Education that Develops Sexual Intelligence in Youth (family.org.sg)
The Primal Teen: What the New Discoveries about the Teenage Brain Tell Us about Our Kids (2004)
Whole Life Inventory, 2016-2020
Search Institute’s research on impact of families (https://www.search-institute.org/our-research/youth-development-research/families)
© 2021 Focus on the Family Singapore. All rights reserved.