Mother’s Day Campaign

Being a mother is one of the most special and unique experiences in this world – even in the way it stretches and challenges a person.
 
Battles with meltdowns can be long drawn, and seasons of discouragement and doubt seemingly endless.
 
This Mother’s Day, join us in encouraging mums to trust the process and in affirming her for her growth!
 
If you are a mum, be assured that everything you go through and endure will come to fruition, all in good time.

Campaign Objectives:

  1. Affirm mothers that the everyday things
    they do count in
    their children’s lives.
  2. Encourage mums
    to trust the process,
    even if they have
    yet to see growth in
    the present.

Secure your free resource!

ParentEd is a parent education initiative from Focus on the Family Singapore.

Should I Allow My Child To Play With An Opposite Gendered Toy?

Early Years (0-3 Years)

At this tender age, children and infants are in the exciting stage of exploring the world around them. At this stage, we should prioritise meeting their developmental needs and providing age-appropriate toys, rather than worrying whether the toys are blue or pink.

Babies are typically engaged in sensory exploration, fine motor skill development, and initial social interactions. Consequently, soft and cuddly toys can offer comfort and sensory stimulation, while colourful and high-contrast toys can provide visual stimulation.

Research has demonstrated that toddlers often find joy in toys designed for their gender. However, it’s acceptable if they choose to play with toys typically associated with the opposite gender as they can pick up different skills as well.

Preschool years (4-6 Years), Primary years (7-9 Years)

While there is nothing wrong with a young boy choosing to play with dolls or a girl loving toy cars, decades of research on children’s toy preferences show large and reliable preferences for toys related to their own gender.

Most girls might choose toys that feature appealing aesthetics or nurturing traits, while boys prefer toys with movement and excitement.

Further, one study showed that children as young as 9 months old prefer to play with toys specific to their own gender. This indicates that sex differences in toy preference appear early in development. Thus, it is likely that both biology and environment matter in shaping play choices.

Gender role modelling

Another point worth noting is that children primarily learn about gender roles through the observation of significant adults in their lives. This is where the influence of a mother and a father becomes paramount.

In learning about masculinity, a boy looks to his father and how he conducts himself at home and with others. Positive behaviours, such as learning to express emotions in productive ways and treating others with respect, are learnt through modelling.

The young child would also be observing how his father treats his mother, and where loving and respectful behaviours are the norm, he would naturally develop a sense of high regard for women.

Thus, while a boy playing with dolls can be said to be learning the behavioural trait of nurturing, how significant adults in his life behave and interact may carry more weight.

In child’s play, it is also critical to acknowledge and respect a child’s interests and to allow them to explore different kinds of play and toys.

Letting them take the lead in this regard is more useful than steering them towards certain choices based on one’s own ideology and worldview, or what is deemed progressive in society.

So, let’s give our children autonomy to make choices that resonate with their interests and unique personalities, while also making the effort to ensure home is a safe and nurturing place.

These are all essential steps to helping our kids develop a healthy sense of identity and regard for themselves and the opposite sex.

 

Written by Nicole Hong, a Sociology and Psychology Undergraduate

Conversations About Sex Need Not Be So Tough

Research shows that when parents engage their children in topics on sexuality, their children grow to make wiser choices in relationships and sex. To help you overcome your fears in broaching the topic, we have designed a Talk About Sex video series specially for parent and child (aged 7-12) to enjoy, engage with and learn together!

What to Do When the Little One Says ‘No!’

It was a typical weekday morning where I was fetching my son home from school. On the way back, I noticed he looked glum and pensive, but thought it was due to tiredness.  

Upon arriving home, I told him to remove his shoes, wash his hands and get ready for lunch. Instead of complying, he began to sob. “I don’t want to eat lunch!” The sobbing soon turned into a full-blown meltdown. 

Many parents would be familiar with this. Few of us – myself included – wish to be caught in such situations as they drain us and interrupt our busy schedules.  

However, it is common for young children to display such behaviour as they are still learning how to deal with the big emotions that come with unmet needs or unexpected experiences.  

Here are some strategies that enabled me to regain control of the situation and calm my son: 

1. Listen with empathy   

I brought my son to his room and gave him some time to recover so that I could hear him out. Once he was calm enough, he shared that some of his classmates were mean to him in the morning.  

By listening to him share his thoughts, my son felt heard and understood. This made him more open to what I had to say, while also helping me understand what triggered his emotions. 

I also did my best to reflect his feelings – that he probably felt angry and hurt by his friends. This taught him to identify the emotions he had been experiencing all morning.  

Over time, and with practice, he has gradually gotten better at understanding his feelings and expressing himself.  

Colouring, jumping on the spot, holding a favourite pillow, squeezing a soft toy or cuddles are examples of healthy outlets that could help soothe our children. 

2. Do a calming activity  

Next, I got him to do some deep breathing to calm down further. This involved a few repetitions of simply breathing in, holding his breath for five seconds, and breathing out.  

At other times, I would ask him to pretend my finger was a birthday candle and blow on it. The harder he blew, the more I would wriggle it. This proved very effective as it was fun, helped take his mind away from what triggered him, and also calmed him by making him take deep breaths.  

Every child is different, and it is important to do what works for your child. Colouring, jumping on the spot, holding a favourite pillow, squeezing a soft toy or cuddles with mummy or daddy are other examples of healthy outlets that could help soothe our children.  

3. Offer appropriate concessions  

Although he had calmed down, he was still resistant towards eating and insisted on having a different meal for lunch. 

On occasions where I felt my son was already quite stretched from the day’s activities, I would nudge him along by offering appropriate concessions to motivate him. That day, I offered to carry him to the table to help him get started on lunch.  

Other options that have worked for us include offering snacks (e.g. healthy sugar-free gummies), giving him some play time before his nap, or a short amount of screen time if he was able to complete the task at hand.  

Adding play in our interactions with our children keeps them engaged and helps them to get on board with daily routines. 

4. Press play often   

When he was at the dining table, he still refused to eat his lunch! While this was frustrating, I reminded myself that it was normal for a three-year-old to behave this way. Having had a long day at school and coming home on an empty stomach, he would naturally be more disagreeable.  

To get him interested in eating, I added some fun by pretending the spoon was a spaceship, and by getting him to open his mouth like his favourite dinosaur.  

Adding a healthy dose of play to our otherwise mundane interactions with our children keeps them engaged and helps them to get on board with their daily routines. 

Celebrating little wins of the day helps parents to go the distance. 

The importance of self-care and healthy expectations 

Young children often “act out” when their needs are unmet, such as when they are overtired, hungry, or overwhelmed by difficult situations.  

But it can be challenging to extend grace to our children by seeking to understand their needs. After all, in the heat of the moment, how many of us can maintain an air of patience and calm? 

Here’s where it is important for us to practise self-care to ensure our own love tanks are filled. When we are well rested, we are in a better position to co-regulate our children’s big emotions and help address their needs.  

Let’s also be clear, no one is perfect. While we can take incremental steps to improve our parentcraft, we will inevitably fall short on some days.  

I’ve discovered that celebrating the little wins of the day helps my wife and I go the distance – such as rejoicing when one child reaches a growth milestone, discovering new things about them, or even unwinding after they are safely tucked into bed.  

As you practise these tools for self-care and managing toddler meltdowns, I hope you will grow in your parentcraft and learn to find joy – even amidst the hair-raising moments. 

How Do I Impart My Family Values to My Children?

If a friend or another parent were to ask what your family stands for, are you able to instantly give an answer? 

Like it or not, we live in a time where there are many voices vying for our children’s attention – Netflix, Disney+, YouTube, and even the advertisements on social media platforms are subtly shaping their lives.  

As societies become technologically advanced and people become more liberal in their thinking, moral and social values will change to reflect that on a cultural level.  

It is thus increasingly important to be intentional about thinking and talking about family values. If parents do not take charge of raising their children using their playbooks, then the world will.  

So how do you decide what family values are important to your family? 

Every family’s list of values will be different. Some examples of family values include:  

  • moral values – honesty, dependability, taking personal responsibility, diligence, and justice.  
  • faith values – reverence for God, praying as a family, stewardship of resources, chastity, loving others, wisdom.  

Family values are influenced by one’s upbringing, worldviews, religious beliefs, and cultural and societal circumstances. The process of designing a family mantra or family values can be different for every family.  

Family values are like a compass. They outline what is important in your family and inform your decision-making process. 

Here are some ideas to get you started: 

1. Have an honest and open conversation with your spouse about what your family’s ideals are. 

Ask questions to jump-start the discussion: 

  • What is important to me, to us, and the family? 
  • What kind of adults do we want our children to become?  
  • What values from our family-of-origin do we want to pass on to our children? 
  • How do we want our family to be remembered?

2. Talk to couples who are already consciously living out their family values and learn from them.  

3. Find like-minded couple friends who are interested in charting their family values – start a group and do it together.  

4. Get your children and teenagers involved in crafting your family values. Listen to their concerns, aspirations, and thoughts on what is important to them.  

 5. Print out and display your family values in strategic spots in the home as reminders.  

Affirmation is an essential ingredient to building a young child’s confidence and encouraging them to learn and grow. 

How do I instil family values to my children? 

There are many ways to instil family values in your children. Be as creative as possible and find the methods that suit your children’s needs and learning styles.  

Here are three ways you can consider:  

  • Talk about family values  

“Train your child in the way he should go and when he is old, he shall not depart from it.” a Jewish proverb 

Whether you like it or not, your children already have many strong and effective teachers of values at an early age: social media, movies, schools, books, peer groups, and religious institutions. 

While some of these may communicate positive and affirmative messages, others may teach values that are antithetical to your beliefs. Thus, it is important for us to assume the responsibility of teaching our children.  

Consider these ideas:  

  • Share stories of everyday unsung heroes (teachers, neighbours, relatives, friends) who demonstrate your family values.  
  • Use movies or books to discuss values portrayed by the characters. 
  • Display family values on your screen savers on your computer. 
  • Have family activities or conversations on values 
  • Walk the talk  

Values are more caught than taught. Model the behaviour for your children to live out the values you want them to internalise. Children and teenagers are perceptive. They observe what you do and draw conclusions about what is important to you in life.  

  • Provide positive reinforcement  

When you notice your child demonstrating a family value, recognise them for it, and be as specific as possible. 

  • “I am so proud of you that you chose to take responsibility for what happened instead of blaming someone else for the mistake.”   
  • “Your kindness shone through when you donated your pocket money to help the poor.”  
  • “I appreciate your honesty and telling me the truth about what happened between you and your project group member even though you know you will be disciplined.”   

Lyndon B. Johnson, a former president of the USA said it best, “The family is the cornerstone of our society. More than any other force it shapes the attitude, the hopes, the ambitious, and the values of the child.”  

As parents, we play a pivotal role in shaping our children’s values. Make time as a couple and family to discuss and decide on the core family values that would serve as a moral compass to help them navigate life in good and tough times.  

© 2022 Focus on the Family Singapore. All rights reserved. 

Four Things Our Preschoolers Need from Us

In the past few months, I’ve been working on a mid-career switch. As the move involved big changes, including leaving a stable job, I spent some time counting the costs and wondered if I was short-changing the kids. Was I depriving them of a good life by pursuing a different career path? 

During this period, I had the chance to bring my three-year-old son on a daddy-son date to Serangoon Gardens. It was a simple trip and the goal was just to eat at the hawker centre, take a short walk around and return home. Initially, I thought he would be bored as we were not heading to an exciting destination like the zoo or aquarium. However, my son still recalls it fondly today, to the extent that he still remembers the bus number we took to get there. 

Why was my son as excited about this trip as the times we splurged on more expensive outings? Three things stood out for me: 

1. Undivided attention 

During the trip, I did my best to keep my phone in my pocket, only taking it out to check for messages from my wife. We talked about what we saw, what he was doing, imaginary stories he was making up, where we were going and so on.   

Keeping our devices away can be challenging as they help us stay productive or even give us some relief from the stresses of life. The following are some tips that have helped me stay focused during device-free sessions with my children: 

  • Schedule uninterrupted time with the kids. The length of time could depend on your current tempo of work, e.g. one hour at a time for less intense seasons, or 15 minutes at a time throughout a day for busier periods. It could also be during specific times of the day, such as mealtimes. 
  • If possible, avoid scheduling uninterrupted time close to periods where attention at work is needed, e.g. one hour before meetings.
  • Before starting uninterrupted time, give yourself sufficient time to attend to your responsibilities so you can enjoy peace of mind later on, e.g. devote the entire morning to attend to work and/or household matters before spending time with the kids.  
  • Devote some time to meet your own needs throughout the day or week, e.g. give yourself 15 to 20 minutes to decompress after work before meeting the family for dinner. 

Admittedly, it is tough to disconnect in today’s technologically advanced world. However, giving undivided attention helps our children feel valued and strengthens our relationship with them. 

Giving undivided attention helps our children feel valued and strengthens our relationship with them. 

2. Constructive affirmation 

Throughout the trip, I intentionally highlighted the positive behaviour my son showed, using short and simple language to help him understand what he was doing well. 

Some of the statements I used were: 

  • “I saw that you looked left and right before you crossed the road. That was good, keep it up!” 
  • “It was good that you used your words to tell me what drink you wanted during lunch.” 

“I saw you waited patiently for our food. Well done!” 

As a young child, my son is still learning foundational skills. As I observed him, I made sure to affirm him when he showed good behaviour or had taken Papa and Mama’s words to heart. To each of these affirming statements, he would beam proudly because he knew he was doing well. 

Affirmation is an essential ingredient to building a young child’s confidence and encouraging them to learn and grow. 

Affirmation is an essential ingredient to building a young child’s confidence and encouraging them to learn and grow. 

3. Moments of play and spontaneity 

As parents, we should pay attention to the “harder” aspects of parenting such as instilling discipline and setting healthy boundaries. While these are essential, it is equally important to make time for the “softer” aspects – that of engaging young children in playful and spontaneous moments as it helps us connect and build strong bonds with them. 

I immerse myself in my children’s pretend play as often as I can. During the trip, my son used the bus window as a “road” for his toy. I would build on his imaginary world by asking questions like: “Is that Optimus Prime’s robot base?” It also helps that I pay attention to the stories and characters that he likes, so that I can better engage in his pretend play.  

Every now and then, my wife and I allow him to enjoy some sweet treats, in moderation of course! So that day, when we decided to share a chiffon cake after lunch, which was a moment he cherished very much. Till today, my son’s face still lights up at the mention of chiffon cake. 

Make time to engage young children in playful and spontaneous moments as it helps us connect and build strong bonds with them. 

4. Identifying of their gifts 


A friend of mine, Sarah (of Sarah X. Miracle), discovered that preschool is the best time to discover your child’s strengths. Her 7-year-old, Leon, started using chopsticks to play drumbeats when he was around 2. At 3, he started creating his own “drum set” with pots and containers. It was clear he had a strong interest in drums even at such a tender age!  

As he was too young for formal drum lessons, Sarah decided to let him have a pair of wooden chopsticks he could play along to music in the car. Till today, he has fond memories of playing “drums” in their old car.  
 
Today, after a few years of drum lessons, he has outgrown the toddler size drum kit and can play on a full-sized drum set, and the family occasionally holds family jam sessions at a studio to give him the opportunity to learn how to play with others in a band setting! 
 
“It has been beautiful to watch this gift of his unfold and we continue to build him up in this area,” she shared. 

A commitment to be fully present 

In order to meet our children’s needs, we have to adopt the mindset of being fully present with our children. This means giving them our focused attention and taking a genuine interest in them, such as their likes and dislikes, their feelings, or even their ambitions.  

For those who may struggle to carve out a morning or afternoon with their children on a regular basis, start small.  

In my son’s first year, both my wife and I were working full time and often had to leave our son in the care of others. However, we made a commitment to be fully present in those moments we had together even if only for a few minutes at a time.  

Small pockets of quality time have helped us build strong bonds with our children. By giving your undivided attention, affirmation, and being playful, you can do the same too!    

© 2022 Focus on the Family Singapore. All rights reserved. 

A Woman’s Value and Identity, Beyond Motherhood

Like an intense, encompassing first love, motherhood comes with an enveloping heady-ness and focus. 

Suddenly, your time, sleep and energy all go towards that one person – your bundle of joy. Even as they grow, your permanent role as mother means they remain a perennial focus. 

But wait, besides being a mother, you are still a wife, a daughter, perhaps even a doctor, writer, or teacher. Especially when motherhood seems to override every other role and interest, how do you reclaim your own identity? 

Tam Wai Jia, medical doctor, author and mother of two girls likens the phases of motherhood to being like seasons. 

“There were seasons when I was not speaking anywhere and seasons when I was getting invites and being visible in the public sphere. We all go through seasons and it’s important to embrace each one or we become very hard on ourselves.” 

She shared the following tips on how mothers can keep growing and not be buried by the seasons in motherhood.  

We all go through seasons and it’s important to embrace each one or we become very hard on ourselves. 

1. Drive your roots down deep 

“No one ever scolds a tree for not bearing fruit during the winter season,” said Wai Jia, “We are multifaceted beings and we have to ebb and flow with the different seasons of needs.” 

“Winter is when roots go down deep,” she added.   

In seasons when you don’t feel like you are going anywhere, learn to embrace what that season can do for you as an individual. Like how roots grow deep to find the water that sustains them, you will have to dig deeper to discover yourself. 

This could look like renewing a sense of purpose, better communication with your spouse and family or even re-organising your days to make space for self-care. 

“I think we underestimate the whole concept of rest, routine and doing the same things every day that motherhood sometimes is about,” shared Wai Jia. 

2. Don’t judge yourself based on a single season/role  

There are times when we won’t do as good a job as we’d like to. 

In Wai Jia’s case, her first child had severe eczema. As a first-time mum and also as a medical doctor, this somehow created a sense of failure. “There were times when I would say, ‘This (motherhood) is my only job and I can’t even do it right.’” 

However, she realised she was being hard on herself, something she found many fellow mothers do. She reflected that we have to give grace to ourselves too. 

Drawing healthy boundaries and not letting others’ comments affect you emotionally is a key to avoiding emotional overload. 

3. Know that your value is not based on what you produce 

Our value and identity do not change even when our roles do. Neither are they based on what we can produce. 

The emphasis that we are of greater value being if we hold a job of importance is something entrenched in our society. 

“Being a stay-at-home-mum can be triggering when you take a step back from your career and you hear questions like, ‘What do you do all day now,’” said Wai Jia who is currently working part-time. 

So we should surround ourselves with people who remind us we are valuable as individuals, and not because of what we can do or the titles we hold. 

4. Set healthy boundaries 

Wai Jia shared that her husband Cliff – a cancer survivor who has even completed an Ironman triathlon – willingly volunteered to be a stay-home-dad when she had to fulfil her work bond after they returned to Singapore. 

This gesture helped them navigate through that difficult season and yet there were people who made less-than-kind remarks. 

“I felt judged by other people who asked, ‘How come your husband is more present with your kids than you?’ At work, I also hear comments like, ‘Oh, you are married to a house husband, really, is that a real job?’” Wai Jia shared. 

Drawing healthy boundaries and not letting others’ comments affect you emotionally is a key to avoiding emotional overload even as you navigate your journey as a mother. If not, it’s easy to fall into the trap of overthinking what you did based on what other people say. 

5. Do what’s best for your family

The support Wai Jia gets from her husband is evident in the way she speaks about him. She also realises that their choice to not take on conventional full-time employment may be seen as unusual. However, they both believe that their choice has allowed them to have more time with their children. 

Both Cliff and Wai Jia homeschool their kids. Wai Jia is also the founder of non-profit Kitesong Global, which aims to empower young people to help vulnerable communities worldwide. Cliff is completing his Master’s and involved in coaching young people too. 

“As mothers, sometimes we let our in-laws or parents or friends affect how we parent. When we chose not to have confinement, or not to have a helper or do a home birth, people said that I was crazy.” she said. 

But being united as a family and daring to forge your own path has its rewards. Notably, your kids see you united as a team and you get to be more present with them. 

And while people may look at them now and think how perfect their lives seem, Wai Jia still remembers the winter seasons. 

”These seasons help us stay humble. Every time I get an award or something prolific now, I always remember the times I was hidden, when I was going through postpartum depression and wondering if this would end.” 

And they do, because seasons always change. 

Why Grandparenting Still Matters

Being a grandparent isn’t as easy as “enjoy them, spoil them and send them home”. 

Eugene Seow became a grandfather of two in 2020 and in 2022, received a double promotion to become a grandfather of four! As in parenting, there is no school you can learn from and you cannot apply the same rules as you did in your parenting days. But it’s an exciting journey for Eugene and his wife Julie as they embraced this new role wholeheartedly in this season of their lives.   

Eugene was the former CEO of a social service agency (SSA) and continues to actively serve in the community as a coach, mentor and consultant in different organisations.  Despite his busy schedule, he still prioritises grandparenting duties and would plan ahead with his children and accommodate each other for the occasional clashes of time and exigencies that require last minute help for child-minding.  

Over the past few years, Eugene has been a strong advocate for the active role grandparents can play in the lives of families, both natural and spiritual.  He piloted the “60 over 60” programme at Living Sanctuary Brethren Church, an initiative to encourage the seniors to stay active and healthy and to connect them to the younger generation in the church family as well.  

This initiative aims to address the struggles the seniors have transiting from a long career, into the sudden and seeming ‘emptiness’ of retirement.  

He said, “Very often, the issues that seniors face in their retirement years may be generational, but the solutions are found intergenerationally.”  

This is why grandparents are still an important part of today’s families. 

With more time on their hands, grandparents can give children the attention they need to grow and thrive. 

Why grandparenting still matters

With more resources available to parents today, such as the government’s efforts to make preschool more accessible by increasing capacity and subsidising costs, it can sometimes seem selfish to trouble your parents to take care of your child.  

In a society that values early education and giving children a headstart in life, we may also worry that the grandparents will not be able to keep up with the little one’s boundless energy and constant need for stimulation or engagement.    

It is worth reminding ourselves that the grandparents often have something we lack – Time.  

With more time on their hands, grandparents can give grandchildren the focussed attention they need to grow and thrive. Eugene and his wife, Julie would usually plan the time spent with their grandchildren, and loves bringing them out for walks, discovering the many different playgrounds around Singapore. Most days are spent at home where grandmother will read and share stories, sing or just play. 

The benefits of grandparenting  

Having the grandparents chip in is not simply about having free childcare services. Enlisting their help also benefits them, in staving off loneliness. 

Children can bring a fresh breath of life to the homes of the elderly, with their constant activity, movement, and excitement for life.  

As Ong Ye Kung, the Minister of Health recently warned at the White Paper Debate for Healthier SG, “We want to protect [the elderly], but we unintentionally expose them to an even greater risk of isolation and loneliness.  

“That is when the spirit wears out, and the body gives way. If that mindset becomes entrenched, then over time, seniors become a problem to be contained and put aside, such as in nursing homes – out-of-sight, out-of-mind. One day, that room will burst. 

“We must support as many seniors as possible to continue to live in the community, independently or with some help, contributing to the best of their ability, able to choose their own activities, and having a full social life with friends and family.” 

When we see our parents getting old, we may sometimes feel that we should spare them the ‘burden’ of caring for our own children. But in doing so, we may deprive them of the joy and purpose in bringing up the next generation.  

Research from Holt-Lunstad and Smith at Brigham Young University put the heightened risk of mortality from loneliness as akin to smoking 15 cigarettes a day and being an alcoholic.  

Entrusting your children to your parents, may not just benefit you, but them too.  

As much as I’m learning to value my children, and my grandchildren, I think it also works two-way. 

What if there are differences in parenting styles?

As a parent, one of your concerns may be around how the grandparent will ‘parent’ your child. You may worry that they may end up spoiling your child by being soft and permissive.  

Clarity helps – so don’t be afraid to share with the grandparents about your preferred approach and ground rules.  

For example, if you prefer that your child does not play with the phone unattended, make sure this is communicated well in advance.   

A bit of thoughtful planning can help ease tensions and foster stronger inter-generational ties. 

Ultimately, it’s what we value

As he reflected on his journey, Eugene concluded, “We need to first recognise each other’s value. Today, as much as I’m learning to value my children, and my grandchildren, I think it also works two-way.  

“Children can also learn to value their parents and see that they still have something to give, and contribute, even at an older age. 

“For example, even with my own mother, my siblings and I value her presence with us at meals and family gatherings even though at 90, she is not as active and mobile as before. She may not be able to spend time in the kitchen now but still feels so good when her children ask for her recipes and advice on various matters.  

“At the recent Christmas gathering, she walked us down memory lane when she reminded the adult grandchildren now how she used to cane and discipline them in their younger days. And it was agreed, no bad memories and no damage done! 

“We must all learn to continue valuing each other.”  

Eugene’s story reminds me of what my grandmother did for me, when I was under her care as a young boy. Daily, she would cook a big pot of pork porridge, followed by another steaming pot of soup. She would rock me gently to sleep, and then wake me when my parents came to pick me up.  

As I grew up, and those daily stays became weekly visits, she would press a $10 note into my hand, so that I could have more pocket money to spend.  

Looking back, I never truly appreciated those times, until my grandmother passed.  

Maybe the biggest lesson I learnt from her is that love knows no bounds and is not limited by age.  

So the next time grandma or grandpa makes a mistake or bends a rule in your book, let’s remember that the main thing isn’t about them becoming better at grandparenting, but the gift of love they freely lavish on our children – and also hopefully receive in return.  

Raising Kids to be Wise About Sex and Relationships

How to begin talking to kids about sex 

“My son came home today with the words ‘sex’ and ‘kiss’ scribbled on pieces of paper. He’s been picking up bad words from the kids on the bus,” my friend shared. 

Parents are the first teachers of their children. When it comes to the topic of sex, however, it’s likely that kids have already been given an introduction by their friends, the media or the Internet.  

If you’re unsure of how to approach talking to your kids about the birds and the bees, know that you’re not alone. Here is some advice that I’ve gleaned over the years from others and from my own experience.  

Start young  

In my home, we usually start the conversations as soon as the child is verbal, around the toddler ages of 2-3. 

It’s never too young to start by teaching our kids the proper names of private body parts. Doing so allows them to feel confident and unashamed of their body. 

Should they encounter unfortunate situations of inappropriate touch, they are also more able to accurately describe these incidents to teachers and caregivers.  

As kids observe the world around them, they begin to understand and perhaps point out differences between the sexes. I often use these opportunities to explain the differences between men and women’s bodies, such as only women being able to breastfeed and carry a baby in the womb. 

It’s never too young to start by teaching our kids the proper names of private body parts. Doing so allows them to feel confident and unashamed of their body. 

Boundaries, good touch, bad touch  

From there, we talk about what is a good touch or bad touch, and set appropriate boundaries such as “no one is allowed to touch your swimsuit area”, and while changing my child, “mummy is only touching your privates to wash away the poo”.  

Kids are allowed to reject requests from family members for hugs and kisses if they aren’t comfortable. At the same time, we teach them that hugging is an appropriate way to show our love to family and are liberal with our affection towards them.  

Use resources 

If you do not know where or how to start talking about sex and reproduction, look for age-appropriate books and resources on the topic. Cuddling up with a child to read a book provides a safe space for them to pause, ponder and ask questions if needed. We typically introduce these around age five to six and move on to books the child can read alone or together with us as they grow older.  

It is also important to constantly learn, read and educate ourselves as parents on how to speak to kids on sex and relationships, to gain the appropriate language to communicate with our children.  

Our Talk About Sex video series is child-friendly and designed to help you handle tricky topics like sex and relationships. It’s free and you can easily access each episode via a weekly link sent to your email inbox, accompanied by tips and convo guides. Find out more here. 

Ask me anything 

Keep an open mind and open ear. A friend of mine tells her kid to “ask her anything” — she has a no holds barred policy to questions on sex and sexuality. As a result, her teenage daughter had a reputation as a source of proper answers to curious questions and has received requests such as: “Please ask your mother what masturbation is.”  

By providing clear answers and not being afraid to broach difficult subjects, she gained the trust of her kids (and others). It is far better that kids gain credible answers from parents or trusted adults, rather than getting patchy or inaccurate information from peers or the World Wide Web. 

Seize opportunities  

Look for chances to address the topic of sex when it comes up in a natural context. For example, encountering two bugs mating can be an opportunity to talk about reproduction.  

Kids are naturally curious and it’s likely they themselves will come to you with questions as long as we are ready and unashamed with the answers to: “Where do babies come from?”  

It is far better that kids gain credible answers from parents or trusted adults, rather than getting patchy or inaccurate information from peers or the World Wide Web. 

Speak plainly and simply 

Use language that children as young as toddlers can understand. You can use phrases such as: 

On sex 

“When a man and a woman love each other very much, they want to get as close to each other as possible.” 

“Men and women are like puzzle pieces that fit together. Their bodies fit together too.”  

“When they connect together, they can create a baby.” 

“Half of you is from mummy and the other half is from daddy.” 

“The father provides the sperm and it joins with the mother’s egg.” 

On marriage  

“When a man and woman get married, they make a very important promise that they will never leave each other no matter what happens.  

“If they aren’t married, have sex and have a baby, what do you think will happen? Maybe one party will say they don’t want the baby and go away forever.”  

“Children thrive best when they grow up in a loving home with both their mummy and daddy.”  

Communicate not only the dangers, but the wonder of sex 

Besides talking to my kids about the consequences of sex outside of marriage, I also show them scientific YouTube videos to communicate the wonder of birth and conception. “Every person is a miracle,” I say. They watch as on screen, millions of sperm make their way through the vaginal canal, with most dying along the way, until one penetrates the egg. “Do you know how amazing and difficult it is for a person to be conceived?” I ask. 

I also show them pregnancy videos of a baby’s growth in the womb and talk to them about when I first heard their heartbeat, show them pictures of their ultrasound scans and talk about how I felt their kicks in the womb.  

Through such conversations, I hope for them to walk away with a clear idea of how precious life is and that life begins in the womb.  

At the same time, I try to make children aware of different kinds of families by drawing their family tree, discuss examples of unconventional family structures around us and talk about what would happen if a baby grows up without a father or mother.  

Live in community

It is important to allow kids to grow up with families that share likeminded values. 

Growing up with other wholesome adults as well as older peers whom they can emulate teaches children how to relate to others. As they observe interactions within families, spouses and parents and children, these help to shape their understanding of the world and broaden their experience.  

It is never too early to start talking to your kids about sex. 

In the example of the bus notes, my friend was advised to ask her child if he knew the meaning of those words and that became a starting point to talk about sex. Your kid heard about sex first from his friends? No worries. Even negative examples can be turned into a positive learning opportunity and open the conversation on the birds and the bees.  

Conversations About Sex Need Not Be So Tough

Research shows that when parents engage their children in topics on sexuality, their children grow to make wiser choices in relationships and sex. To help you overcome your fears in broaching the topic, we have designed a Talk About Sex video series specially for parent and child (aged 7-12) to enjoy, engage with and learn together!

When Your Little One Is Afraid

The world can be an intimidating place for young children. It doesn’t take long before they are exposed to unpleasant and even painful situations; visits to the clinic, starting school (without daddy and mummy!) and getting hurt from falls are just three examples.  

If some of us continue to feel apprehensive in such scenarios, one can only imagine how overwhelming it is for our little ones!  

I have never felt this as keenly as when we were still in the grips of COVID-19. Over the past two years, we’ve had to bring my son for many uncomfortable nose swabs and at every swab test, my son would run away or scream in anticipation of the discomfort. 

It can be daunting for us to guide our little ones through these challenges. While we cannot bubble wrap our kids from experiencing fear and anxiety, here are some strategies that have helped my family through such situations: 

1. Prepare them ahead of time  

We would usually talk to our son about upcoming challenges in advance to help him mentally prepare for them. For major transitions such as starting a new class, we would bring up the topic about a month before and engage him regularly about two to three times a week. For self-contained events like doctor visits or gatherings with unfamiliar faces, we would prepare him about a week in advance.  

We would also read relevant children’s books to familiarise him with the experience; e.g. about starting school, toilet training, or visiting the doctor or dentist.  

Being transparent with our children about upcoming challenges prevents them from getting caught off guard and helps them prepare for big changes. It also builds trust, which gives them confidence to approach us for help and guidance in future.  

2. Use healthy distractions 

Where appropriate, we would allow our children to engage in something that takes their mind off their fear. For example, we would let them watch a short video to help them down unpleasant medicines. Or pack their favourite toys and snacks to the doctor to keep them occupied while waiting at the clinic. 

Another useful approach is to engage in play. For example, my son once refused to approach the bathroom after he scraped his knee badly, as he was afraid of the pain from wetting his wound. I coaxed him to enter the shower by getting him to “feed” his toy animal some water while bathing. While he still cried from the pain, it helped him overcome his initial fear and enabled him to take the first step of entering the bathroom.  

Being transparent with our children about upcoming challenges prevents them from getting caught off guard and helps them prepare for big changes. It also builds trust. 

3. Change their environment 

In some cases, we found that a change in environment was helpful to ease our son’s anxiety.  

For instance, to help my son overcome his fear of toilet training, we got him to use the toilet in our room instead of the kitchen toilet which he normally used. This relieved his anxiety by removing him from the environment he associated with his fear (i.e. the kitchen toilet) and shifting him to one he likely perceived as safer (i.e. our room).  

A similar example would be if my son had a bad fall. I would usually bring him to a quieter place some distance away from where he fell. This usually helps him feel safer as the place of injury is out of sight, and he has more space to calm down. 

4. Affirm and celebrate small wins  

Whenever our son shows improvement towards a challenging situation, we would verbally affirm him by highlighting his achievements or areas of growth. Some statements we use are: 

  • “I noticed you did not cry this time after falling down. That was brave of you!” 
  • “You remained calm today at the party, even though there were many people you didn’t know. Well done!” 
  • “I’m glad you enjoyed your time at school, even though you missed Mama and Papa!” 

We would also often celebrate bigger milestones (e.g. starting school in a new class or finishing his graduation concert performance) by treating him to his favourite dishes.  

Affirmation and celebration help our little ones to associate their growth with positive memories, and motivate them to face other big challenges in life. 

Having faith in our children 

In the weeks leading up to my son’s first day at school, my wife and I were nervous about how he would respond to the change. We worried that he would not adjust to his new routine as he had never been in the care of others. 

Sure enough, he burst into tears when we dropped him off at school. I remember feeling guilty hearing his wails as I left for work – a feeling I’m sure many parents identify with. To my surprise, my son adapted quickly. Though he would get pre-school jitters every now and then, it wasn’t long before he started making friends and recounting his school activities fondly to us.  

Our children can surprise us with their tenacity, resilience and adaptability. So let’s not be too hard on ourselves, especially when we are unable to shield them from their fears.  

With us as their constant strength and support, they will rise above and overcome their challenges – both big and small – in their own time. 

Three Emotional Skills to Cultivate As A Parent

Even though I’ve had a wonderful mother and father who taught me how to parent, the hardest thing I’ve found since becoming a mother has been learning to parent myself. 

It’s always much easier to let my personality out in full force, sometimes unleashing harmful anger, toxic barbs and biting criticism. I have a tendency to be unafraid to show my true self when with my nearest and dearest, especially to my kids.  

Perhaps, like me, you struggle to have a good relationship with your kids and wish to cultivate better emotional skills. Staying humble and being willing to learn and grow is a good starting point. 

We should listen with our hearts and minds to hear the emotions and thoughts beyond the words our child is saying. 

1. Listen well and think before we speak 

So many times have I been tempted to shoot my mouth off before my child is done asking a question or telling me a story on their day in school. Sometimes I’m only half listening as they regale their tales when I’m in the middle of a bath, cooking lunch or (tsk!) texting on my phone. I find myself completing their sentences or assuming facts before I’ve even heard them. 

The book How To Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk promotes using affirming language to show active and supportive listening. When a child returns home and says he got into trouble with the teacher for hitting a child, for example, we can approach from a point of curiosity.  

Instead of shouting, “What did you do? How can you hit someone else?” perhaps we could say, “What did your classmate do before you hit him?” and then respond, “That must have made you so mad!” Children want to know they have their parents on their side advocating for them, even in moments when they mess up.  

When listening, we should put away all other distractions. Sometimes when I’m in the middle of something, I would inform my child to give me a moment to complete the task so I can give them my undivided attention.  

Although listening is performed mainly by the ears, we should listen with our whole being. Maintaining eye contact helps us take in the body language of the other person. Our own posture, when we face the other person and mirror their body language, also speaks volumes.  

In addition, we should listen with our hearts and minds to hear the emotions and thoughts beyond the words our child is saying. Is my child seeking advice or comfort? What does he or she really want from me?  

There are times, however, when listening and conversing is better when done side by side or without eye contact. A car ride, a fishing trip or a walk in the park may be a good opportunity to have difficult or awkward conversations.  

Reading parenting books and knowing the theories makes me none the wiser as I am still learning daily to be “quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to anger”. 

I’ve found it helpful to walk away from a situation that is getting tense and come back again when I’ve calmed down. 

2. Manage our own emotions  

An important thing for parents is to understand their own triggers in their relationship with their kids. For myself, a person who likes things to be neat and tidy, huge messes are a big no and the youngest always manages to pull out all the stops, literally.  

I find myself uncontrollably playing the blame game, ordering everyone around and going into a cleaning rage. Other times, what triggers me is my child’s insistence and blatant defiance 

After knowing what makes you mad, the next step is to manage yourself. I’ve found it helpful to walk away from a situation that is getting tense, or when I myself am getting worked up, and come back again when I’ve calmed down. This is especially when my child gets sassy, sarcastic and stubborn. No point getting into a heated argument over that math question when both sides think they are correct. Better to return later.  

It’s only when we learn to manage our own emotions that we can model emotional regulation to our children. We should “respond” and not “react”. If a glass has been shattered into smithereens on the floor, for example, focus on getting it cleaned up and keeping everyone safe, instead of yelling at the person at fault for being so careless. In a state of calm, we are better able to process, and consequently, our children are better able to learn from the experience. 

This year, my daughter lost three items in a single week. The first was her wallet, which I helped her retrieve by driving her back to school, followed by her water bottle. When she told me she had lost her homework file (again?!), I was tempted to rage. However, the other part of me was concerned. Is it a lack of sleep that’s making her become absent-minded? Is this a symptom of a bigger problem? 

Thankfully, I managed to set aside my own frustration and slowly processed with her the steps for search and recovery. That night, my daughter was weepy and distressed. I had to repeatedly reassure her that the world would not end if she had lost her homework. She would have to bear the consequence by waking earlier to find the item in school, but this was not serious. Had I been harsh, it would have worsened the situation. 

I remind myself: I am not a perfect parent, but I am growing and learning each day. 

3. Give grace to all 

Oftentimes, it is hard for those who have grown up in environments with high expectations to learn to let go.  

One of the things I’ve found myself having to set aside is the expectation that my children have to obey me every single time and be perfect. After all, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. I don’t have to look very far to understand where their strong wills and deviance came from.  

It is helpful to understand that we sometimes adopt our own parents’ style of parenting. Recently, there has been a number of memes on “breaking the generational trauma”. While parents may inflict wounds on their children, I believe most families also pass down love and affirmation. We should be more intentional in deciphering the good parts to keep versus those to abandon.  

Many articles prescribe methods to parent better and I find myself getting all introspective and badgering myself over it. “I’m not a good enough parent, I could always do better,” is often my takeaway. This is probably a symptom of growing up with critical parenting and I struggle daily not to channel it down to my children.  

I’ve learnt over the years to love and accept myself, and give myself room for failure. I remind myself: I am not a perfect parent, but I am growing and learning each day.  

When we give ourselves grace, we are more able to give our children that same grace – My children are not expected to be perfect, they are growing and learning each day.  

Children must be given room to make mistakes and misbehave in order for them to mature into teenagers, young adults and then adults. We are all works-in-progress.  

Becoming a parent is one of the fastest routes to maturity as we are forced to put someone else’s needs before our own, to be bigger-hearted, wiser and kinder than our kids, leading not by our words, but by example. And it makes us all the better for it.  

Our kids mould us as much as we mould them. We, too, are growing and learning along with our children. And that’s okay.