What is Good Touch and Bad Touch?

As part of our five senses, the gift of touch is a way we make sense of the world and send and receive messages. But in a world where touch can sometimes be less than innocent, how do we protect our kids especially when we can’t always be with them? 

Early years (0-3)

Teaching our kids about good and bad touch is a conversation that we can start from the early years. As you teach your kids proper names for their body parts and things like not walking around naked, you are laying a great foundation for their young minds to learn both social norms and body safety. 
 
At this age, you can also introduce the idea of good touch and bad touch as an easy-to-understand framework that you can build on as they grow. 
 
Good touch can be high-fives, handholding and even hugs from family and friends. Bad touch can be touches that leave bruises (hitting, pushing, kicking…etc) and any unwanted touch from another person, especially in the private areas.  
 
Avoid defining good touch as whatever makes you feel good since this can be used out-of-context. Abusers have also been known to exploit this ideal by first starting with innocent tickles, before moving on to sexual abuse.  
 
Instead, first define good and bad touch as areas that can be touched and areas that cannot. An easy visual reference for “no touch” areas is everywhere that’s covered when you wear a singlet and shorts. 
 
Then expand it further by helping to grow your child’s voice. Teach them that they can say no to being touched and to move away from the person or call for help if they feel uncomfortable. Nurture your child’s confidence to say no by also respecting their wishes. Never force them to hug or kiss anyone, even with relatives.  
 
Keep the language you use straightforward and simple:  
“Can anyone touch you in a no-touch area? “No!”  
“If someone hugs you and you don’t like it, what do you say? No!”   
 
You should also help them recognise the safe adults in their lives, e.g., immediate family members. If there are other adults in that circle, you may also want to define what is allowed and what is not e.g., a teacher can help bring you to the toilet but can’t touch your private areas.  
 
Make it very clear to your kids that no one should show their private parts to them and no one should see or touch their private areas

Preschool years (4-6) 

Your child may be attending daycare now and may need help with toileting so it will be good to run through some specific scenarios with them.  

Role-play is a powerful teaching tool for young kids. You may want to go through: 

  • What’s okay and not okay during shower time at school  
  • How to get help cleaning up if they passed motion 
  • What to do if someone peeks at them when they are in the toilet 

Find out from the school how they handle these scenarios too to avoid confusion. 

Empower them with handles on what to do if an adult does something they are not comfortable with, for example: 

Say “I don’t like that”, find daddy, mummy or a trusted adult and tell them what happened, and how they feel e.g., “I don’t like Uncle trying to kiss me”.   

Of course, these responses should change if it involves any touching of their private areas. You may want to tell your kids that if anyone touches your private parts, shout “Stop! Go away” and “Help” very loudly. 

Consistent repetition of these body safety rules will help them remember it.   

You may also want to teach them not to sit on other adults’ laps but to sit next to them instead. 

Primary years (7-9) 

By primary school age, you can also include the idea of peer pressure when it comes to expanding the idea of good touch and bad touch. Taper your questions according to their level of maturity too. Role-play questions now may include “If your friend says that a boyfriend/ girlfriend can touch each other in the no-touch area, what would you say?” 

They may also be exposed to words like “molest” from friends who have had such encounters. To ensure your child knows they can always come and talk to you about anything, never sound suspicious or fear-monger. Instead, communicate calmly and frequently, using movies and news to spark conversations. Listen attentively to them, without jumping to conclusions or judgment too quickly. 
 
Teach your kids that bad touch can happen unexpectedly so they should be conscious of their surroundings, especially when they are alone. Also talk about and role-play what to do if they are unexpectedly touched in a public place

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 The Parenting Tips Don’t Work

Screaming, yelling, shouting. Fighting, quarrelling, whining. Clinginess, grumpiness, and repeated defiance. As parents, we may wonder why our children fight us when we’re trying to meet their needs. It seems like an uphill task to keep the kids safe, healthy, and on time for school, while juggling our countless other responsibilities and demands.  

Meanwhile, you continue to be bombarded by parenting tips online that tell you to empathise and be gentle with your children. You give this a try, but are met with mischief, meltdowns, and defiance at the worst moments. Desperate, you resort to old tactics: Threats, yelling, caning, or bribing with screen time to placate them. Unsurprisingly, these old methods work, and you’re able to get on with the day.  

While it may be tempting to abandon the expert tips as you struggle with the realities of life, many of us continue to resonate with the ideas presented, as they inspire us to build a warmer and more loving home. Here are some ways I’ve learnt to adapt these tips into my own family life: 

1. Avoid unhealthy comparison

With today’s gentle parenting approach gaining popularity, it is easy to make comparisons with other parents who seem to have it all under control. However, what you see on social media does not necessarily reflect reality. You may be surprised to learn that almost every parent struggles with getting their children in line at some point, even the ones you look up to most!  

Knowing this, it is important to avoid black-and-white thinking when we encounter our failures. Instead of dwelling on thoughts like, “I lost my cool today; I must be a failure as a father,” it helps to reframe them more constructively: “I lost my cool today, but it was understandable as I was dealing with too much. I can have compassion on myself, and apply what I have learnt from this episode, tomorrow.”  

 

It takes time for new parenting strategies to prove its effectiveness, and for new habits to be cultivated in the family. 

2. Aim for improvement, not perfection 

As adults, it can sometimes feel like an uphill battle keeping it all together each day. In many ways, our children struggle just like us as they navigate the challenges of growing up. Hence, we cannot expect perfect days and perfectly obedient children. It is not possible to correct every single mistake, as this can lead to resentment in both parent and child. We should, instead, identify red lines for discipline and keep to those.   

For example, my wife and I are stricter with maintaining discipline when our children are about to endanger themselves or others. We are less uptight if no harm is caused – such as if they scream, shout, or accidentally spill something – or if we know that the children are feeling overwhelmed.  

It is also important to note that improvement takes time, before any positive change can be observed. We may fail spectacularly when we first try something new – this includes new approaches to parenting. However, as we persist, our children will notice the new habits and language that are being cultivated, and eventually internalise them.  

One of my proudest moments as a father was seeing my 5-year-old son calm his younger sister down with one of the tactics I have previously used with him, instead of yelling back at her!  

“Be particularly mindful when our children are Hungry, Anxious, Lonely, or Tired (HALT).” 

3. Learn how to prevent and defuse emotional triggers  

Is your heart beating faster and harder? Do you feel tension in your forehead or chest? Do you feel blood rushing to your eyes? These are some physiological signs that an emotional outburst is about to occur – a trigger. Leaving our triggers unchecked can cause us to act impulsively. Sometimes, this leads to doing or saying things to our children that we regret for years to come. It is thus important to learn to detect and prevent our triggers, which would help us be more intentional in our parenting.  

The same goes for our children. Just as adults are likely to lose control when they have unmet needs, younger children are as, if not more, likely to act up if they are Hungry, Anxious, Lonely, or Tired (HALT). By mentally reviewing our children’s HALT levels throughout the day, we are better able to keep behavioural challenges at bay.  

However, no one can completely avoid emotional outbursts throughout life. As such, I’ve found it helpful to learn the best strategies for defusing one another’s triggers. For example, I usually count to 3 before I act on my anger, and I try to envision the consequences of losing my temper before I act or speak. For my children, slow counting or play have been the best means for regulating their strong emotions. (Here are more tips on dealing with big emotions.) 

At the end of the day, parental discipline may involve being firm with our children. To keep myself in check, my guiding principle for managing meltdowns or misbehaviour is to always exhaust all “softer” approaches before moving on to “harder” ones.

 Live to love another day 

One morning, I yelled harshly at my son while getting him ready for school, leaving the family shaken and myself feeling guilty for the rest of the day. That same night, however, we went about our bedtime routine as normal. I read both children a bedtime story and the kids scrambled to sit on my lap. The night ended with giggles and smiles as I tucked them into bed.  

Family life is not meant to be perfect. It is unrealistic to expect ourselves or our children to handle all of life’s challenges, while maintaining perfect composure 24/7. What I’ve found to be most important is not building the perfect family, but a loving one: An environment where we are always loved, accepted, and learning to love one another better. It is on this foundation that each family member can work on themselves and make each difficult moment a little better, one day at a time.   

When Your Marriage is Overcast

Faced with gloomy skies, a person’s energy level drops and there can be worry about what those dark clouds can bring. Things can feel bleak when your marriage is in this weather. 

On the surface, everything is “business as usual”; some may even say how good your marriage seems! But you know that something’s not right in your relationship.  

Cracks in the marriage have widened into chasms. It could be that disagreements have peaked and can now threaten to break your marriage. Healthy communication may have come to a standstill, and you are in the quicksand of resentment or disappointment.  

Neglect is the key contributor for marriages moving into Overcast weather. Perhaps you both went on autopilot – life was busy and you were occupied with different things. There have been little quality and quantity time with each other, much less time to work through disagreements or unhappiness. 

Couples in this weather face one major decision: do we avoid the issues and let our marriage wither away? Or do we choose to have crucial difficult conversations, dig deeper to remember our “first love”, and commit to move out of this stalemate together? 

Think of it as the ultimatum. There’s just no waiting around, hoping the weather will turn for the better by itself. 

The hope in an Overcast marriage 

Are you too busy? Decisively cut out inessential social activities, commitments, or time-draining hobbies to make time for each other.  

A wife who feels unloved and unappreciated will feel rejected. A husband who doesn’t have his wife’s trust and respect will withdraw and disengage. 

What are some things that have undermined mutual love and respect in your marriage? 

If negligence drove your marriage to the edge, then making intentional decisions to nurture your marriage is necessary to turn it around. 

Are you too busy? Decisively cut out inessential social activities, commitments, or time-draining hobbies to make time for each other.  

If you feel that your relationship lacks fun and excitement, find common activities that both of you can enjoy. Or you can take turns to do what each other likes. This shows your spouse that you want to enter into their world and it can also help you better understand and appreciate what they are like. 

Pick up a marriage resource or attend a marriage enrichment programme to communicate better. 

Start small, but start somewhere. 

This is also where plugging into a healthy and strong community that supports your marriage is important and necessary. Is there a trusted couple you both are comfortable sharing your marital struggles with? Arrange to meet up, and invite them to journey with you and your spouse out of this weather. 

Overcast skies are here. But keep calm and start doing things differently, because all is not lost; there is hope for a turnaround. 

Making the best of an overcast marriage

For the husband

What can you do in this weather?

  • Conserve your energy (and word bank) for your wife, especially if you are a man of few words. Make effort to have conversation with her every day. 
  • Look out for the little things and let her know that you noticed them. Maybe she had a haircut or added a new ornament to the house; acknowledge them and compliment her. 
  • Learn new communication strategies to connect with her healthily. 

Things to watch out for: 

  • Guard your heart. When you feel distant from your wife, it is easy to be drawn to other friendships where you feel understood and accepted or activities that take your mind off things or energise you. 
  • Do not look for quick fixes to your problems. In the same way that your marriage did not hit this rut overnight, it will take time and intentional effort for you both to walk out of it. 
  • “Cave time” may be necessary for you to recharge, but don’t retreat to it whenever things get tense. That can come off as stonewalling to your wife. Your presence speaks volumes of your commitment to her in the marriage—through thick and thin. 

Avoid slipping into the blame game and always making it “his problem.

For the wife

What can you do in this weather?

  • Be quick to apologise if you are at fault, and be ready to forgive (and forget) when he apologises for his faults. 
  • Notice the small acts of service he does for you, your family, or in the home. Express gratitude, and tell him that it matters to you. 
  • Initiate intimacy with your husband and let him know that he is still attractive and desirable. 

Things to watch out for: 

  • Avoid slipping into the blame game and always making it “his problem”. Your husband will naturally become defensive and may choose to disengage. 
  • Do not compare your marriage with “better” marriages you see around you or on social media, or let your mind wander with the “what ifs”. 
  • Eliminate negative talk – which could come across as criticism, sarcasm, or ridicule. Speak kindly, even when you are upset, so that he will be encouraged to communicate with you. 

Couple conversations for this weather

  • When were the best years of our marriage, and why? 
  • What bothers you most about the current state of our marriage? 
  • What is one thing that you would like me to do to make you feel appreciated and loved? 

A thriving marriage in every weather

This is a difficult weather for you and your spouse to be in. Hold on to each other because there can be a turnaround in your marriage. 

Every bride and groom enters into their union with a promise to have and to hold, for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, until death do they part. 

When the marriage hits a rough patch, or when you and your spouse no longer enjoy each other, consider how you can live out your vows. As someone once said: It is not love that sustains the marriage, but marriage that sustains the love. 

“I didn’t marry you because you were perfect… I married you because you gave me a promise. That promise made up for your faults. And that promise I gave you made up for mine. Two imperfect people got married, and it was the promise that made the marriage. And when our children were growing up, it wasn’t a house that protected them; and it wasn’t our love that protected them; it was the promise.” – Thornton Wilder 

No matter what weather your marriage is in, you can make your relationship with your spouse the best that it can be. 

How do I Teach my Child about Safety around Strangers?

Preschool years (4-6 years)

Young children are mostly accompanied by a trusted adult such as their parent, caregiver, or teachers in school. The only scenarios where children may potentially encounter a stranger with ill intentions without the knowledge of a trusted adult, is if they get lost, or unintentionally separated from their trusted adult (e.g. while in a crowded shopping mall, or when a stranger approaches the child while the parent is on a phone call).

Sometimes, the person with ill intentions is someone they are familiar with, such as an older friend, family member, or relative. Beyond teaching your child to identify strangers, it’s important to help them identify and respond to threatening situations and behaviours from people they know.

 

The most effective way to teach your child how to identify threatening situations and behaviours is through role-playing many different scenarios that they may potentially find themselves in. 

Preschool-aged children do not yet have the cognitive or emotional skills to accurately identify the intentions of others, and they can be a lot more trusting of people, even strangers. At this age, children acquire knowledge and make sense of the world through pretend play. The most effective way to teach your child how to identify threatening situations and behaviours is through role-playing many different scenarios that they may potentially find themselves in.  

You can teach your child about safe/unsafe behaviours of older children and adults, through games and play, such as: 

  • Identifying good and bad touch
  • Being told to keep a secret
  • Being offered candy/money/an animal/soft toy/car ride
  • Being asked to follow someone away from their trusted adult  

It’s also important to teach your child simple rules about personal safety, such as their full name and address, and how to convey this information to a safe adult should they get lost. This can be done by pointing out places where they can receive help from a safe adult, such as a teacher in school, a policeman at a neighbourhood police station, or an information counter at a shopping mall.

 

Repetition of rules and role-playing different scenarios in several different contexts is often necessary.

The cognitive thinking skills of young children vary, and hence repetition of rules and role-playing different scenarios in several different contexts is often necessary before children can remember what you’re teaching them. Since younger children may not have the ability to distinguish the intentions of others, teach them to say “no” or to shout for help when they are alone in an unfamiliar situation, and are unsure how to respond. 

It’s good to have regular conversations with your child in a calm and honest manner, without frightening your child unnecessarily. We want to strike a balance between precaution and over-protectiveness. 

While there is no guaranteed method in helping young children ascertain all threatening behaviours and situations, an effective strategy is to teach them  to trust their instincts, and to immediately inform you if someone is making them feel uncomfortable. The best precaution to take is to be alert and attentive of your child’s whereabouts at all times, and to have a secure, trusting relationship with your child where they are comfortable to share everything with you.

Primary years (7-9 years)

Children in their primary years may have honed their ability to identify threatening behaviours and situations, and to discern the intentions of others. They are likely to be in more situations without adult supervision too, such as when they’re at the playground, or having a sleepover at a friend’s house. They are also better able to remember and practise the rules for personal safety, and are much better equipped to recount an unsafe situation they have found themselves in to a trusted adult, or to get the attention of others by shouting for help. They may also begin to have much more exposure to online content and will need to know the potential risks and dangers associated with it. 

When put in a tricky situation where they experience a tension of different needs and emotions, your child may be unsure of how to respond in an appropriate manner.

For example, when your child is playing unsupervised at a public playground where older children are present, one of these older children may approach your child to show him an image or video on their mobile device. The content makes your child feel uncomfortable, and it goes against his family values, but due to the strong need to fit in, your child may not walk away or inform you about the inappropriate content he was exposed to.

Another common scenario is where your child gets touched inappropriately by a trusted friend or relative, and they may feel shame, but also pleasure. The conflicting emotions they experience may leave them feeling confused and uncertain, and if they desire strongly to please or protect the adult who molested them, they may choose to remain silent.  

As parents, you should address and validate your child’s developmental needs for peer acceptance, friendship, and altruism, while creating a safe, non-judgmental space for them to share their views or experiences at home. The key is to cultivate an environment in your home where children feel safe to freely share their thoughts with you, without a fear of punishment or a sense that certain topics are off-limits.  

The best precaution for children at this age from the harmful intentions of both strangers and known relatives or friends, is the active involvement of their parents in their child’s social circles and online activity. Children can be taught to be assertive about their boundaries to both their peers and to strangers, and to walk away when these boundaries are crossed. Teach your child to recognise possible scenarios where another’s actions go against your family’s values, and how to respond appropriately in those instances.  

For children’s online safety, guide your children on how to change their privacy settings to disallow strangers from communicating with them. Be sure to install apps to monitor their online activity, and block potentially harmful content and people. Do remember that these measures are temporary measures and safeguards. As your child’s cognitive abilities develop, you can wean them off these apps and teach them to practise discernment when befriending strangers online.

Tween years (10-12 years)

Tweens are much more capable than younger children in their cognitive abilities to judge and evaluate a potentially dangerous situation. They are also gaining more independence and are spending more time unsupervised by their parents, especially online. The need for peer acceptance is much greater, and tweens may find themselves saying “yes” to tricky situations out of their need for acceptance. 

At this age, if you allow your child to play multiplayer games online such as Roblox or Minecraft, or use social messaging apps like WhatsApp, it’s inevitable for them to encounter strangers. These apps usually allow for direct messaging, even between strangers. It’s vital to teach your child to filter the personal information they share with strangers online, such as their address and handphone number, or even their full name. 

Besides the disclosure of personal information, cyberbullying is also common. Teach your child to spot signs of cyberbullying, and the features that an app or game provides to protect us from such people, for example, the option to report and to block someone. 

If your tween has his own mobile device, you can install the free app ScamShield, designed by Open Government Products in collaboration with the Singapore Police Force (SPF) and the National Crime Prevention Council (NCPC), to protect against scam calls and SMSes from strangers. These filters may not work 100% of the time, but they do help in blocking most strangers from contacting your child. Regularly check in with your tween, to ensure they are interacting responsibly with technology. You may wish to check their social media account privacy settings, and ensure that they have accurately declared their age on these platforms, as safeguards have been put in place to protect minors.

Lastly, parents of tweens can set and enforce rules in the home and when interacting with others online or over a call. For example, if parents are leaving their tweens alone at home with no adult supervision, teach them to lock the doors and not to open it for anybody, no matter who they claim to be. If anyone were to message them through an online platform, teach them not to reveal any personal details such as who their parents are, where they live, or if there is anyone else at home.  

Your child will benefit from ongoing discussions of risks, different scenarios they may find themselves in, and the healthy modelling of online and personal safety. As much as we try our best as parents to protect our children from the dangers both online and in the real world, there are many new forms of harm and danger that we can’t possibly prepare for. The best form of protection for our children is to develop a healthy, trusting relationship with us, so that they feel comfortable coming to us at any point in their lives when they feel uncertain about anything. 

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!

Post-Natal Care: What Should I Be Ready For?

Being a mum for the first time can be exciting yet nerve-wrecking. As much as we look forward to finally holding the baby we’ve been carrying and growing together with for 9 months, we often grapple with doubts and fears on whether we will be good mothers. Here are some tips to help us ease into this new season of the 4th trimester. 

It’s the hormones!

After delivery, our body goes through a huge and sometimes traumatic change; after all a human did come out from us! Our hormones become highly dysregulated and that can cause us to feel varying emotions all at once. 

I remember crying for no reason on the second day of confinement and feeling happy the next minute, as if nothing had happened. I was shocked by my own emotions and thought that something was wrong with me.

I was also particularly upset with everyone in the household even though no one had done anything to provoke me. Everything somehow seemed to annoy me. After speaking with some mums, I came to understand that our hormones go haywire after delivery, and it will take some time for them to regulate. 

It helps when we expect these changes and recognise that it is often a phase that will pass in a couple of weeks. However, if negative emotions persist, do seek support from a trusted family member, friend or counsellor 

It is okay to say, “I don’t know either.”

Something that caused me a lot of stress was the expectation from everyone that I have all the answers. I did not know how anxiety-provoking it was until everyone around me asked all sorts of questions: When can I bathe the baby? What time is the next feed? How much should I feed? Why is the baby crying? Is he hungry? Is he feeling cold? Why didn’t he finish his milk?  

While we do have a mother’s instincts, we also need to communicate to people around us that we do not have the answers all the time. We are all learning as we go.

It felt like I became a “baby-encyclopedia” the moment my son was born, and all the answers had to come from me. However, we need to remember that we are as new to the baby as they are. While we do have a mother’s instincts, we also need to communicate to people around us that we do not have the answers all the time. We are all learning as we go.  

Coming up with a system that everyone could follow was helpful. We wrote feed timings and amounts on the glass door and everyone followed as closely as possible. We also included nap times and their duration as we observed them, and soon we got the hang of taking care of a newborn.

Real life vs. reel life

It is becoming a norm for people to exaggerate or overly beautify a part of their lives, especially on social media. As mums, it is inevitable that we compare ourselves with other mums, more so when we start scrolling on social media platforms and see other mums seemingly “having it all together”.  

This can cause us to feel insecure about ourselves and brings unnecessary stress. As we unwind on social media, we also need to be vigilant about what we are seeing and believing. 

I’ve always gone by the principle that what I see online is what others choose to show me. It may not be a full representation of their situation. This awareness is important so that we do not strive to “look-good-feel-good” online and ignore the struggles that we are facing. We need to acknowledge the place where we are at and be real with ourselves.  

When I was in the initial phase of breastfeeding my boy, I often came across social media posts of mums easily expressing breastmilk and how their babies were latching well. On the other hand, I was suffering from engorgement, my baby wasn’t latching well, and I struggled to even produce enough milk for a feed.  

I felt so terrible about myself, and thought that I must be the worst mum ever to not be able to breastfeed my baby. It was consuming me from within, and I decided to stop viewing such posts. Instead, I looked for community among mum friends who went through similar situations. It helped me feel much better since there were people to cry out to in the middle of the night as we journeyed together. 

You can ask for help

As mums, it can be difficult to ask for help. It could be because there is a lack of resources available, or you feel uneasy about the way others might handle your baby. We might also believe that we have everything under control. 

While it does seem easier to be the one taking care of your baby since you are the main caregiver, we also need to keep a lookout for our mental health. Transiting from a world where you get to decide almost everything for yourself, to one where it revolves around your newborn, is a difficult process. 

It is impossible for any mum to be able to meet both their baby’s needs and their own needs at the same time. More often than not, we forgo our needs because we are so caught up with taking care of our baby. However, a prolonged negligence of our own self-care can leave us feeling empty and resentful.  

We need to ask for help whenever possible so that we can have some much-needed rest and come back with our hearts fuller to continue caring for our baby.

We need to ask for help whenever possible so that we can have some much-needed rest and come back with our hearts fuller to continue caring for our baby. This could be in the form of approaching your parents, in-laws or close friends to come over and watch your baby while you take a short nap or even a stroll nearby.

There is no shame in seeking for support because we are all humans with physical limitations. Mums are not superheroes, we are also people who need to eat, sleep and bathe! 

My hope is that the above has helped shed some light on what to expect as a first-time mum, and even more so how to care for yourself. You can only give what you have, and not what you don’t! 

When Your Marriage is Sunny

The joys of a Sunny marriage 

It’s hot. You’re sweaty. But it’s fun because your days are packed with activities. 

The sense of newness that marked a Breezy weather in marriage has developed into a deeper intimacy with each other. You and your spouse have tackled some difficult issues together and have grown through it. 

Differences still exist, but there is a deeper understanding of each other’s needs, wants, and temperaments. That feeling of fulfilment is not dampened even when things are not perfect. 

You may not have met all your #couplegoals and are still working through the daily grind, but you and your spouse share a deeper connection. 

When misunderstandings occur, they are less likely to side-track you both. You and your spouse take on challenges with new ease. There’s little second guessing about each other’s actions or motives – you are stronger and more stable as a unit. 

You are satisfied and secure in your spouse’s love. 

The stresses of a Sunny marriage 

Your past experiences and upbringing may affect your capacity to give wholly in the marriage.

In hot and humid weather, flowers and fruits flourish; so do less pleasant things like mould and bacteria! Is there hidden mould in any corner of your marriage? Or are there any areas in each of your lives that exposes the marriage to bacterial growth? 

Your past experiences and upbringing may affect your capacity to give wholly in the marriage. Or there may be a deep-seated issue threatening the trust in your marriage. An addiction, perhaps? Or a certain friendship with unclear boundaries that you have been turning to for comfort and acceptance? 

Let your marriage be the safe space for you and your spouse to be most vulnerable and speak honestly. Choose to work through the matters that are hard to talk about. 

Seek out other married couples or mentors for counsel and support. On your own, the problems may seem insurmountable, but in the company of like-minded friends, you may gain new perspectives and encouragement to keep going in your marriage. 

The sun is out! You want to enjoy what you can do in this weather, so let’s work hard at enjoying each other more. 

Making the best of a sunny marriage

For the husband

What can you do in this weather?

  • Keep up the romantic gestures and break out of daily routines to surprise her. Be attentive to your wife’s needs as your lover, not just a great friend. 
  • Compliment her, making her feel attractive and good about herself. Find ways to fill her love tank so that she is not running on empty. 
  • Make time and initiate constructive ways to work through issues that come up. 

Things to watch out for: 

  • Avoid treating your wife like a great housemate (or, if you are parents, as just the mother of your children). 
  • Pay attention to your personal grooming. Just because you are very comfortable with your wife doesn’t mean that your physical appearance shouldn’t matter anymore. She still wants to be attracted to you! 
  • Enjoy intimacy with your wife. It is about sex, and much more. Emotional intimacy is important to a marriage’s longevity. 

Take every opportunity to keep up with date nights, and make them special. 

For the wife

What can you do in this weather?

  • Encourage your husband to find a few good guy friends to confide in. While it is easier for women to share openly with their girlfriends, husbands may not have such close male friendships. 
  • Maintain intimacy in your marriage. Communicate your expectations and be proactive in meeting his needs as well. 
  • Take every opportunity to keep up with date nights, and make it special. Couple time is scarce in this weather, so be intentional to schedule it—and keep to it, even if it is shorter than what you both prefer. 

Things to watch out for: 

  • Do not seethe over bothersome issues. Choose honest and respectful conversations with your husband instead. 
  • Criticism is toxic in any marriage. Many men “shut down and tune out” when they feel disrespected. 
  • Beware of unhealthy communication habits, like expecting your husband to know what you are thinking. He may grow to understand you better, but he is not telepathic; you still need to verbalise what’s in your heart. 

Couple conversations for this weather

  • What brings you most joy in our marriage? 
  • What is one thing you would like me to do regularly to show how much I appreciate you? 
  • How can we grow in the areas of physical and emotional intimacy in our marriage? 

A thriving marriage in every weather

Marriage is hard work, but worth it. 

Every bride and groom enters into their union with a promise to have and to hold, for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, until death do they part. 

When the marriage hits a rough patch, consider how you can live out your vows. As someone once said: It is not love that sustains the marriage, but marriage that sustains the love. 

“I didn’t marry you because you were perfect… I married you because you gave me a promise. That promise made up for your faults. And that promise I gave you made up for mine. Two imperfect people got married, and it was the promise that made the marriage. And when our children were growing up, it wasn’t a house that protected them; and it wasn’t our love that protected them; it was the promise.” – Thornton Wilder 

No matter what weather your marriage is in, you can make your relationship with your spouse the best that it can be. 

Overcoming My Body Image Issues

Battling negative body image can often feel like a futile fight. But take heart, it is possible to overcome them.   

John Lim, now a writer who also speaks on youth and young adult issues, shares his own struggles with body image issues.  

“I remember when I was in primary school, I was in the trim and fit club, or the ‘tough club’. Despite exercising, my weight never went down. And my friends would tease me, ‘Eh, John, why you exercise so much still so fat.’” 

“I would try to laugh it off, but inside, I felt discontent with my weight and body image,” he said.  

From that early exposure to body shaming, John found that he would binge eat at major events in his life, such as when he was deciding what course to study at university.   

“I tried to quell the anxieties, and things got better because I saw a therapist. But the issue resurfaced when job hunting,” he adds. 

The desire to control is actually a coping mechanism.

Comparison and Control

When eating disorders emerge in children, parents often ask, “Why?” John wondered the same. “Dealing with the disorder was hard. I kept asking, ‘Why am I so weak? Why can’t I stop?’ It wasn’t just about the food,” he reflects.

“In Singapore’s competitive environment, it can be common to feel that one is not good enough. Comparisons in academics from parents and peers weigh heavily. This spills over into other areas like body image. You start thinking something’s wrong and try to control it through dieting or an eating disorder,” he explains.

Comparison can be unwittingly encouraged by social media and peer comments about weight and appearance, but the desire to control is actually a coping mechanism. There are many things our children can’t control like their peers’ behaviour or their academic grades but they can control their food intake.

John puts it this way – “It’s like the things that you do externally to gain a sense of control over your circumstances.”

Even though it seems more fun to be elsewhere, being with them matters. 

Relational Risk

Everyone needs people willing to connect with them, even when they’re not receptive.  
For John, a friend from volunteering was a turning point in his recovery.  
 
I was bingeing heavily and was not in good shape. But my friend kept asking me, and never gave up on me. He also kept trying to joke and lighten the mood, even when I wasn’t fun to be around,” John shares.  
 
He urges parents and friends to take the relational risk and reach out to those who are struggling. “Even though it seems more fun to be elsewhere, being with them matters. You can pick up warning signs of eating disorders, like changes in eating habits, excessive bathroom time, or social withdrawal, he advises.  
 
Some common signs could be the intake and output of food. Are there extreme changes to eating habits, are they spending excessive time in the toilet, or withdrawn from social circles?  
 
Investing in our children’s internal health is crucial. “In social work and psychology, we often talk about psychological safety. As a parent, providing a safe space is essential. It’s about showing  empathy and compassion, and being there for your child,” he says. Instead of questioning why they act a certain way, assume they’re doing their best. “This changes how we support our children,” John concludes. 
 
With support, overcoming eating disorders, like John’s, is possible.

 

What to do if you or your child has eating struggles

1 – Acknowledge the struggle  
It can be daunting to have to face the issue but the start to recovery is recognising there is a problem. Instead of pretending things are okay or that the problem will resolve by itself, we have to accept that something serious is happening and it needs our attention.  

2 – Ask for help 
Often, guilt and shame prevent us from asking for help. We may even justify this by believing no one can help us or even blame ourselves for having a problem. Can you identify with what John shared about using unhealthy eating habits as an attempt to gain control over your life? If so, please be honest about the care you need. Asking for help is you choosing a better life for yourself and breaking this vicious circle.  
 

3 – Isolate your triggers 
Eating disorders don’t appear overnight. They are the fruit of seeds that have been sown in your life for a while. For some, it could be repetitive judgmental words from people about weight. For others, it could even be from coming from a household where being a certain size or looking a certain way was obviously important. Isolating your triggers can help you work at the core issue that caused the symptom of poor self-image or eating habits. 
 
4 Be kind to yourself  
Now that you isolated your triggers, you must have clear-cut action points on what to do when you are triggered. When the familiar pull towards harmful thoughts and actions gets strong, these are a few simple things you can do Get up from where you are, put on music that takes your attention away from self-defeating thoughts, call a trusted friend or family member, or go out for a walk. Be kind to yourself. There may be times you don’t manage to do these. Instead of sliding back into self-blame, choose to try again.  
 
5 – Establish truth reminders  
As you rebuild your life, having building blocks of truth is important for you to sustain your healing and growth. What do you need to remind yourself? Is it “I am loved” or “I can do this”? Is it hopeful thoughts about the future like “One day, this will not be a struggle anymore”? Try to find people and things in your life you can be thankful for. Gratitude helps to prevent us from slipping into comparison. 

How do I Teach my Child to Dress Modestly?

Tween years (10-12 years)

In the early tween years, your child is formulating their sense of identity. They may do this through experimenting with their personal choices and decisions, such as dressing.  

If you’re taking your tween shopping, this is the best time to impart the value of modesty! Set clear guidelines for appropriate dressing right at the start and pick out apparel that makes them feel presentable and confident.  

Pay attention to your child’s role models, whether they are singers, celebrities or admired figures whom your child looks up to, and observe their fashion choices. Recognise the influence these figures can have on your child’s dressing.  

Discuss how clothing that reveals too much skin will get them unwanted attention and put them at risk of being objectified. Keep an eye out for subtle messages on clothing that may carry suggestive undertones. Frame your concerns as a way to teach your child to respect and honour their body, fostering in them a sense of self-worth that goes beyond how others view their appearance.  

If your child thinks you are old-fashioned, stay calm in the moment and explain how dressing modestly can still be stylish. Listen to your child’s viewpoints and stay curious instead of making judgmental remarks, which may push them away from you.  

In this phase of discovery and self-expression, having a supportive and open environment makes all the difference for your child to know you are on their side!  

 

Teen years (13-15 years)

Late teen years (16-18 years) 

The societal pressure to dress like their peers and famous personalities will be more apparent in the teenage years. This is also the time when teens may develop romantic interests. 

If you have not talked about modesty with your child, it is not too late. In family meetings, have conversations on why modesty still matters in today’s day and age, and what is an acceptable standard for your family. Emphasise on values like modesty and inner beauty while expressing understanding for your child’s need to fit in.  

Share candid stories of fashion disasters when you yourself may have blindly followed trends in your youth. Your willingness to share your life experiences with them can go a long way in building connection. Offer to go shopping with your child and give practical guidance and suggestions on what is acceptable to both of you.  

Encourage your child to think critically about the reasons behind your family’s guidelines rather than simply imposing them. Have them consider questions such as,  

      • “Why do you think I have concerns about this outfit you picked?”  
      • “How does your choice of clothing reflect who you are and the way you want to be perceived by others?” 
      • “What do you think the messages and graphics on your clothing could convey to others?” 

Fathers, do not underestimate your role in your growing teen daughter’s sense of identity. You play a significant role in building your child’s self-esteem when you affirm how important she is to you. Pay genuine compliments when your daughter dresses appropriately to reinforce her self-worth so she does not have to look elsewhere for approval.  

Besides her character and inner beauty, complimenting specific physical traits such as her hair, eyes or even a specific (modest) outfit can do wonders to boost your daughter’s confidence in her growing years.  

Maintaining modesty may be an uphill challenge for teenagers in an increasing hyper-sexualised world, but by showing our teens we are on their side, we can instil hope that modesty is achievable without compromising their personal style, tastes, and sense of belonging. 

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 Marriage is Stormy

The thunderstorm is raging, with ominous thunder and wild winds. In this weather, you feel like it is time to call it quits.

The warmth of the sun is no longer present – your words, your actions are cold and harsh. You look around your home and marriage, and feel like everything has been in vain. There’s no trace of love or positive things to show for the years you put in.

Your conversations are functional at best. Your interactions are equally distant. Perhaps you both feel that it is better to spend less time together because that means less likelihood for conflict.

Separate beds, zero intimacy – each with your own lives despite living under the same roof.

Some settle for marriage as a living arrangement for the children’s benefit; as soon as the children are independent, they want to go their separate ways.

Your marriage may unexpectedly enter into Stormy weather with the discovery of infidelity or it may gradually drift into it from prolonged periods of negligence and inaction.

Yet what is more important than the current circumstances is how couples choose to respond.

Gary Chapman in his book The 4 Seasons of Marriage: Secrets to a Lasting Marriage has this to say: “All couples face difficulties, and all couples have differences. These differences may centre on money, in-laws, religion, or any other area of life. Couples who fail to negotiate these differences will find themselves in [a place] created not by the difficulties of life but by how a couple responds to those difficulties. When one or both marriage partners insist on ‘my way or not at all’, they are moving their marriage toward [a cold, harsh, and bitter marriage].”

In a Stormy marriage, problems seem big and solutions appear far away. You are hurt, lonely and discouraged. There are regrets and you’ve replayed many “if only” scenarios in your mind. You yearn for a marriage in better weather, but it feels like it’s not going to come.

The hope in a stormy marriage

It takes only one party to put the marriage into Stormy weather, but it will take both to move out of it.

Can hope be restored in this storm?

Desperation can bring out tenacity, which we didn’t know existed in us before—a desperation that drives us to fight for our marriage.

It takes only one party to put the marriage into Stormy weather, but it will take both to move out of it.

Be open to seek professional help from a marriage counsellor or family therapist. Do not isolate yourself from friends and other married couples; your community and support system are crucial for you and your spouse to walk out of this rough storm.

Remember, the weather can change. The storm is here, but it doesn’t have to last forever. You can make a change.

Making the best of a stormy marriage

For the husband

What can you do in this weather?

  • If the relationship is so tense that you are no longer speaking to your wife, write down your thoughts on how you want the marriage to improve and pass it to her. Communication is key in rekindling your marriage.
  • Taking proactive steps to show love and appreciation to your wife may not feel so natural right now, but persisting in it can soften her heart and cause her to be tender towards you again.
  • Listen attentively and engage her through eye contact when she is speaking to you. You may not be ready to respond, but choosing to stay and listen shows her that you still care for her.
  • Find a male mentor or coach whom you can confide in and take advice from.

Things to watch out for:

  • Draw clear boundaries so that you don’t try to find intimacy in other friendships. This would only complicate the issues that you and your wife have to work through.
  • Avoid replaying the blunders in your mind and rehashing pain from the past. It can become a vicious cycle, making it harder for you to forgive and move on.
  • Habits can be hard to break. Don’t go back to old ways of dealing with conflict, but consciously choose healthier patterns of communication, even if it feels counter-intuitive.
  • It may feel easier to focus on your wife’s faults than perceive the good things in her right now. Be intentional to write down what you are thankful for about her.

Surround yourself with friends and family members who will support and encourage you in restoring your marriage.

For the wife

What can you do in this weather?

  • Take care of your physical, mental, and emotional wellbeing, and guard yourself against the downward spiral of rumination or despair.
  • Taking proactive steps to show love and appreciation to your husband may not feel so natural right now, but persisting in it can soften his heart and cause him to be tender towards you again.
  • Spend time recalling and noting down the better days in the marriage. How was it like? What did he do that you loved? Share these memories with your husband.
  • Surround yourself with friends and family members who will support and encourage you in restoring your marriage.

Things to watch out for:

  • Protect your heart and mind, so that you don’t try to find love and acceptance elsewhere. This only drives you further away from your husband.
  • Be careful not to put down your husband in front of your family or friends, whether within earshot or not.
  • Habits can be hard to break. Don’t go back to old ways of dealing with conflict, but consciously choose healthier patterns of communication, even if it feels counter-intuitive.
  • It may feel easier to focus on your husband’s faults than perceive the good things in him right now. Be intentional to write down what you are thankful for about him.

Couple conversations for this weather

  • What were the dreams and goals we had for our marriage?
  • How have I hurt you the most in our relationship? How can I make amends in ways that would meaningful to you?
  • What does it mean for us to “forgive and forget”? How can work on our marriage together to move forward together?
  • What are some things we can do for each other that would give each other hope and motivation for a better marriage?

It is not love that sustains the marriage, but marriage that sustains the love.

A thriving marriage in every weather

Every bride and groom enters into their union with a promise to have and to hold, for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, until death do they part.

When all hope seems to be gone, take a moment to consider your marriage vows. As someone once said: It is not love that sustains the marriage, but marriage that sustains the love.

“I didn’t marry you because you were perfect… I married you because you gave me a promise. That promise made up for your faults. And that promise I gave you made up for mine. Two imperfect people got married, and it was the promise that made the marriage. And when our children were growing up, it wasn’t a house that protected them; and it wasn’t our love that protected them; it was the promise.” – Thornton Wilder

There can be beauty and growth in each weather your marriage is in. So, hold tight to the good, work hard at the difficult, and commit to journey through life together.

No matter what weather your marriage is in, you can make your relationship with your spouse the best that it can be.

Your marriage can survive this weather, and thrive.

Should I Allow My Child Privacy on Devices?

“I’m really worried about my daughter. I don’t know who she’s talking to, and now she’s even bringing her boyfriend into our house when I’m not at home. I didn’t know giving her privacy on her phone would result in this.”

I could see how distraught Amy was at her 16-year-old daughter Betty’s behaviour over the past few months.

Wanting to offer her sound advice, I turned to Chong Ee Jay, a Family Life Educator with Focus on the Family Singapore.

Balancing a child’s autonomy and his privacy can be a challenge, but here are some helpful guidelines.

If your child is 12 and under 

“The device should be seen as a loan instead of belonging completely to your child. And you should have full view of your child’s usage on the device.”

Ee Jay shares that it is typically not recommended to give kids aged 12 and under a device.

Of course, you might argue that schools these days require the use of technology for education. But your child needs to understand that the device is for the purpose of communication and studies, and not entertainment.

For example, one helpful way is to set up parental controls on the device you give to them, especially for entertainment apps such as games, YouTube, and the Internet browser.

This way, if the child wants to access these apps, they will need to ask you for access.

Ee Jay elaborates, “Access to entertainment apps should be given only with your permission. The device given to your child should be seen as a loan instead of belonging completely to your child. And you should have full view of your child’s usage on the device.”

With your child’s mind still developing, it is critical that we take active efforts to curb device use. “The online space is filled with a mix of good and bad content, and your child does not yet have the maturity and knowledge to keep themselves safe.”

This is reinforced through global guidelines. We see that almost all online activities and platforms do not allow users below 13 to set up an account.

Another way is to learn from the technology entrepreneurs who invented these devices.

In late 2010, Steve Jobs revealed to New York Times journalist Nick Bilton that his children had never used the iPad.

Jobs explained, “We limit how much technology our kids use in the home.”

Chris Anderson, the former editor of Wired, enforced strict time limits on every device in his home, and refused to allow his children to use screens in their bedrooms.

But what happens when the child grows older? Are such limits still necessary?

If your child is above 13

Ee Jay explains that in an ideal world, we would hope that a child’s maturity linearly equates to their age and we can therefore give them more autonomy as they grow. But reality is often not as neat and tidy.

“Greater autonomy on devices is given upon considering child’s age and maturity and when they have demonstrated responsible behaviour.”

He encourages parents to consider the first ownership of a device as a rite of passage.

For example, when a child turns 13, a device is often needed for the purpose of communication on school-related matters, especially on WhatsApp. Class chat groups, CCA chat groups, and social connection with peers on social media platforms are typical examples. Personal learning devices are also purchased for use in most schools during Secondary 1.

Treating it as a rite of passage means there needs to be conversations on rules, expectations, and consequences of flouting the rules.

It may be helpful to draft a contract containing these elements:

  1. Rules around phone usage
  2. How often, and when the phone can be used
  3. When the phone cannot be used
  4. Consequences if these rules are broken
  5. Why these rules are set
  6. Privacy

 

“Explaining why is important. We can say, ‘If we wish to access your phone, we will let you know. We do this because we want to ensure your safety.’”

It is not recommended for the child to be given full privacy at the beginning.

Explaining why is important; we can say something as simple as, “We respect your privacy and will not invade your privacy without your knowledge. For example, if we wish to access your phone, we will let you know. We do this because we want to ensure your safety.”

The degree of privacy given is dependent on your child’s maturity and track record of responsible usage.

We should also emphasise that the device is a privilege that can be removed if rules are flouted. 

Engage in regular conversations

When Amy began imposing limits on Betty’s phone usage, such as by refusing to pay for her data plan, Betty struck back with a vengeance. She refused to talk to her mother for days. When Amy asked Betty something, Betty would just stare at her.

Imposing limits didn’t seem to work that easily.

Ee Jay recommends a different approach. He says, “We need to engage in ongoing conversations with them to better understand what is driving their needs for devices and for privacy.

“Do they experience a strong need to connect with their peers online? Are there things that the child is trying to hide from his parents due to its inappropriate nature? Reprimanding or giving a straight “No!” response tends to shut the door for future conversations.”

He recommends 4 simple steps:

  1. Be curious to hear from them
  2. Probe deeper into the issue through asking more questions
  3. Take an empathetic approach to demonstrate that you care for your child’s wellbeing
  4. Seize the opportunity to share with them your concerns too.

Keep building trust

We’ve all heard how important it is to connect with our children. But as parents, it’s often hard to do because we have different commitments to juggle.

Remember that trust is a bank that needs to be deposited slowly through quality time, conversation, and love.

So even as we push our children out to spread their wings, there are times when we need to pull them close by setting limits on how much privacy they can have.

Balancing supervision and autonomy when it comes to devices is tricky. But ultimately, remembering why you do it will make the tension easier to navigate.

For privacy reasons, pseudonyms have been used in this article.