In our Asian culture, talking about the birds and the bees to your kids can be awkward. Even statistics have proven this, such as in a 2009 nationwide survey where more than 80% of 1,100 parents* considered talking to their children about sexuality issues but only about 60% felt comfortable to do so.
Why does giving ‘The Talk’ seem so difficult? Perhaps due to not knowing when to talk about it and how much to say, sometimes even the most eloquent parent can feel as awkward as threading on thin ice when mentioning such intimate topics.
However, it is a subject that parents should not shun away from. Here are some reasons why you should play an important role in talking about these important topics.
1. If you don’t, someone else will
Kids get curious, especially when their bodies start to show signs of puberty. Chances are your child would already have learnt a fair bit from the mass media and even from their friends. Before they start to form opinions from unreliable resources, it is important to share your values and concerns so that your kids know the family’s stand on such issues, thus are able to make good choices when growing up.
2. A primary role as a parent
Even though schools in Singapore do provide sexuality education programmes, parents should still be the primary educator and be able to speak candidly about such topics at home as well. The more the adults hem and haw, the more kids may perceive their parents to be uncomfortable in the subject. When you speak candidly, they will feel that you are acknowledging their growing maturity and they will be encouraged to confide in you in their life issues and let you guide them in their future relationships as well.
3. Instilling responsible life choices
Contrary to many parents’ apprehension, studies have shown that early parent-child communication on sexuality issues is effective in delaying sexual initiation among teens. Improved communication can also provide accurate information on the protective behaviours.
So, how should you approach the subject? Here are 5 tips to starting and guiding that conversation for parents.
1. Keep an objective mindset To prevent children from growing up with unhealthy perceptions, keep an open and a positive attitude and try to inculcate the idea that sex and intimacy is a natural part of married life. When your child share his or her opinion, it is important to listen with an open mind and avoid being judgemental. This will encourage your child to be more willing to share and help build a relationship based on mutual trust with their future partners.
2. Be forthright in sharing
It is alright to admit to your kids that you too are shy to talk about the topic. But let them know that it is all in their interest and that you hope to be their confidante, as well as be able to answer any questions they may have. Don’t worry, once you get started, it will definitely get easier with time.
3. Focus on the facts Give accurate and age-appropriate information, e.g. using correct terminology for body parts, and giving factual and honest answers. Referring to reliable sources such as books on biology might be helpful. You may also wait for teachable moments to speak about certain topics, e.g. talking about pregnancy when your child meets an expectant mother, or explaining the facts about puberty when your son starts growing facial hair.
4. Encourage conversations and respect their opinions The tone and body language you convey will affect how much your children will be willing to sit down with you to talk about their intimate feelings, so don’t make it sound like an interrogation. Rather than asking questions that will elicit just a “Yes” or “No” answer, phrase them in a way that will encourage an ongoing conversation. Children want parents to listen and see their point of view, so lend a good listening ear and respect their opinions. Don’t interrupt them or jump in with a chiding tone. When talking to your adolescent teens, respect their friendships and romantic relationships without being critical or judgemental. It is important not to downplay what they are feeling and simply dismiss their relationship as ‘puppy love’ or a ‘silly crush’.
5. Educating them is a process, not one-time lesson The Facts of Life talk cannot be covered in one sitting. You need to give it to them in the right doses and in the right time that suits their frame of mind, as well as age. Take a holistic approach that covers physical, emotional, psychological and spiritual aspects. Sexuality is a broad topic. Give them time to understand what you are saying and remain patient even if you need to discuss something several times.
That’s not all. To learn more tips on how you can confidently approach your child to talk about puberty, adolescence and relationships, join us at Health Promotion Board Let’s Talk workshop. Sign up now at www.letstalk.sg.