Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Sex education: Parents' gift to children
by Frances Ess
My friend has taught his three daughters, aged six to 11, never to sit on any man's lap, for they may be unaware of the effect they may have on the man.

I am impressed with his ability to protect his daughters from unnecessary risks.

Thirteen years ago, when my eldest son was 12, he was invited to go swimming with a stranger. He agreed but informed us first.

We confronted the stranger and, needless to say, were glad that they did not swim together.

The American Psychological Association estimates that 60 per cent of perpetrators of sexual abuse are known to the child but are not family members - i.e. family friends, babysitters, childcare providers and neighbours.

Child pornographers and other abusers who are strangers may contact children via the Internet.

While I do not have the data for Singapore, I feel that parents must take proactive steps to protect their children before it is too late.

My children have been trained to know that sexual advances from adults are wrong. We tell them what are "okay" and "not okay" touches, that no one must touch them in a way that makes them feel uncomfortable.

We maintain open communication, encourage them to ask questions and talk about their experiences.

After their eighth birthday, they can ask anything about sex. Before that age, they should just accept our instructions.

Some of their questions included how babies are formed, why men masturbate, whether a girl can have sex without getting pregnant and why watching pornography is wrong when most of their friends are already doing so.

One of their acquaintances even boasted that his supply of porn DVDs came from his father. Another child, who is 12, downloaded porn on his iPhone and shared it with his friends. It is a step away from acting out what they see.

Children are curious by nature.

So, parents need to answer these questions, not abdicate responsibility to schools, trusting naively that a few lessons on sexual education is enough.

These lessons provide only information, with no assurance that children would make the right decision as to their sexual experiences.

Children often act based on their attitudes towards an issue, attitudes anchored in a family's beliefs.

Different families have different beliefs, but some are common to all, for example, that our bodies are not objects to be toyed with.

Other beliefs, like on contraception, abortion, divorce, the role of masturbation, visiting a prostitute, are more challenging.

Adults compromise on some of these but may be unhappy if their children follow suit.

Parents have to examine their fundamental beliefs about sex and sexuality and walk the talk. Children are sharp; they know when we are insincere.

If they do not think us trustworthy in this aspect, they would seek other sources of information, such as friends, the Internet or adult magazines

Sex education is parents' most important gift to children, as any misinformation may harm their health in the form of sexually transmitted diseases.

We should start as soon as possible to inoculate our children against paedophiles.