Help them see the wonder of God’s design for husbands and wives: Talking to primary school children about sex
by Christine Leow // May 9, 2023, 11:22 am
Counsellor Alicia Boo and her husband are open about sex with their four children aged seven to 14. Photo courtesy of Alicia. Boo.
The first time Alicia Boo’s daughter asked her about sex was when the little girl chanced upon something which Alicia was planning to read. The Principal Counsellor and Chief of Impact at Focus on the Family Singapore had a book about sex meant for parents and children to read together.
“My daughter is inquisitive. It keeps me on my toes and reminds me to never take things for granted,” said Alicia, 40.
At the time, her daughter was just nine.
About two years before, Alicia had already talked to her about reproduction.
“I told her, ‘God made our bodies unique to create new life. Babies are made when sperm from a man meets the egg from a woman.
“This happens during sexual intercourse that takes place in a faithful and monogamous marriage between a man and a woman as husband and wife.”
“I told her, ‘God made our bodies unique to create new life.'”
Her daughter did not ask any follow-up questions and Alicia ascertained that she was not ready for anything beyond what she had been told.
This time when her daughter asked her about sex and procreation, Alicia felt she was old enough to know more.
“In that conversation, I told her, ‘It is during sexual intercourse when a male’s penis fits together with a female’s vagina.’
“When I said this, I could see that my daughter was processing things. She is the sort who needs time to absorb new information. So I paused to give her some space to process this.”
A mother to four children – a 13-year-old son, a 10-year-old daughter and a pair of twin boys aged seven – Alicia shares her tips with Salt&Light on talking to primary school children about sex.
1. Have the end goal in mind
Teaching our children about sex is not the final aim of talking to our children about sex, reminded Alicia.
“Ultimately, I hope to use sexuality education to point my children back to God’s design for sex and marriage between a husband and wife. God created the two sexes to procreate in the context of marriage.
“What we choose to say, to include, including how we break down a profound idea goes a long way. I always remind my children that sex is best kept in the marriage.
“I mirrored her response, saying, ‘Yeah, this is quite amazing, right? How God made man and woman?’”
“I want my children to ultimately understand that sex is designed by God and that it is sacred and for them to capture that sense of wonder and amazement about God’s design. I want to be the one to catch that wonder when it happens with my child and reflect it to my child. This is the beautiful part of parenting.
“I also want them to make decisions that reflect His design and glory. To me, this is the final outcome of sex education.”
That was exactly what happened last year when Alicia had the talk about sex with her daughter.
“I saw the fascination and wonder coming through when I talked to her about God’s imprint on human design. It was a privilege to catch that wonder.
“And I mirrored her response. I said, ‘Yeah, this is quite amazing, right? How God made man and woman?’”
2. Lay age-appropriate foundations
Talking about sex with our children is not a one-time conversation. It can be built up over time.
Instead of waiting for the “right age”, Alicia recommends “breaking down the topic and identifying pieces that are age-appropriate”.
From as young as when children have basic mastery of language, from about the age of two, parents can already begin educating their children about sex in age-appropriate ways.
“Children don’t have to know everything all at once or it will be quite overwhelming. When they are very young, if they ask, ‘Why is it like that?’ Simply say, ‘This is God’s design.’”
3. Make it part of daily life
When they were toddlers, Alicia would teach her children about body parts and body safety while bathing or changing them.
“Don’t give the body parts nicknames. It can be perceived as something to hide.”
“I teach them about proper cleaning of our body parts and how hygiene is important so we can be healthy. If very young children ask about functions of these body parts, parents can share that they are how waste is eventually excreted or passed out from our bodies.
“Don’t give the body parts nicknames. This can affect how we hold future conversations on the topic, where it can be perceived as something to hide.”
Alicia also checks that her children understand what has been taught by asking questions.
“I might ask them, ‘Why is it important that only certain people can shower you? Who can help you get dressed?’
“It doesn’t matter if their answers aren’t always coherent. You can build on their answers.”
Sometimes, Alicia shares family memories and uses stories as part of sex education. When talking about the function of nipples in a woman’s body, she told her children about her experience nursing them as babies.
“I present it quite naturally. I told them, ‘Mama felt very close to you when I held you and nursed you. I loved that season.’”
4. Be ready to engage
Alicia also believes that it is important for parents to know ahead of time what they might want to say about sex should the question or occasion arises.
“Parents don’t need to stress ourselves out about giving a textbook or complete answer at that point in time. But it is important to know key principles that will point us in the right direction when engaging our children.
“When it comes to sexuality education, there’s the components of health, relationships and values. Parents can read up, learn and be equipped.”
“When it comes to sexuality education, there’s the components of health, relationships and values.”
Once when they were on a grocery run together, her daughter asked a question about sanitary pads out of the blue.
“Thankfully because I was ready, I could catch the moment and engage her.”
Even if parents are caught off guard or unprepared, there is always a way to create opportunities to return to the conversation.
“Tell them, ‘I’m not sure but I will find out about it and share it with you.’”
Focus Singapore has a series of videos with conversation starters that parents can watch with their children. The ready material is an excellent guide for parents.
There are also training sessions for which parents can sign up.
5. Initiate the conversation
When her children went through sexuality education in school, Alicia and her husband made it a point to follow up with conversations on the matter at home.
“We should take the reins of sexuality education.”
Said Alicia: “The earlier parents get into conversations about sex with their children the better, because it sets us up as the key influence of our child’s sexual identity and decision-making.
“We should take the reins of sexuality education because we have the authority as parents to make that difference and we see them through the different ages and stages.
“The other stakeholders such as school play a complementary role.”
6. Listen to your child
While parents need to take the lead, during the conversation we need to listen to cues from our children as well.
“If you notice that they have a question, don’t be afraid and evade. Seize the moment. Welcome them to ask questions and engage them from there.
“Curiosity and asking questions are signs of their readiness for more.”
7. Cover key areas
Toddlers and pre-schoolers need to know about body parts, body function and body safety, that is, “good touch and bad touch”.
By primary school, parents can build on this.
“I also teach them basic responses and we rehearse with simple role play.”
“I tell my children that the teacher can bring them to the toilet but only they can enter the cubicle and that the door must be closed.
“And that if they are ever put in an uncomfortable situation, whether it is through a look or a touch, they can always come to me and I will be there for them.”
Respect is the other thing that Alicia layers onto sex education for her primary school-going children.
“Respect the other person’s privacy. I also teach them basic responses and we rehearse with simple role play.
“For example, ‘I cannot share the same cubicle with you.’”
8. Let honesty and openness be key
While topics like sanitary pads make for good mother-daughter conversations, there is value in talking about certain things as a family.
“If I talk about God’s design for marriage, I get my husband involved and we also talk about sexuality education openly in our family. Girls and boys can learn about their body differences together.
“It is not shameful as it is God’s design. We try to make sex education as natural as possible.”
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