“Mummy, what is sex?”: Tips on how to talk to your kids about the birds and the bees
by Gracia Lee // April 27, 2022, 5:39 pm
In talking about sex, as with any other important topic, we want to set ourselves up as our children's first and main source of information, said Ong Suwei, a homeschooling mum of seven. Photo by Ketut Subiyanto on Pexels.
“Mummy, what is sex?”
For some of us, hearing a question like this from our child may be enough to send our heart rate pumping and sweat dripping from our foreheads.
Having been brought up in a conservative Asian culture, we may have been taught that sex is a taboo topic and struggle with having honest conversations about it with our children.
“If parents and the Church do not teach our children about it, they will learn from others.”
But with our society becoming increasingly sexualised, and with the Internet making unsavoury content more accessible than ever, our children have become more vulnerable to receiving wrong information about sex – all at an earlier age.
News reports also show that child abuse – including sexual abuse – in Singapore is at an all-time high.
This is why it is so important for parents to have open conversations about sex at home.
“If parents and the Church do not teach our children about it, they will learn from others,” said Pastor Simon Say, who has a 17-year-old son.
Pastor Simon, who oversees the Youth, Family Life, and Discipleship & Nurture Ministries at Kum Yan Methodist Church, added that it is the responsibility of parents to protect their children from wrong information and values, and to provide them with God’s truth.
We want to set ourselves up as our children’s first and main source of information, added Ong Suwei, a homeschooling mum of seven.
Sex is not dirty or taboo, but a beautiful and life-giving gift from God to be enjoyed within the context of marriage.
“We want our children to know that even if they have things that they may feel ashamed about, or have something that is very private to them, they can open up to Papa and Mama,” she said.
Mum-of-three June Yong, who is also the Lead of Insights at Focus on the Family Singapore, added that as Christian families, we want to emphasise to our children that sex is not dirty or taboo, but a beautiful and life-giving gift from God to be enjoyed within the context of marriage.
“It’s not just for the function of procreation but to help bond mummy and daddy together and to create a safe and strong family environment for our children to grow up in,” said June.
If you’re not sure where to begin, or are struggling to talk to your child about certain issues, here are some tips from parents on navigating these conversations.
At what age should I talk to my child about sex?
Talking about the birds and the bees with your child should not just be one conversation that you have with them when they reach a certain age.
Said Suwei: “It’s a continuing, rolling conversation. Like the Bible says in Deuteronomy, as you stand up and as you sit down, you talk about God, you talk about life, you talk about life with God. So sex is also included in that.”
It is important to talk about the topic in an age-appropriate manner and to lay the foundations from when they are young.
As Christians, we should always let our children know that sex is a gift from God to be enjoyed only by married couples.
For example, as soon as your child becomes a toddler, you can teach them that certain parts of their body are private. You may also educate them on what is appropriate touch from other children or adults, and what is inappropriate.
As your children grow older, they may become curious and start asking questions like: “Where do babies come from?”
When asked these questions, parents should always put on their “game face”, said June. This means that they should try their best not to react in shock or discomfort as this would create a barrier of embarrassment or fear.
Instead, stay calm and answer their question factually and biologically.
On Talk About Sex, an online resource for parents by Focus on the Family Singapore, a suggested answer for younger children or tweens may sound something like: “When a man and woman get married and decide to have a baby, a seed from the man’s body will travel to the egg in the woman’s body. That will create a baby. The baby will grow inside the mummy’s womb for about nine months, and then the baby will be ready to come out of the mummy’s body.”
As your child is older, perhaps in upper primary to secondary school, you may add more details in your explanation, such as how sperm from a man’s body meets with an egg from a woman’s ovaries through sex to form a baby.
As Christians, we should always explain sex as something that happens in the context of marriage and let our children know that it is a gift from God to be enjoyed only by married couples.
How can I make talking about sex less awkward?
It is common for parents to feel uncomfortable talking to their child about sex due to a variety of reasons. But we should not let this hinder us from bringing up the topic at all.
The first thing we can do is to have a biblical perspective of sex.
“If we are comfortable talking about sex, then our children will likely feel comfortable talking about it with us too.”
“A lot of the shame, guilt and negativity comes from our own understanding and what’s fed to us through the media or through bad experiences we’ve had. But if we get our own worldview straight, it’s actually a beautiful thing,” said Suwei.
“When you understand that God intended this physical oneness in marriage as something to bless us, as something that is holy, then there’s no shame. There’s no embarrassment. It’s a wonderful thing. It’s a gift from God for us to experience something other-worldly and to glue a marriage together.”
Very often, our children will take the cue from us. If we appear uncomfortable talking about sex, then they are unlikely to come to us with questions about it. But if we are comfortable talking about sex, then they will likely feel comfortable talking about it with us too.
Even then, it may still take some time for us to feel completely comfortable talking about sex, especially if we were brought up to feel that it is a taboo topic.
“They are growing and we should see it as a privilege to be able to guide them through some of these tricky aspects of life.”
To tackle this, June suggested using Christian books that explain sex age-appropriately to help pave the way to the conversation in a gentler manner.
“I think once you kind of push through the first few conversations and set the tone, the foundation, then it kind of gets easier as you go along. So just be brave to take that first plunge,” she said, adding that it is less daunting to start these conversations when children are younger.
Once these first few conversations are done, it’s good to keep the conversation open so they do not go to other sources for information, said June.
Assure your child that they can ask you anything at all. “It would be good if we can have this philosophy that there is no question that will make us judge or punish them. They are growing and we should see it as a privilege to be able to guide them through some of these tricky aspects of life,” she added.
My 13-year-old is searching up sex-related topics and pictures out of curiosity. How can I manage this?
The first thing to do is stay calm. “They are at the age where they are simply just curious. There may not be anything overtly sexual about their actions. Perhaps they just heard something and they are curious about it,” said June.
Seek to understand their actions: What prompted you to search up these images? How did these things make you feel?
The next step would be to approach your child in a calm manner and reveal to him or her what you came across on his or her device.
Instead of scolding or lecturing them right off the bat, ask questions in a way that seeks to understand their actions: What prompted you to search up these images? What else did you see? How did these things make you feel?
“Affirm that it is normal to be curious, but remind them that when they go to external sources like Google for answers, they may not know what they’re getting, whether it’s good or bad for you,” said June.
Encourage them instead to come to you with their curiosity and questions, so you can help them to discern what is appropriate or inappropriate to view, or to explain things to them in the right context. “It’s important to get them to come back to us,” said June.
Never brush aside their questions, added Pastor Simon. Instead, work together with them so that the information they eventually learn is truthful, he said, adding that parents can use books, appropriate YouTube clips or doctor friends to have their questions answered.
Assure your children: “We love you, we are here for you, we are here to protect you and to guide you.”
For our child to feel safe to come to us about these things, it is crucial for us to to build a culture of open communication with them, said parents.
“Your child’s heart must be with you, otherwise it will just be a one-way street with you talking, talking, talking, but the heart of the child is already closed to you,” said Suwei.
“Make sure that your children know that they can put their trust in you, that they can come to you with anything, any fear, any doubt, any question. We want to be there for our children to guide them through any difficulty that they may encounter. Even when they have done wrong, they know we will still love them and we will walk with them,” she added.
This is something that needs to be built over time through spending time with them, talking with them and listening to them, she said. From when her children are young, Suwei and her husband also assure their children repeatedly: “We love you, we are here for you, we are here to protect you and to guide you.”
With sexualised content so readily available online, how can I help my child avoid pornography?
Parents Salt&Light spoke to agreed that it is important to warn our children about pornography and its dangers early – about when they are nine or ten, suggested Pastor Simon – so they know what to do when they encounter it.
“I’d explain how pornography objectifies women and men, how it’s actually fake. This is not real love.”
“It would be beneficial to preempt a child’s curiosity and teach him or her about it before the curiosity sets in,” he said.
Added June: “I’d teach them that revealing body images fall under this term called pornography and I’d explain why it’s not beneficial for them, how it objectifies women’s bodies as well as men’s, how it’s actually fake. These are not real bodies. This is not real love. And it could adversely affect their future relationships and even their brains if they continually view it.”
Then, equip them with an action plan should they encounter it.
“If you think about it, it’s a matter of when, not if,” said June. “So we need to give them an action plan. When I do see it, what do I do? Do I just continue to sit there and allow myself to be affected by it? Or do I switch off the monitor and call for mummy or daddy?”
“It’s a matter of when, not if. So we need to give them an action plan. When I do see it, what do I do?”
To reinforce the message that we should not be consuming sexualised images, Suwei and her husband teach their children “the two-second rule”, which equips them to know what to do when they are confronted with such images either on outdoor advertisements or online.
“It takes one second for their minds to register what the image is, so what must they do in one to two seconds? They should avert their eyes and look away. The sin happens if you look back. So that’s what we teach them so they know how to keep their eyes pure,” she said.
When they watch movies at home together, someone’s finger is always readily positioned on the television remote. “We do a lot of muting of the bad (sexual) music, we will scream ‘Close your eyes!’ and fast forward all the sexual parts,” she said with a laugh.
“It’s very important. Now that our teens are older, they have their own content on their phones. It’s really self-regulation already. We must equip them right from the start to have a culture of censorship,” she added.
What do I do if I find out that my child is watching pornography?
It is normal for parents to feel shocked, sad or disappointed when they find out that their child is consuming unsavoury content online.
“We must equip them right from the start to have a culture of censorship.”
Pastor Simon said: “When it happens, do not condemn them. After turning the device off, sit the child down and calmly ask questions: What were you watching? Why did you watch? How did you come to this site? How do you feel watching it? What do you think God is saying to you? What is your response? What will you do in the future?”
Suwei added that she would remind them of God’s perspective on this and journey with them on the steps to recovery.
“Don’t talk down to them. Walk the journey with them.
“There’s a lot of counselling in parenting. A lot of talking. Having heart to heart conversations with the children is very important. We must make sure that the communication channels are truly, truly open at the heart level so that they can understand our concerns and love and want to change,” she said.
How do I talk to my child about masturbation?
If you find out that your child is masturbating, do not condemn them, said Pastor Simon. Instead, seek to understand what is prompting the behaviour.
Ask them questions like: Why do you do it? Do you understand what you are doing?
There are two parts to address in this topic: Self-gratification and sexual arousal, he added.
“Help him or her understand God’s intent for sex, which is sexual union involving a man and woman in a loving marriage relationship.”
“Discuss this as a topic to help him or her understand God’s intent for sex, which is sexual union involving a man and woman in a loving marriage relationship,” he said.
Even though the Bible does not specifically mention anything about masturbation, it is about satisfying yourself outside of the context of marriage, said Simon.
He added that he believes it has the power to draw one to other acts like porn and fornication, which are also self-gratifying.
Help your child to lay out an action plan to overcome temptation. For example, tell them that they can cry out to God in prayer or be accountable to you as their parent.
“Teach them that God brings good things come to those who are patient,” he said.
Have more questions? Check out Talk about Sex by Focus on the Family Singapore.
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