Mum!!! What’s this I’m having? Shouted the 10-year old from the toilet.
When should we start discussing puberty to our kids?
At what age will you start the conversation and how will your approach be?
Are you aware of what is taught in school and at which level of the child’s formal education?
We have to acknowledge that we need to talk to our kids about the changes that they will go through.
If we were to look at the secular schools’ introduction of the topic on Reproduction in Humans, kids are taught at the age of 11 on the basic parts and functions of both the male and female reproductive system and the process of how fertilization takes place until the point of its development in the womb. Basically they learn how the different parts of the system work together to perform its function. They also learn the basics of how a child inherits their traits from their parents through the genes.
At lower secondary level, they learn in greater details what they have learnt in primary school including greater details of the physical changes that happen in the male and female body at puberty. On top of that, topics like premarital sex, unwanted pregnancy and STIs are also discussed. They are also introduced to the different types of contraceptives available in their Science syllabus at this level.
Below is an excerpt from from Singapore’s Ministry of Education Website under the heading “Sexuality Education: Scope and teaching approach”
“It is taught through:
- Science lessons.
- Form Teacher Guidance Period and Growing Years in primary schools.
- Growing Years and eTeens programme in secondary schools, junior colleges and Millennia Institute.
It is taught in the context of mainstream national values, according to students’ developmental needs.
Sexuality Education emphasises the importance of respect for self and others, both online and offline, and respecting personal boundaries for healthy relationships and safety. It aims to help students develop positive self-identity and healthy relationships, and make responsible decisions on sexuality matters.
Sexuality Education in schools promotes abstinence before marriage, and teaches facts about contraception, consequences of casual sex, prevention of diseases, and how to say “no” to sexual advances. This also helps to reduce the incidence of sexually transmitted diseases or teenage pregnancies.
Sexuality Education teaches students what homosexuality is, the importance of respect and empathy, and the law concerning homosexual acts in Singapore.
The MOE Sexuality Education curriculum is organised around 5 themes:
- Human development: the onset of puberty and its psychological and emotional impact.
- Interpersonal relationships: the skills and values for healthy and rewarding relationships with friends and family, including the opposite sex.
- Sexual health: information and attitudes to promote sexual health and avoid unwanted consequences of sexual behaviour.
- Sexual behaviour: expressions of sexuality and their effects.
- Culture, society and law: societal, cultural and legal influences on sexual identity and sexual expressions.”
Let’s talk about the “when” and “how” of the approach to this sensitive topic.
You will learn later under Intellectual development of adolescents that as a child enters adolescence, they develop from concrete to abstract thinking. This results in enhanced awareness of the self. Due to the many noticeable physical changes, this self-awareness will lead to self-consciousness with an accompanied feeling of awkwardness.
When this happens, how open they are to talk or discuss with you about the changes they are going through, or their curiosity about the matter really depends on how close your relationship is and how open you are in the first place to them talking about private and sensitive issues with them.
Children nowadays may hit puberty as early as 9 years old for girls and 11 years old for boys. This can be the best time to talk about the more concrete stuff like the physical changes that will happen and how they should handle it especially in terms of cleanliness and in terms of boy-girl interactions. Make it a one to one personal session with them so that they are not shy to ask you questions.
The more abstract questions like boy-girl relationships, their emotions will come later and be prepared to put aside anything else you are doing to give them the attention when they need it.
I can talk about a million and one things when discussing about sexuality or sex education to our adolescents and the issues that can come about from freedom in boy-girl relationships but I will not do that at this juncture. Ultimately education starts from the home and from us parents. We must approach it in a way that they will come to us first in discovery of themselves and in these areas.
Be the POLeS they can lean on for support
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