by Veena Bharwani
IT seems it is not only the children who need sex education.
Some parents want in on the programme as well.
After our report on Monday on the introduction of a customised, comprehensive sex education programme for secondary school students that is expected in November, some parents wrote in to say that they need help too.
Their reason: They are too shy to talk to their children about sex, and need tips on how to do so.
One parent, who gave her name only as Ms Quek, 48, has three sons who are 25, 21 and 18. She feels no parent should have to go through her awkward experience of trying to explain the birds and the bees to the children.
'My husband and I are from conservative families and had a tough time trying to talk to our sons about sex,' she said.
'Parents definitely need help in this matter. It would be good to include parents in one of the sessions in the new course.'
Ms Quek said she tried to broach the subject with her sons when they were in secondary school.
'I would casually bring it up when we were watching television, when there was a movie going on about teenage relationships or something related to that.'
Although she was uncomfortable with the topic, she once tried to strike a conversation about safe sex with them.
'I told them that if they were having sex, they should use a condom to protect themselves. But my boys just suddenly kept very quiet and I knew I didn't get through to them.'
After that incident, she decided to ask her husband to take over. But that didn't work as her husband also did not know how to talk about it.
'The course could give parents tips on how to approach the topic without embarrassing our children or ourselves,' she said.
She added that if parents were better-informed, they could also help warn their children on such legal issues as underage sex.
'Some boys won't know that having sex with a girl under 16 is a crime, even if the girl has given consent,' she said.
Another parent, Ms Vimala Christie, 43, said a strong parents support group in school could go a long way to help.
Ms Christie, who has a daughter, 14, and son, 13, is actively involved in the Parents Support Group at St Hilda's Secondary where her children study.
The group holds talks and workshops on various matters for parents, including talks on sex and relationships.
She said the parents could share individual experiences on how they approach the topic with their children.
She added: 'The idea is to equip parents with techniques of communicating with our children and to share life experiences.'
Parents can help
Ping Yi Secondary principal Julia Woo, agreed and said: 'Parents' involvement in the matter is essential as it is not enough to just give the students information on the subject.
'Parents can help teach the kids the values behind the information on relationships and sex.'
However, it may be a logistical challenge to get all parents to go to school to take part, she said.
Not all were keen to push the responsibility to the schools too.
Ms Carol Tan, 52, who holds a job in administration, said parents need to be more open and start talking to their children about sex much earlier.
'Parents tend to shelter their children, but they have to learn that the more their children know, the better they are able to deal with the real world and its demands.
'Just like how parents teach their children to take the bus from point A to point B, they need to talk to them about sex early.'
This article was first published in The New Paper on August 29, 2008.