ASIAN parents are usually uncomfortable when it comes to talking about sexual and reproductive health. At home, this sensitive subject is often considered taboo. Not only that, children are often reprimanded for asking innocent questions such as “where does a baby come from?”
At other times, both parents and children fall into an uncomfortable silence whenever a love scene is being played out on television.
Yet sex is everywhere really. You hear it in song lyrics, you come across it in most movies, and have probably come across lurid photos or videos on the Internet.
It’s not about the topic of sex alone; sexual and reproductive health encompass a range of related issues such as puberty, body image, respect and consent, and relationships, as well as sexually transmitted diseases. These issues become harder for parents to manage when they continue to avoid having this “talk” with their children.
STARTING THE CONVERSATION AT HOME
All is not lost, however. Following the recent findings from the Malaysian Youth SRH Survey 2016 — which highlighted large gaps in sexual and reproductive health knowledge amongst young people, the #TalkNowProtectAlways SRH Campaign was developed to act as a catalyst to encourage a clearer, more accurate understanding of sexual and reproductive health among Malaysian youths and their parents.
So what are the benefits of starting the sexual and reproductive health conversation with your child? There are many actually, and parents should take note of the critical benefits of introducing this conversation at home.
Sexual and reproductive health education helps strengthen the trust between parent and child, allowing for a closer and more open relationship. It presents an opportunity for us to assure our child that he or she can talk to us about anything and everything. Isn’t this what we’re all striving for as parents? Knowing how to tackle this delicate subject smartly goes a long way towards achieving that objective.
There will be some potential awkwardness that may take place during the early stages of introducing this conversation to your child. But do persevere and be patient. Both parent and child need to get used to normalising sexual and reproductive health conversations at home. Be assured that starting this conversation with your child from an early age will not only protect them ultimately but will also aid them in making responsible and informed decisions on their own.
If you’re feeling lost, you can always refer to the #TalkNowProtectAlways Guide For Parents which is available online.
I personally find it a good reference with plenty of practical tips on how to initiate sexual and reproductive health conversations with a child. Among my personal favourites are tips like “Remember to listen more and talk less” and “Be a parent rather than a lecturer”.
Like it or not, this uncomfortable subject needs to be introduced in your homes. It will become more critical as modernisation and globalisation continue to take place. In fact, sexual and reproductive health is an important education tool. By avoiding the subject altogether, we are shirking our parental responsibilities and allowing our children to wade through the murky area of both information and misinformation hoping all the while they will somehow find the right answers on their own.
Zaid Mohamad coaches and trains parents to experience happier homes and more productive workplaces. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org