What is Good Touch and Bad Touch?

As part of our five senses, the gift of touch is a way we make sense of the world and send and receive messages. But in a world where touch can sometimes be less than innocent, how do we protect our kids especially when we can’t always be with them? 

Early years (0-3)

Teaching our kids about good and bad touch is a conversation that we can start from the early years. As you teach your kids proper names for their body parts and things like not walking around naked, you are laying a great foundation for their young minds to learn both social norms and body safety. 
 
At this age, you can also introduce the idea of good touch and bad touch as an easy-to-understand framework that you can build on as they grow. 
 
Good touch can be high-fives, handholding and even hugs from family and friends. Bad touch can be touches that leave bruises (hitting, pushing, kicking…etc) and any unwanted touch from another person, especially in the private areas.  
 
Avoid defining good touch as whatever makes you feel good since this can be used out-of-context. Abusers have also been known to exploit this ideal by first starting with innocent tickles, before moving on to sexual abuse.  
 
Instead, first define good and bad touch as areas that can be touched and areas that cannot. An easy visual reference for “no touch” areas is everywhere that’s covered when you wear a singlet and shorts. 
 
Then expand it further by helping to grow your child’s voice. Teach them that they can say no to being touched and to move away from the person or call for help if they feel uncomfortable. Nurture your child’s confidence to say no by also respecting their wishes. Never force them to hug or kiss anyone, even with relatives.  
 
Keep the language you use straightforward and simple:  
“Can anyone touch you in a no-touch area? “No!”  
“If someone hugs you and you don’t like it, what do you say? No!”   
 
You should also help them recognise the safe adults in their lives, e.g., immediate family members. If there are other adults in that circle, you may also want to define what is allowed and what is not e.g., a teacher can help bring you to the toilet but can’t touch your private areas.  
 
Make it very clear to your kids that no one should show their private parts to them and no one should see or touch their private areas

Preschool years (4-6) 

Your child may be attending daycare now and may need help with toileting so it will be good to run through some specific scenarios with them.  

Role-play is a powerful teaching tool for young kids. You may want to go through: 

  • What’s okay and not okay during shower time at school  
  • How to get help cleaning up if they passed motion 
  • What to do if someone peeks at them when they are in the toilet 

Find out from the school how they handle these scenarios too to avoid confusion. 

Empower them with handles on what to do if an adult does something they are not comfortable with, for example: 

Say “I don’t like that”, find daddy, mummy or a trusted adult and tell them what happened, and how they feel e.g., “I don’t like Uncle trying to kiss me”.   

Of course, these responses should change if it involves any touching of their private areas. You may want to tell your kids that if anyone touches your private parts, shout “Stop! Go away” and “Help” very loudly. 

Consistent repetition of these body safety rules will help them remember it.   

You may also want to teach them not to sit on other adults’ laps but to sit next to them instead. 

Primary years (7-9) 

By primary school age, you can also include the idea of peer pressure when it comes to expanding the idea of good touch and bad touch. Taper your questions according to their level of maturity too. Role-play questions now may include “If your friend says that a boyfriend/ girlfriend can touch each other in the no-touch area, what would you say?” 

They may also be exposed to words like “molest” from friends who have had such encounters. To ensure your child knows they can always come and talk to you about anything, never sound suspicious or fear-monger. Instead, communicate calmly and frequently, using movies and news to spark conversations. Listen attentively to them, without jumping to conclusions or judgment too quickly. 
 
Teach your kids that bad touch can happen unexpectedly so they should be conscious of their surroundings, especially when they are alone. Also talk about and role-play what to do if they are unexpectedly touched in a public place

Conversations About Sex Need Not Be So Tough

Research shows that when parents engage their children in topics on sexuality, their children grow to make wiser choices in relationships and sex. To help you overcome your fears in broaching the topic, we have designed a Talk About Sex video series specially for parent and child (aged 7-12) to enjoy, engage with and learn together!

When The Parenting Tips Don’t Work

Screaming, yelling, shouting. Fighting, quarrelling, whining. Clinginess, grumpiness, and repeated defiance. As parents, we may wonder why our children fight us when we’re trying to meet their needs. It seems like an uphill task to keep the kids safe, healthy, and on time for school, while juggling our countless other responsibilities and demands.  

Meanwhile, you continue to be bombarded by parenting tips online that tell you to empathise and be gentle with your children. You give this a try, but are met with mischief, meltdowns, and defiance at the worst moments. Desperate, you resort to old tactics: Threats, yelling, caning, or bribing with screen time to placate them. Unsurprisingly, these old methods work, and you’re able to get on with the day.  

While it may be tempting to abandon the expert tips as you struggle with the realities of life, many of us continue to resonate with the ideas presented, as they inspire us to build a warmer and more loving home. Here are some ways I’ve learnt to adapt these tips into my own family life: 

1. Avoid unhealthy comparison

With today’s gentle parenting approach gaining popularity, it is easy to make comparisons with other parents who seem to have it all under control. However, what you see on social media does not necessarily reflect reality. You may be surprised to learn that almost every parent struggles with getting their children in line at some point, even the ones you look up to most!  

Knowing this, it is important to avoid black-and-white thinking when we encounter our failures. Instead of dwelling on thoughts like, “I lost my cool today; I must be a failure as a father,” it helps to reframe them more constructively: “I lost my cool today, but it was understandable as I was dealing with too much. I can have compassion on myself, and apply what I have learnt from this episode, tomorrow.”  

 

It takes time for new parenting strategies to prove its effectiveness, and for new habits to be cultivated in the family. 

2. Aim for improvement, not perfection 

As adults, it can sometimes feel like an uphill battle keeping it all together each day. In many ways, our children struggle just like us as they navigate the challenges of growing up. Hence, we cannot expect perfect days and perfectly obedient children. It is not possible to correct every single mistake, as this can lead to resentment in both parent and child. We should, instead, identify red lines for discipline and keep to those.   

For example, my wife and I are stricter with maintaining discipline when our children are about to endanger themselves or others. We are less uptight if no harm is caused – such as if they scream, shout, or accidentally spill something – or if we know that the children are feeling overwhelmed.  

It is also important to note that improvement takes time, before any positive change can be observed. We may fail spectacularly when we first try something new – this includes new approaches to parenting. However, as we persist, our children will notice the new habits and language that are being cultivated, and eventually internalise them.  

One of my proudest moments as a father was seeing my 5-year-old son calm his younger sister down with one of the tactics I have previously used with him, instead of yelling back at her!  

“Be particularly mindful when our children are Hungry, Anxious, Lonely, or Tired (HALT).” 

3. Learn how to prevent and defuse emotional triggers  

Is your heart beating faster and harder? Do you feel tension in your forehead or chest? Do you feel blood rushing to your eyes? These are some physiological signs that an emotional outburst is about to occur – a trigger. Leaving our triggers unchecked can cause us to act impulsively. Sometimes, this leads to doing or saying things to our children that we regret for years to come. It is thus important to learn to detect and prevent our triggers, which would help us be more intentional in our parenting.  

The same goes for our children. Just as adults are likely to lose control when they have unmet needs, younger children are as, if not more, likely to act up if they are Hungry, Anxious, Lonely, or Tired (HALT). By mentally reviewing our children’s HALT levels throughout the day, we are better able to keep behavioural challenges at bay.  

However, no one can completely avoid emotional outbursts throughout life. As such, I’ve found it helpful to learn the best strategies for defusing one another’s triggers. For example, I usually count to 3 before I act on my anger, and I try to envision the consequences of losing my temper before I act or speak. For my children, slow counting or play have been the best means for regulating their strong emotions. (Here are more tips on dealing with big emotions.) 

At the end of the day, parental discipline may involve being firm with our children. To keep myself in check, my guiding principle for managing meltdowns or misbehaviour is to always exhaust all “softer” approaches before moving on to “harder” ones.

 Live to love another day 

One morning, I yelled harshly at my son while getting him ready for school, leaving the family shaken and myself feeling guilty for the rest of the day. That same night, however, we went about our bedtime routine as normal. I read both children a bedtime story and the kids scrambled to sit on my lap. The night ended with giggles and smiles as I tucked them into bed.  

Family life is not meant to be perfect. It is unrealistic to expect ourselves or our children to handle all of life’s challenges, while maintaining perfect composure 24/7. What I’ve found to be most important is not building the perfect family, but a loving one: An environment where we are always loved, accepted, and learning to love one another better. It is on this foundation that each family member can work on themselves and make each difficult moment a little better, one day at a time.   

How do I Teach my Child about Safety around Strangers?

Preschool years (4-6 years)

Young children are mostly accompanied by a trusted adult such as their parent, caregiver, or teachers in school. The only scenarios where children may potentially encounter a stranger with ill intentions without the knowledge of a trusted adult, is if they get lost, or unintentionally separated from their trusted adult (e.g. while in a crowded shopping mall, or when a stranger approaches the child while the parent is on a phone call).

Sometimes, the person with ill intentions is someone they are familiar with, such as an older friend, family member, or relative. Beyond teaching your child to identify strangers, it’s important to help them identify and respond to threatening situations and behaviours from people they know.

 

The most effective way to teach your child how to identify threatening situations and behaviours is through role-playing many different scenarios that they may potentially find themselves in. 

Preschool-aged children do not yet have the cognitive or emotional skills to accurately identify the intentions of others, and they can be a lot more trusting of people, even strangers. At this age, children acquire knowledge and make sense of the world through pretend play. The most effective way to teach your child how to identify threatening situations and behaviours is through role-playing many different scenarios that they may potentially find themselves in.  

You can teach your child about safe/unsafe behaviours of older children and adults, through games and play, such as: 

  • Identifying good and bad touch
  • Being told to keep a secret
  • Being offered candy/money/an animal/soft toy/car ride
  • Being asked to follow someone away from their trusted adult  

It’s also important to teach your child simple rules about personal safety, such as their full name and address, and how to convey this information to a safe adult should they get lost. This can be done by pointing out places where they can receive help from a safe adult, such as a teacher in school, a policeman at a neighbourhood police station, or an information counter at a shopping mall.

 

Repetition of rules and role-playing different scenarios in several different contexts is often necessary.

The cognitive thinking skills of young children vary, and hence repetition of rules and role-playing different scenarios in several different contexts is often necessary before children can remember what you’re teaching them. Since younger children may not have the ability to distinguish the intentions of others, teach them to say “no” or to shout for help when they are alone in an unfamiliar situation, and are unsure how to respond. 

It’s good to have regular conversations with your child in a calm and honest manner, without frightening your child unnecessarily. We want to strike a balance between precaution and over-protectiveness. 

While there is no guaranteed method in helping young children ascertain all threatening behaviours and situations, an effective strategy is to teach them  to trust their instincts, and to immediately inform you if someone is making them feel uncomfortable. The best precaution to take is to be alert and attentive of your child’s whereabouts at all times, and to have a secure, trusting relationship with your child where they are comfortable to share everything with you.

Primary years (7-9 years)

Children in their primary years may have honed their ability to identify threatening behaviours and situations, and to discern the intentions of others. They are likely to be in more situations without adult supervision too, such as when they’re at the playground, or having a sleepover at a friend’s house. They are also better able to remember and practise the rules for personal safety, and are much better equipped to recount an unsafe situation they have found themselves in to a trusted adult, or to get the attention of others by shouting for help. They may also begin to have much more exposure to online content and will need to know the potential risks and dangers associated with it. 

When put in a tricky situation where they experience a tension of different needs and emotions, your child may be unsure of how to respond in an appropriate manner.

For example, when your child is playing unsupervised at a public playground where older children are present, one of these older children may approach your child to show him an image or video on their mobile device. The content makes your child feel uncomfortable, and it goes against his family values, but due to the strong need to fit in, your child may not walk away or inform you about the inappropriate content he was exposed to.

Another common scenario is where your child gets touched inappropriately by a trusted friend or relative, and they may feel shame, but also pleasure. The conflicting emotions they experience may leave them feeling confused and uncertain, and if they desire strongly to please or protect the adult who molested them, they may choose to remain silent.  

As parents, you should address and validate your child’s developmental needs for peer acceptance, friendship, and altruism, while creating a safe, non-judgmental space for them to share their views or experiences at home. The key is to cultivate an environment in your home where children feel safe to freely share their thoughts with you, without a fear of punishment or a sense that certain topics are off-limits.  

The best precaution for children at this age from the harmful intentions of both strangers and known relatives or friends, is the active involvement of their parents in their child’s social circles and online activity. Children can be taught to be assertive about their boundaries to both their peers and to strangers, and to walk away when these boundaries are crossed. Teach your child to recognise possible scenarios where another’s actions go against your family’s values, and how to respond appropriately in those instances.  

For children’s online safety, guide your children on how to change their privacy settings to disallow strangers from communicating with them. Be sure to install apps to monitor their online activity, and block potentially harmful content and people. Do remember that these measures are temporary measures and safeguards. As your child’s cognitive abilities develop, you can wean them off these apps and teach them to practise discernment when befriending strangers online.

Tween years (10-12 years)

Tweens are much more capable than younger children in their cognitive abilities to judge and evaluate a potentially dangerous situation. They are also gaining more independence and are spending more time unsupervised by their parents, especially online. The need for peer acceptance is much greater, and tweens may find themselves saying “yes” to tricky situations out of their need for acceptance. 

At this age, if you allow your child to play multiplayer games online such as Roblox or Minecraft, or use social messaging apps like WhatsApp, it’s inevitable for them to encounter strangers. These apps usually allow for direct messaging, even between strangers. It’s vital to teach your child to filter the personal information they share with strangers online, such as their address and handphone number, or even their full name. 

Besides the disclosure of personal information, cyberbullying is also common. Teach your child to spot signs of cyberbullying, and the features that an app or game provides to protect us from such people, for example, the option to report and to block someone. 

If your tween has his own mobile device, you can install the free app ScamShield, designed by Open Government Products in collaboration with the Singapore Police Force (SPF) and the National Crime Prevention Council (NCPC), to protect against scam calls and SMSes from strangers. These filters may not work 100% of the time, but they do help in blocking most strangers from contacting your child. Regularly check in with your tween, to ensure they are interacting responsibly with technology. You may wish to check their social media account privacy settings, and ensure that they have accurately declared their age on these platforms, as safeguards have been put in place to protect minors.

Lastly, parents of tweens can set and enforce rules in the home and when interacting with others online or over a call. For example, if parents are leaving their tweens alone at home with no adult supervision, teach them to lock the doors and not to open it for anybody, no matter who they claim to be. If anyone were to message them through an online platform, teach them not to reveal any personal details such as who their parents are, where they live, or if there is anyone else at home.  

Your child will benefit from ongoing discussions of risks, different scenarios they may find themselves in, and the healthy modelling of online and personal safety. As much as we try our best as parents to protect our children from the dangers both online and in the real world, there are many new forms of harm and danger that we can’t possibly prepare for. The best form of protection for our children is to develop a healthy, trusting relationship with us, so that they feel comfortable coming to us at any point in their lives when they feel uncertain about anything. 

Conversations About Sex Need Not Be So Tough

Research shows that when parents engage their children in topics on sexuality, their children grow to make wiser choices in relationships and sex. To help you overcome your fears in broaching the topic, we have designed a Talk About Sex video series specially for parent and child (aged 7-12) to enjoy, engage with and learn together!

What a Mum Wants

Introduction

In conjunction with Mother’s Day last year, Focus on the Family Singapore conducted a survey from April 5 to April 24, 2022, to allow mothers to reflect on their motherhood journey. The survey received a total of 311 responses, with more than half of the participating mothers being employed full-time.   

Research Findings

Raising Future-Ready Kids: Screenwise Parenting

With so much of our children’s time now spent online, how can we raise them to be screenwise and future-ready?

It can be a parent’s greatest challenge to set limits on screentime and boundaries around digital content consumption. However, emotions like anger and frustration often get in the way of communicating a parent’s best intentions to nurture responsible and discerning digital users. Yet if done right, our children can be empowered to consume media wisely.

Supported by Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA), this webinar is all about creating shifts in our parenting approach through the different ages and stages for our children to have a healthy, balanced relationship with technology that goes beyond mere rules and restrictions.

Parents will gain the skills to:
1.
Establish positive digital habits as a family and enjoy meaningful offline experiences
2.
Set clear and safe boundaries for screen time and online interactions
3.
Navigate tensions and disagreements about screentime

Trainer
Join our Family Life Specialist and Cyber Wellness & Digital Literacy Master Trainer, Chong Ee Jay, to get equipped at this upcoming webinar!

Duration
2 hours

Format of webinar

  • Online via Zoom
  • Receive parenting resources* with age-appropriate activities and practical tips 
  • BONUS: Live small group coaching facilitated by parent coaches
  • PLUS: Post webinar 1-on-1 coaching session for webinar attendees at a special rate of $20 (U.P. $120/hr)

*Upon completion of webinar and feedback

Webinar Trainer: Chong Ee Jay 

Ee Jay is a dynamic family life educator and trained counsellor who currently serves as the Lead of Relations at Focus on the Family Singapore. He regularly appears in both English and Chinese media as a family expert. 

Have more questions?
Reach out to find out how you can bring this programme to your workplace or community!

Register Now

Frequently Asked Questions

Have questions? We’re here to help.

The content covered in this webinar are specifically catered to parents with children between the ages of 4 to 12 years old.

Through group coaching, participants are able to gather insights from other parents with children in the similar age group. 

Your spouse may attend the webinar together using the email registered for the webinar.

A recording of the webinar will be made available to all registered participants after the session. 

For group bookings, kindly email Keely.Ng@family.org.sg​ for more information. 

The groupings are assigned based on participant's whose children belong to the similar age group.

 

If you have 2 or more children, your grouping will be assigned according to your oldest child.

We encourage you to make all necessary arrangements to ensure that time is set aside for the webinar.

 

There will be no refunds* for cancellations or no-shows.

 

Requests for transfer of registration will be accepted via email to email Chelsea.Cheng@family.org.sg until 23 February 2024.

 

*The Organiser reserves the rights to cancel or reschedule the event due to unforeseen circumstances. Every effort, however, will be made to inform participants as soon as possible of the change. In the event of cancellation by the Organiser, fees will be refunded in full.

How Play can Improve Your Parenting

The Cambridge Dictionary says, “When you play, especially as a child, you spend time doing an enjoyable and/or entertaining activity.”

In recent times, the concept of play has been further incorporated into classrooms and at home. It is no longer a stand-alone activity that children do, but is also a means to help them learn and connect. There is just something about play that helps children see learning and relationships in a different way.

Children connect with their parents at a deeper level through play.

There are many benefits that play can bring, especially to young children whose minds are developing rapidly:

1. Play strengthens relationships

Play creates special opportunities for bonding between children and their parents. Children connect with their parents at a deeper level through play because this is when they see their parents coming into their world 

Such interactions create positive experiences that stimulate their brain. When we spend time playing regularly with our children, we will likely find that we are able to understand our children’s personality and thinking better. 

2. Play promotes impulse control and emotional regulation

Children who engage in pretend or imaginative play with their parents are better at self-regulation and emotional regulation. Play provides opportunities for children to learn essential skills such as turn-taking, resisting temptation to grab objects from others and persisting through difficult activities. It also helps children express and manage their negative emotions better.  

These are important skills for school readiness and their psychosocial development. Moreover, when children are more adept at self-regulation, it makes parenting less challenging! 

The early years of parenting are often physically demanding and emotionally draining, making it more challenging for us to regularly engage our children in play.

3. Play improves communication and language

Children acquire language best through play, especially pretend play. They pick up and practise new words, learn to reciprocate each other’s actions and words and understand how communication works. Children who are regularly engaged in play have stronger communication skills as they grow, and can read and write better. 

In the early years, the communication muscle grows in children as they seek to express their needs and wants. The better they are at communicating, the more we can understand them and guide their thinking. 

While the benefits of play are apparent, engaging children in play is not as easy. The early years of parenting are often physically demanding and emotionally draining, making it more challenging for us to regularly engage them in play that requires emotional and mental involvement.  

One possible way is to agree on a timeframe where we will give full attention to our children, and then leave them to play on their own after that. This gives children the assurance that their Dad and Mum still love to play with them, but also teaches them that their parents need a break as well. 

Here are some quick and fun activities that we can engage our children with, even after a long day.

Vertical Bowling

(Image: New Horizon Academy)

Stack paper or plastic cups into the shape of a pyramid on the floor, and using any ball you can find, roll it towards the stack of cups. The aim is to knock off as many cups as possible. Children are fascinated by how the ball can knock down this tall tower of cups and will strive to conquer them all. This is a low-prep game that brings about lots of excitement and fun in the home.

Story-Acting

Choose a storybook that has a storyline and characters where children can pretend to be immersed in. As parents narrate the story, children can pretend to be these characters and act out the story. Stories come alive when children get to act them out, and they also get to practise their language skills when they recite their lines.

Furthermore, parents can reinvent the stories according to their own imagination. This will encourage children to activate their creativity and continue the story in their own words.

Popular titles you can try:

  • The Three Little Pigs
  • Little Red Riding Hood
  • We’re Going On A Bear Hunt

Paper Plane Race

Get ready some templates for plane-folding so that everyone can choose the design that they think will be the fastest. Grab some paper and start folding, and once everyone is ready, fly your planes.

You may increase the difficulty of this game by adding targets that are placed on the floor or hung up. These will be challenging not just for kids, but adults too. It will definitely be a fun one that will crack everyone up.

Board Games Night

I love board games! It requires no preparation and teaches many skills. Parents are freed from ‘executing’ because everyone must follow the rules that are already set. Parents can fully enjoy the game as much as the children do. Making this a family routine will add to your family’s core memory as the kids grow.

Hot Potato

Form a circle, play a fast song and pass a ball around as quickly as you can. The objective of the game is to not be the one holding the ball when the song stops. As amusing as it sounds, children love to be the one holding the ball when the song stops; it just makes them feel extra special. Perhaps everyone else could then think of a silly forfeit to make it even more fun.

Play is beneficial for our children’s growth, but more importantly is something that they enjoy doing. As parents, we love seeing our children being in their element and showing pure joy on their faces as they play. It may be tiring and sometimes frustrating to still have to engage them after a long day, but play as an investment is never in vain.

Our efforts to engage them in play today will pay off when they are able to build a deep connection with us, communicate with us and grow in their self-regulation. Let’s keep playing with our children!

Father’s Day Campaign

Stay tuned for Father’s Day Campaign 2024!

Additionally, a free mini activity book, What a Wonder! is also available for parents to deepen connections with their child (recommended for 5-9 year olds). It includes:
1.
Identifying old school technology gadgets and learning fun facts about them
2.
Conversation Starters for parent-child to engage in meaningful conversations
3.
Stickers for interactive learning

Secure your free resource!

ParentEd is a parent education initiative from Focus on the Family Singapore.

Mother’s Day Campaign

Stay tuned for Mother’s Day Campaign 2024!

Campaign Objectives:

Check back again for more details

Secure your free resource!

ParentEd is a parent education initiative from Focus on the Family Singapore.

What Is Sexual Grooming?

Preschool (4-6 years), Primary (7-9 years), Tween (10-12 years) 

Sexual grooming can happen to both boys and girls, online or offline. Most perpetuators are known to the victims, so children might be reluctant to “tell on” someone they are familiar with, especially if it is a person they like or respect.  

This is why it is important to teach them that not everyone they meet or know is a safe person, and it is best to always come to mum or dad whenever they feel confused or have questions. 

We also need to teach them that the covered areas of their bodies are private and should not be shared with anyone, even in the form of a photo or video. Teach them that they have the power to speak up when they feel uncomfortable with any form of physical/virtual contact.    

Statistics on sexual abuse show that shock and surprise often keep victims quiet. To avoid this, role-play possible scenarios, for example, “Let’s say someone chats with you while playing a game, and he asks you to send him a picture of yourself naked, what do you do?”  

You can also equip them with easy-to-remember handles to use, for example using SWAT as a mnemonic device: 

1. Shut Down 

2. Walk Away  

3. Talk to A Safe Adult 

Groomers often use social media, gaming platforms, and other online chat rooms to target young people. Sexual grooming can begin in very subtle ways or disguised as a game. The perpetuator might ask the victim to keep what happened as a secret, because it is part of the game or even use threats to scare the child.  

Groomers may start by simply talking to the child, but they will quickly try to build a closer relationship. They may offer compliments, gifts, or other favours. They may also listen to the child’s problems and offer support. 

To pre-empt this, talk to your child about these common tactics and teach them to raise the red flag if they notice any of these things. On your part, be on the lookout for anyone who is giving special attention to your child.   
 
It is important that you and your child build an open and trusting relationship, grounded in your unconditional love and in your ability to handle whatever is shared with you, for example, by not panicking or becoming upset with them.  

Reinforce that they have done the right thing whenever they come to you with questions or doubts. Your child needs the assurance that you will not fault them or dismiss what they share, but that they can depend on you to support them emotionally and help resolve the situation.   

Teen (13-15 years), Late teens (16-18 years) 

Continue to make yourself a safe place for your children to come to even as they grow into the teenage years 

Even older teens can go into a state of shock when sexual abuse happens. They may passively go along with what’s going on because they do not know what to do, or because of the internal confusion they’re facing. 

If you suspect your teen is going through something because they are suddenly withdrawn, depressed, or fearful of certain places or people, reach out to find out how your child is doing. Let your teen share at their own pace. It may take more than one conversation to get the full story.  

At this stage, some teens may have started romantic relationships, so it is a good time to talk about boundaries within relationships and respectful and consensual physical touch.   
 
Help your teen see that sexual abuse is any unwanted sexual touch or sharing of explicit/naked photographs. Possessing and/or distributing sexual images is considered a crime in Singapore.   

Any sexual activity that happens when one party is unable to give consent—for example, being incapacitated, asleep or drunk—is also sexual abuse.  

Talk about various grooming methods like buying things and paying for your teen over a period of time so that eventually, your teen feels like he or she “owes” the person and has to repay them.  

Coercion can take many forms. It can range from “If you do not do this, I will…” statements to “But everyone is doing this”, or “I really like it if you do this. Can you do it for me?”  

Empower your children to develop and believe in the power of their own voice. Emphasise that they can say “Stop” or “No” at any time and that it is okay to realise they have gone too far or made a mistake and still demand the person to step.  

Help them avoid the trap of thinking that they are in the wrong for being in a situation and thus, have no right to stop. “You can always stop” can be a very powerful belief to instil in them.  

Do approach these conversations holistically, for instance, as you explain upskirt photos and why they are wrong, teach your daughters to be observant when wearing skirts, and your sons to avert their eyes when noticing something inappropriate.  

Part of our children’s growth into adulthood also include experiencing sexual desires. Acknowledge that this is a normal and healthy part of growing up!  
 
Sexual grooming/abuse is a huge topic and one we hope our children will never experience. To safeguard our children, regularly have sex education talks at home and remember to be a calm and loving presence in their lives.   

Conversations About Sex Need Not Be So Tough

Research shows that when parents engage their children in topics on sexuality, their children grow to make wiser choices in relationships and sex. To help you overcome your fears in broaching the topic, we have designed a Talk About Sex video series specially for parent and child (aged 7-12) to enjoy, engage with and learn together!

Should I Allow My Child To Play With An Opposite Gendered Toy?

Early Years (0-3 Years)

At this tender age, children and infants are in the exciting stage of exploring the world around them. At this stage, we should prioritise meeting their developmental needs and providing age-appropriate toys, rather than worrying whether the toys are blue or pink.

Babies are typically engaged in sensory exploration, fine motor skill development, and initial social interactions. Consequently, soft and cuddly toys can offer comfort and sensory stimulation, while colourful and high-contrast toys can provide visual stimulation.

Research has demonstrated that toddlers often find joy in toys designed for their gender. However, it’s acceptable if they choose to play with toys typically associated with the opposite gender as they can pick up different skills as well.

Preschool years (4-6 Years), Primary years (7-9 Years)

While there is nothing wrong with a young boy choosing to play with dolls or a girl loving toy cars, decades of research on children’s toy preferences show large and reliable preferences for toys related to their own gender.

Most girls might choose toys that feature appealing aesthetics or nurturing traits, while boys prefer toys with movement and excitement.

Further, one study showed that children as young as 9 months old prefer to play with toys specific to their own gender. This indicates that sex differences in toy preference appear early in development. Thus, it is likely that both biology and environment matter in shaping play choices.

Gender role modelling

Another point worth noting is that children primarily learn about gender roles through the observation of significant adults in their lives. This is where the influence of a mother and a father becomes paramount.

In learning about masculinity, a boy looks to his father and how he conducts himself at home and with others. Positive behaviours, such as learning to express emotions in productive ways and treating others with respect, are learnt through modelling.

The young child would also be observing how his father treats his mother, and where loving and respectful behaviours are the norm, he would naturally develop a sense of high regard for women.

Thus, while a boy playing with dolls can be said to be learning the behavioural trait of nurturing, how significant adults in his life behave and interact may carry more weight.

In child’s play, it is also critical to acknowledge and respect a child’s interests and to allow them to explore different kinds of play and toys.

Letting them take the lead in this regard is more useful than steering them towards certain choices based on one’s own ideology and worldview, or what is deemed progressive in society.

So, let’s give our children autonomy to make choices that resonate with their interests and unique personalities, while also making the effort to ensure home is a safe and nurturing place.

These are all essential steps to helping our kids develop a healthy sense of identity and regard for themselves and the opposite sex.

 

Written by Nicole Hong, a Sociology and Psychology Undergraduate

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