How to Avoid Sibling Rivalry

“It’s not fair!” exclaimed the 17-year-old boy, “My mother is always siding with my brother.” 

Alex* was almost in tears when he broke down in the counselling room. He had been meeting me on a regular basis to discuss various issues related to his identity and sense of self-worth. 

With pain in his eyes and a quivering voice, he described all the instances when he felt that he was treated unfairly by his mother. This included extra Japanese classes, an overseas exchange programme in Japan, and even money to buy a new car – for his brother, Joseph*. 

“I just don’t understand why she can give him anything that he wants. But when I ask her for anything, her answer would always be ‘no.’ It’s so frustrating.” 

Alex shared that the rivalry with his brother had gone back as far as he could remember, and this has affected his perspective of himself. He had always felt inferior to Joseph, who seemed to do much better in everything that he did. 

Alex’s story is a good example of how intense sibling rivalry can be; especially if there is perceived injustice. 

From sibling rivalry to sibling love 

But not all siblings engage in such competitive behaviour. Amanda Ng is one such individual. She recently won the Singapore Patient Caregiver Award, which honours persons who have demonstrated strength, resilience and unwavering dedication in caring for another person who requires support. Amanda’s sister, Amelia, suffers from a rare genetic disorder which requires her to rely on a ventilator to breathe. 

Speaking to Focus on the Family Singapore, Amanda shared that she and Amelia were very close growing up, and often played together. However, as Amelia started losing her abilities, Amanda’s mum made an effort for her to play a part in her sister’s care. This helped her realise that despite relying on a tube, Amelia was her own person and that she had her own abilities too.  

“It hasn’t been the easiest. We have watched Amelia gradually lose every one of her abilities. From the ability to call me “Jie-jie” (which means Chinese for sister) to now not even being able to breathe on her own.” 

When asked if there is any sibling rivalry with Amelia, especially since her sister seems to get so much more attention from her parents, Amanda said the closest to this was when she asked her mum if she could have another sibling who was more “normal.”  

In spite of her sister’s disabilities, Amanda truly loves her sister, and the siblings remain close. She shared, “Amelia has a heart of gold. She would wait for me to come home every night from school and hear all about my day.”  

The story of Amanda and Amelia is one where sibling love triumphs over self-centredness.  

But how can everyday parents avoid sibling rivalry? What can they do to help their children feel loved and secure? 

Our children need to know that they are loved beyond the shadow of a doubt. 

Parenting principles to encourage sibling love 

I have two boys, aged 10 and 12, and have experienced times when both boys jostle for the attention of my wife and myself.  

Yet there are other moments which depict the true nature of their relationship – one where they love and support each other in moments both good and bad. During the process, I have learnt three parenting principles to help my children steer away from sibling rivalry and towards sibling love. 

  1. Give your undivided love and attention to each child

    Our children need to know that they are loved beyond the shadow of a doubt. For them to experience this, we need to provide them with our undivided love and attention. This can be when they come back from school or during an outing, when they’re brimming with excitement over something that they had experienced that day, or after watching a movie, talking excitedly about the movie characters and various happenings during the show. 

    For instance, my younger son loves sailing, and I often spend the car ride home talking about the things he learnt while at sea. 

    As for my older son, there are times when he would share excitedly about his latest Nintendo Switch game. During such times, I try to listen attentively to him as he describes all the various characters in the game. I know they appreciate that their Daddy ascribes importance to the things that they love. 

  2. Celebrate your children’s strengths, empathise with their weaknesses 

    We need to know what our children are good at, and continually affirm them in these areas. Likewise, it is important to be aware of what is challenging for them and be extra gentle with them when they fall short. 

    For instance, my older son is particularly kind and attentive to the needs of others, and I often affirm him when he makes other people comfortable just by expressing concern for them. 

    As for my younger son, he is good with his hands, often using his tool kit to do repairs around the house. I often praise him when he manages to fix or restore something. 

    There is a misconception that parents need to love each child in exactly the same way. 

  3. Love your children differently; not equally

    There is a misconception that parents need to love each child in exactly the same way. This is due to the notion that when you treat them equally, they would also feel equally loved. 

    But it is far more important to love your children unconditionally, which means that we understand their needs and acknowledge that each child is different. And we then love them in a way that they would understand. 

    For example, I know my older son’s favourite dish is sambal kangkong, and I would specially cook the dish for him during our meals. 

    As for my younger son, he loves hotdogs and French fries, so I would sometimes stop by the snack stall to buy a couple of sausages for him on the way home.  

When our children know that we love them regardless of what they do, they will develop healthily as
secure individuals, and sibling rivalry and comparisons will also tend to affect them less. 

*All names and identifying features have been changed to protect the anonymity of the persons involved. 

What to Do When the Little One Says ‘No!’

It was a typical weekday morning where I was fetching my son home from school. On the way back, I noticed he looked glum and pensive, but thought it was due to tiredness.  

Upon arriving home, I told him to remove his shoes, wash his hands and get ready for lunch. Instead of complying, he began to sob. “I don’t want to eat lunch!” The sobbing soon turned into a full-blown meltdown. 

Many parents would be familiar with this. Few of us – myself included – wish to be caught in such situations as they drain us and interrupt our busy schedules.  

However, it is common for young children to display such behaviour as they are still learning how to deal with the big emotions that come with unmet needs or unexpected experiences.  

Here are some strategies that enabled me to regain control of the situation and calm my son: 

1. Listen with empathy   

I brought my son to his room and gave him some time to recover so that I could hear him out. Once he was calm enough, he shared that some of his classmates were mean to him in the morning.  

By listening to him share his thoughts, my son felt heard and understood. This made him more open to what I had to say, while also helping me understand what triggered his emotions. 

I also did my best to reflect his feelings – that he probably felt angry and hurt by his friends. This taught him to identify the emotions he had been experiencing all morning.  

Over time, and with practice, he has gradually gotten better at understanding his feelings and expressing himself.  

Colouring, jumping on the spot, holding a favourite pillow, squeezing a soft toy or cuddles are examples of healthy outlets that could help soothe our children. 

2. Do a calming activity  

Next, I got him to do some deep breathing to calm down further. This involved a few repetitions of simply breathing in, holding his breath for five seconds, and breathing out.  

At other times, I would ask him to pretend my finger was a birthday candle and blow on it. The harder he blew, the more I would wriggle it. This proved very effective as it was fun, helped take his mind away from what triggered him, and also calmed him by making him take deep breaths.  

Every child is different, and it is important to do what works for your child. Colouring, jumping on the spot, holding a favourite pillow, squeezing a soft toy or cuddles with mummy or daddy are other examples of healthy outlets that could help soothe our children.  

3. Offer appropriate concessions  

Although he had calmed down, he was still resistant towards eating and insisted on having a different meal for lunch. 

On occasions where I felt my son was already quite stretched from the day’s activities, I would nudge him along by offering appropriate concessions to motivate him. That day, I offered to carry him to the table to help him get started on lunch.  

Other options that have worked for us include offering snacks (e.g. healthy sugar-free gummies), giving him some play time before his nap, or a short amount of screen time if he was able to complete the task at hand.  

Adding play in our interactions with our children keeps them engaged and helps them to get on board with daily routines. 

4. Press play often   

When he was at the dining table, he still refused to eat his lunch! While this was frustrating, I reminded myself that it was normal for a three-year-old to behave this way. Having had a long day at school and coming home on an empty stomach, he would naturally be more disagreeable.  

To get him interested in eating, I added some fun by pretending the spoon was a spaceship, and by getting him to open his mouth like his favourite dinosaur.  

Adding a healthy dose of play to our otherwise mundane interactions with our children keeps them engaged and helps them to get on board with their daily routines. 

Celebrating little wins of the day helps parents to go the distance. 

The importance of self-care and healthy expectations 

Young children often “act out” when their needs are unmet, such as when they are overtired, hungry, or overwhelmed by difficult situations.  

But it can be challenging to extend grace to our children by seeking to understand their needs. After all, in the heat of the moment, how many of us can maintain an air of patience and calm? 

Here’s where it is important for us to practise self-care to ensure our own love tanks are filled. When we are well rested, we are in a better position to co-regulate our children’s big emotions and help address their needs.  

Let’s also be clear, no one is perfect. While we can take incremental steps to improve our parentcraft, we will inevitably fall short on some days.  

I’ve discovered that celebrating the little wins of the day helps my wife and I go the distance – such as rejoicing when one child reaches a growth milestone, discovering new things about them, or even unwinding after they are safely tucked into bed.  

As you practise these tools for self-care and managing toddler meltdowns, I hope you will grow in your parentcraft and learn to find joy – even amidst the hair-raising moments. 

As a Dad, How Can I Support My Son Through Puberty?

Talking to your son about puberty and the various changes that come with it can be challenging. Embarrassment, awkwardness, fear, or even feelings of inadequacy may make you dread having to broach the subject with your son. Whatever your struggle may be, know that you’re not alone.  

However, research has shown that it is important to educate our children on puberty in a thorough and timely manner because it allows them to make well-informed decisions regarding their sexuality and prevent problems that result from inadequate and late sexuality education. As a father, you’re in the best position to affirm your son and build his confidence during this confusing transition from boyhood to manhood. 

Primary Years (7-9 years) 

Preparing for puberty 

Puberty for boys typically starts around 12 years old, but it is also not uncommon for some boys to start puberty as early as 10 years old.  

Starting the conversations about puberty early can help your son feel more prepared for it as he will be able to anticipate the changes instead of being caught by surprise and feeling uncomfortable or even scared by them. Reassure him that every boy goes through puberty at different times so even if he starts puberty early or late, he does not need to worry.  

If your son has an older sister, this is also a good age to talk to your son about the changes that girls go through if he starts to notice these changes and is showing curiosity about them. Emphasise that girls’ and boys’ bodies are different, and we should be respectful and sensitive towards the opposite sex.  

Changes to expect at puberty 

Approaching the topic by presenting accurate information in a calm and confident manner is one way to reduce your son’s fear of the unknown. Let him know that puberty is a normal process into manhood, and that the changes while sometimes awkward and embarrassing, are preparing him to start his own family one day. 

The physical changes you may want to cover during this time can include growth in height, weight, muscle mass, genitals (scrotum and testicles, and then his penis growing larger); hair growth (on his face, armpits, and pubic areas); and a deepening of his voice. 

Use this time to teach him to take care of his personal hygiene – how to use face wash, pimple cream, and deodorant as well as how to shave.   

Your son may feel self-conscious about his body and may compare himself with his friends (maybe in terms of body image or genital size). Reassure him that everyone is different and that there is no one right way to look or behave as a young man. Emphasise values that are desirable traits as well, such as kindness, integrity, and respect for others. 

You may also want to use this time to teach him how to eat healthily as his appetite grows as well as proper exercise regimes.  

Tween Years (10-12 years) 

Talk to your son about the occurrence of things like erections and wet dreams, reassuring him that it is perfectly normal if they happen and perfectly normal if they don’t. This will ensure he doesn’t get caught off guard.  

It is also helpful if you could share personal tips on how to handle potentially awkward situations, such as getting an erection in the middle of class. Explain that sometimes it happens when the bladder is full, or when he feels emotionally moved or stimulated. Such incidents need not be sexual in nature. 

It’s important to note that one conversation is just the beginning – there needs to be multiple conversations with plenty of opportunities for him to ask questions throughout your son’s journey with puberty. Reassure him that you are available and willing to discuss all the questions he may have about puberty, his body, girls and sex.  

This is also a good age to talk to your son about masturbation and pornography, which tend to come together. The likelihood of your son being exposed to pornography is high, so it is important to educate him on how it can be harmful to him. Share with your son your family’s values about marriage, sex, and respect, and how masturbation does not align with those values.  

Teen Years (13-15 years)

You may want to cover some of the mental and emotional changes he may go through at this age, like a changing attitude towards girls as well as thoughts about sex and sexuality.  

At this age, your son may have friends who have started dating, or he himself may be considering dating. Take this time to share with your son some qualities that show when a couple is ready to start dating – i.e. the values of kindness, respect and responsibility that you’ve been emphasising and modelling over your son’s growing up years.  

This is also a good time to talk to your son about your family’s stand on dating and the appropriate boundaries that should be drawn when going on dates, as well as healthy physical and emotional boundaries between friends, especially those of the opposite sex.  

Emphasise that these boundaries are not to make him feel restricted in his friendships but to ensure that everyone is respected and protected so that his friendships can grow in a healthy way.  

Talking about puberty is the beginning of your journey discussing sexuality with your son. Remember, if you aren’t the one providing your son with accurate information about his budding sexuality, social media, the internet, and his friends will fill that void.  

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!

How Can Mums Support Girls Through Puberty?

Primary Years (7-9 Years)

Preparing for puberty 

Puberty for girls typically starts around 11 or 12 years old. It is, however, not uncommon for girls to start puberty earlier at 9 or 10 years old.  

Start the talk about puberty early to prepare her for the upcoming changes. This will allow her to anticipate the changes ahead instead of being caught by surprise when she gets her first period.  

Providing information in a factual and natural manner through on-going talks can ease her anxiety about puberty and accept that it is a natural (and healthy!) stage of development. You can talk about how her body will change as she grows from a girl into a young lady. Allow her to ask questions and clarify concerns she may have heard from others.  

Your daughter may worry about whether menstruation will be troublesome, uncomfortable, and painful. You could help reframe her thoughts about this so she feels more positively about such changes. Share about the wonders of how her body is developing and preparing her for womanhood, opening up the possibility of motherhood in the future. Keep an encouraging tone as your attitude will influence how comfortable she is about her body.  

A practical way to get your daughter ready for puberty is shopping for training bras and period underwear. The appearance of breast buds is the first sign before the start of menstruation. She may feel shy or awkward at first but explain that this is a rite of passage and that it is completely normal to feel these emotions.  

Tween Years (10-12 Years) 

Changes to expect at puberty 

At puberty, girls will develop breasts, grow hair under their arms and on their legs, shoot up in height and experience their first period. Other physical changes that may be noticeable at puberty are oily skin, pimples on the face, wider hips and body odour.  

Before your child experiences her first period, be sure she has a supply of sanitary pads or tampons at hand. Talk to her about how to use them, how often to change them and to pack them in her bag so she is prepared.  

Avoid scaring her about cramps or mood swings and teach her there is nothing to be embarrassed about periods. Teach her to take care of her personal hygiene that includes using a face wash, pimple cream, and deodorant.  

Managing emotional changes   

During puberty, another noticeable change in girls is mood swings. Your daughter may find it very confusing and irrational to swing from being happy one moment, then sad the next.  

Be patient with her and assure her that it is due in part to her brain development at puberty. As a teen’s prefrontal cortex is still developing, your daughter will rely more on her amygdala, a part of the brain associated with emotions and impulses.  

You can remind your daughter that while she may experience moodiness, it is not an excuse to be rude or unkind in her words and behaviour. Teach her to build her self-awareness and take charge of her feelings with practical tips like breathing exercises, listening to music, taking a shower, or going for a walk. Bear in mind the tween stage is also when environmental stress starts to build up with greater academic pressure on the school front. Assure her that you are there for her to give support without any judgement.  

Teen Years (13-15 years) 

Different teens may experience puberty earlier or later. If your daughter has not started puberty, put her mind at ease by reminding her that everyone is unique.  

This is a fitting time to start talking to your daughter about identity, self-esteem and self-worth as teenage girls may become more conscious of their appearance and weight. This could be exacerbated if she is already exposed to social media messages that glamourise beauty and popularity.  

For mothers, building a healthy body image for our teens may start with accepting and embracing our own body. Often, children catch what we say rather than what we teach. Let your daughter hear you compliment other women for their virtues instead of appearance. Point out her character strengths that are beyond skin deep and that may go unnoticed. These messages will remind her that self-confidence comes from within and she is so much more than how she looks.  

In the teenage phase, your child may start to have feelings of attraction for the opposite sex. Have talks with her on how to develop healthy friendships and how to set appropriate boundaries. Keep these talks light-hearted and give her opportunities to share her views.  

With your loving guidance and support, puberty will no longer be a scary or confusing time for your teen! 

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!

How Far Is Too Far?

Tween Years (10-12)

Every child is different, so while some children at this age might find physical intimacy between male and female disgusting, others may be drawn to it. Talk to your child about physical intimacy in the context of a loving relationship – how a man and a woman express romantic love by physical closeness and contact. The deeper the relationship, the greater such physical contact is. Whether your children are used to seeing you and your spouse showing physical affections in front of them or not, openly share that couples do kiss, cuddle and enjoy great physical intimacy as part of the relationship between husband and wife. If you find that your child enjoys physical affection and likes expressing their affection physically, give them lots of that too so that they do not need to seek it elsewhere.   

The tween years are when they can start to develop crushes on friends of the opposite sex, or on celebrities. With the latter, they can get exposed to “less kiddy” lifestyles through shows and media featuring their idols.  

As far as possible, be aware of shows and videos your child is watching, so that you can use them as conversation topics. You may want to stress that screen life is not real life so they do not subconsciously adopt behaviours or mindsets contrary to your family’s values. This also help them grow in awareness about media influence since they may sub-consciously mimic trends, attitudes and even behaviours towards boy-girl relationships. 

You can pick up teaching moments when you watch shows together; for example, when characters fall in love through a prolonged gaze on screen, ask your child if they think that’s how people fall in love in real life. Teach them about physical boundaries in any relationship, even for a romantic one, and walk through with them on what to do when they encounter unwanted physical contact.

Teen & Late Teen Years (13-19) 

Your teen is likely to already have peers who are in romantic relationships. Being liked is a big deal at this age as they explore and define their identities. So help them build their self-image and worth on their values and character, not on appearances and what they have or have not, i.e. a boyfriend, the newest gadget, or a certain weight.  

In their early teen years, start the conversation on when they can have a boyfriend or girlfriend. As they grow, you can expand the topic to what they think is appropriate physical boundaries for a couple. When mapping these boundaries, you probably want to list behaviours like kissing on the cheek, kissing on lips, French kissing, touching above clothes, under clothes, mutual sex play and sexual intercourse. The key to note is that sexual feeling increases with physical intimacy and when couples start to make out, it can be very hard to stop. Research shows that sexual arousal turns off certain parts of the brain that controls reasoning and self-control. Things can easily go out of control and you might find yourself in a position which you do not want to be in.  

Some questions to ask are: 

  • Is sleeping together on the same bed with your boyfriend/girlfriend okay? 
  • Will it set you up to be in a situation you rather not be in? 
  • What do you think of sexting, or being asked to send a nude? 
  • What if you feel like going further beyond your personal boundaries or your partner starts touching you somewhere you rather they don’t? What do you do? 

Go through probable situations so they know what to do if and when they do happen.  

You – and your teen – may cringe at the thought of mentioning these details but talking about it also helps them think through what sex entails, especially when their image of it may be built on just what is depicted on media.  

Sexual intimacy happens not just on a physical level – there are emotional (your feelings), ethical (values and consequences), social (the way you relate to others) and intellectual (evaluation and making of choices) aspects as well. Oxytocin is released during arousal, therefore there is also an automatic attachment and bonding. This means that even if sex is supposed to be “no strings attached” on an emotional level, attachment happens anyway biologically. Talk deeper with them about the consequences of sex before marriage.  

Sexual activities can have long-term implications. Research actually shows that teenage sexual activity is linked to a higher percentage of depression, loss of self-worth and even suicide attempts. Those who refrained from pre-marital sex also reported higher marital satisfaction. You can frame the conversation from the angle of short-term and long-term pros and cons and consequences based on the choices they make.   

At all times, avoid fear or shame in the conversations but do be honest and real. If you suspect, or are told by your child that they may have gone too far, continue to be calm and process the situation with them. Assure them of your love and ask them how they feel and think about the situation and how they would like you to support them. Continue to be a safe space for them and help them build a healthy understanding of sexuality and to know how to make wise decisions for their long-term welfare.  

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 Are Values and How Do They Affect Me?

Tween Years (10-12 Years)

Values are belief systems held by a person or even by a family or even corporately by larger groups like a school, company or culture. In fact, in your school hall, you may even see your school’s values on the walls, encompassing traits like “honesty”, “kindness” and so on. 
Ethics is another word that you may hear when talking about values. Both refer to the belief system we have internally that affects what we do externally.  
Generally, we tend to adopt the value systems of our family of origin. However, our personal beliefs can also be shaped by values held by our peers, or the community we are a part of.  
As you grow older and the sources of influence in your life expands, you may also find your values challenged when you meet people with opposing values. If these people are important to you, feelings of confusion or tension may arise. It may also be tempting to adopt their values. 
But why are values so important?

Teen Years (13-15 Years) 

Think of the smartphone or laptop you are using right now to read this article.  
Beneath the surface of your device, there’s a complex system of microchips, wires, batteries and motherboard designed to power your device and make it work.  
No one sees them but they are there.  
Without them, even if you have the laptop casing or phone casing, it won’t work.  
Values are like that internal system of intricate wiring and hardwire. They determine your perspectives, attitude, and behaviour on the outside.  
They may be unseen but they set the course for your life, aiding you in all the big and small decisions, from simple ones like dressing to complex ones like sexual expression.  
They can guide what you choose to view or do on your devices. They also likely influence your choice of friends and even romantic partners in the future  
Besides being that internal engine, values are also like anchors.  
They keep you rooted to something when you experience new places, new things and even the storms of life.  
Without strong values and committed beliefs, your life may begin to look like a ship that is adrift, easily swayed by external factors or others who have strong opinions. Without values, your emotions can also become an unpredictable leader.

Late Teens (16-19 Years)

What do you believe is right or wrong? What do you do if the values of others clash with your own? What if your boyfriend or girlfriend has different values regarding sex and sexuality?  
These are hard questions for everyone. But remember, your values act like landmarks and signposts to help you navigate life’s ups and downs.  
Managing strong feelings can be hard. However, it is not impossible and very often, working through challenges and struggles can help you strengthen your values and your character.   
Your values will also help you set healthy boundaries around you so you make choices to be open to some people and closed to others.  
They will also help you decide which friends you want to keep close and which to let go.  
If you are not sure what your own values are, why not take time to think about it and write down a few? 
You can start by thinking about what you value and why. Then expand that to how that value can be expressed and even its boundaries, e.g., Integrity, expressed in my words and actions. I would not like my close friends and family to lie to me. A simple way of charting this out is to draw a simple table with three columns and put as headers for each column – Value, Expression, Boundaries. 
Over time, you may find yourself returning to these “value statements” to keep adding on or refining their expression and boundaries

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 Follow My Feelings?

Tween Years (10-12)

Ever seen a toddler smack another because they were upset? Or snatch a toy because they also wanted it? How did the adults around them respond? We would explain that the behaviour was wrong and teach them not to take action simply based on their feeling a certain way.  
As you enter your teen years, you too may find yourself experiencing strong emotions. These may sometimes include unfamiliar emotions like romantic crushes  
Following these feelings may be like behaving like a toddler who lashes out on impulse.  
Maturity then comes when you learn how not to be controlled by your feelings. Think of it as inserting a pause between how you feel and how you act.  
Our feelings are often indicators of something deeper going on inside. The child who snatched the toy could have been experiencing jealousy and envy. But at that age, children may not understand such complex emotions.  
Some useful questions to ask yourself when you experience strong emotions include: Why do I feel this way? What am I upset about?  
The pause you insert between your feelings and your actions can protect you from being swept away by emotions and acting in ways you may regret after.

Teen Years (13-15) 

Feelings are like signposts of our inner well-being. They help tell you if you are doing well or not quite. When you are not doing well inside, it’s unlikely you will experience positive emotions. So if we follow our feelings blindly, we may end up hurting ourselves or the people around us.  
Developing self-awareness is about learning to recognise why you feel the way you do, and acting on the cause, not just the feeling itself. 
It’s like a spider and its webs. If one day, you find your room full of cobwebs, you will clean the cobwebs but if you don’t find the spider, the cobwebs will be back.  
Acting on your feelings without first understanding the cause is like dealing with the cobwebs and not the spider.  
The cobwebs are the feelings. The spider is the actual problem or reason behind those feelings.  
Our feelings can point us to the problem and move us to seek help. But being able to identify the root causes and needs behind those feelings is a crucial step towards getting out of a rut.

Late Teens (16-19)

What you feel may be real, but is it true?  

For example, in the heat of jealousy, that toddler may have felt that the other child is preferred because he has the toy. Or the toddler may have felt unloved because he wanted the toy but didn’t have it.  

The feelings are real. But they may not be based on truth.  

So even though we value our emotions for acting as signposts to our inner world, we do have to acknowledge that feelings are poor leaders. We have to learn to lead our feelings.  

Self-regulation is a great way to do this. 

When experiencing strong emotions, practise taking a pause before you respond. A common trick many people use is to count to a certain number. This shifts your attention away from the difficult emotion, and provides a space to calm down to focus on the facts instead.  

You can also remind yourself of simple truths to “ground” you. Depending on the scenario, these could be: 

  • “I am in control.”  
  • “I am valued.”  
  • “I don’t need to mirror their response.”  
  • “I won’t take this personally.”  

If you are experiencing conflict or feeling emotionally attacked, you can imagine a shield around you or the person’s words falling to the ground before it touches you.  

These reminders can be powerful anchors in times of distress. 

Managing strong feelings can be hard. If you are experiencing consistent, difficult feelings about a person or a recurring situation, do speak to a trusted friend or family member. This person should be able to add perspective and lend strength to you.

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!

How Do I Relate to My Friend Who Identifies As LGBTQ?

Tween Years (10-12 Years)

The big question to understand first is, what is LGBTQ?  
Speak to adults you know and trust about anything you are unsure of. Seeking advice from your parent or trusted caregiver means that you know for sure this person has your best interests in heart.   

So don’t just google for answers! Remember the internet is made up of many sources of information with different opinions. Many of these are opinions, not factual information from experts. Some of them may also be biased because they want to convince you to take a certain viewpoint.  

If you sense that your friend may see you as more than a friend, it may make you feel awkward.  
A helpful tip to remember that you have a choice when it comes to dealing with unwanted crushes and affections from anyone in the same way. Regardless of the sex of the person, you should feel safe enough to voice how you feel and if need be, put distance between you and your friend.  
But just like how it would not make sense to speculate over crushes unless the other party has announced their intentions, it is unnecessary to worry about a scenario that has not materialised.  
You can remain friends and even ask questions like “What are the reasons behind your identifying as LGBTQ?” if they are comfortable talking about this.

Teen Years (13-15 Years) 

It is natural for good friends to ask questions about each other’s convictions and behaviours. After all, that’s what you do when you are trying to understand any new topics or differing opinions.  
Just because you ask someone why they think they are LGBTQ does not mean you are being bigoted or judgmental, if you are genuinely interested in understanding more about your friend.  
Discussions that enhance connection stem from a sincere desire to understand the other better, so be clear of your own intentions.  
Understanding means empathy and a sincere desire to know someone better and see their views as valuable. But it doesn’t always need to result in agreement.  
You may find it hard to express your own opinions in the face of strongly opposing views but remember, you are not trying to win a debate. Your opinion is equally valuable.  
If you feel uncomfortable with where a conversation is headed – whether in topic or tone it is also perfectly okay to say you would rather talk about something else. 

Emerging Years (16-19 Years)

Does loving someone mean accepting their beliefs even when they clash with yours? We have many friends and family whom we love, each of them with differing beliefs. If loving them means we have to adopt all of their beliefs, it can get pretty confusing.  
Loving someone does not mean you have to agree with everything they believe or do. 

What makes a good friend? Someone kind and caring? A good listener who seems to understand you? How about someone with the same hobbies so you can spend time together on shared interests?  
Would you expect your good friend to change their convictions to follow all of yours? No, that is not a usual ingredient for friendship  
In our teenage years, we often look for something bigger than ourselves as we work out our own inner convictions and how to express them externally. This is part of the identityforging process.  
What makes up our identity? There are many factors, such as our biological sex, our family of origin, upbringing, past experiences and more. While sexual orientation can also be a factor of how people view themselves, it need not be the biggest defining factor
A person is infinitely more than their sexual orientation. If we care about the people dear to us, we should see beyond their sexual orientation too 
As a friend, you may want to bring up some common teenage relationship concerns like physical boundaries, sexual consent, and sexual boundaries within relationships to help your friend think about what is acceptable for them.

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 Do I Do If My Child Identifies as LGBT?

Tween Years (10-12 Years)

The tween years is a period of remarkable growth in every way – Physically, emotionally, mentally and even socially. As your tweens hit puberty, you may find yourself surprised not just by their height but by their emotional outbursts and interest in new subject matters. This is all part of a period of intense growth and discovery, as they learn more about the world and decide what they are passionate about as individuals.  
By this age, you may have already explained where babies come from, how does a girl get pregnant and touched on boygirl relationships.   
If you have not shared your family values and beliefs on love and relationships with your tween, this is a good time to do so. One possible way is to use scenes that you may come across in the media to talk about it, so you can help them connect their internal values with external behaviour.  
It is important to remember that you have great influence over your child. So if they come to you with statements expressing their confusion over their gender identity, it’s good to stay calm and ask questions to help you understand where these thoughts are coming from.  
Explain what romantic attraction is: A desire to be physically close with someone and not just liking someone and wanting them to like you. Share with them that sometimes in growing up, we may greatly admire someone of the same gender, and that is not the same as romantic attraction. 
Help ask thinking questions – How do you want them to like you? What activities do you hope to do with this person? Is this someone you see yourself dating or marrying in future?   
Some of these questions may seem “heavy” to a tween and you don’t need to overly dwell on them but they can help your child understand the difference between a crush and serious attraction.  
We are all social beings and influenced by many sources including friendships and media consumption. If you don’t already know what your child is watching or their favourite celebrities, it may be good to find out.

Teen Years (13-15 Years) 

In their early teens, our kids are gaining further independence and part of this growth involves figuring out their own personal convictions on family values.  
Topics to have by this stage include: when they can have a boyfriend or girlfriend, physical boundaries and sexual boundaries within relationships. 
Romantic feelings open up a whole new (and at times, confusing) world for your child. Your constant love and care not conditional upon grades, behaviour or even sexuality – is a grounding influence. Keep seeking opportunities to keep the parent-child connection strong. 
Keep an open door with your teen about all topics and matters. If your child brings up questions or even announces they have an alternative sexual orientation, remember to stay loving and unfazed.  
A parent’s love is stronger than their children’s choices. Loving someone doesn’t mean accepting all their choices. A difference in opinions cannot negate love that is established on a strong foundation of trust and openness.  
Be honest in your conversations with your teen, ask thinking questions, while also making your stand clear. Reassure them on how your love for them remains unchanged.  
In sharing your own emotions, be frank but not judgmental. Use “I” statements such as, “I feel worried” instead of “you are worrying me”.  
Set boundaries for safety without fearmongering. You may also want to factually explain the repercussions of big decisions like this and ask your teen to give him or herself time to evaluate how they feel. It may be helpful to set regular check-in times but make it clear that it’s an ongoing conversation you are happy to have.

Emerging Years (16-19 Years)

As our children reach their late teens and grow into independent young adults, our role becomes more like coaches or guides. However, that doesn’t mean we take a hands-off approach. On the contrary, we become more intentional in nurturing the connection with our teens.  
Staying interested in their world, wanting to meet their romantic interests, weighing in on decision making processes and yet respecting your teen’s wishes all this can feel like a huge balancing act!  
Some topics to cover include: sexual abuse and sexual consent. 
When you and your teen disagree on a topic, it is important to be the one who reaches out in love. Try not to shut your teen down out of fear; rather, practise non-judgmental listening. The ability to toss around different ideas and explore pros and cons, while maintaining mutual respect, can help you empower your teen to make good decisions 

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!

How Do I Know If My Crush Really Likes Me?

Primary Years (7-9 Years)

Crushes are normal. But what exactly is a crush? A crush is a fleeting liking for a member of the opposite sex that goes beyond just liking him or her as a friend. You may want to see them more often, or write them little notes or give small snacks.   
Crushes at this stage usually develops quickly and fades. They tend to be short.  
In primary school, such feelings may come and go as you make new friends and your social circle expands. Since everyone comes from a different family with different cultural norms and expectations, friends may tease you when they sense you like somebody.  
You may feel embarrassed but also drawn to the idea of being someone’s boyfriend or girlfriend. That’s natural since we all want to be liked and in relationships where we feel loved.  
Besides Boy-Girl-Relationships (BGR), we need to remember that we also feel loved in other relationships, like parent-child relationships, sibling-hood and also good friendships. All these, especially familial ties, tend to be relationships that will stand the test of time and continue well into the future.  
So if you are getting teased about BGR or if you are having unfamiliar feelings about someone at school, you can always consider talking to your family about it. They do have the benefit of experience so when they give you advice, it’s based on what they have learnt and walked through themselves! 

Tween Years (10-12 Years) 

How do you know if someone really likes you? Everyone communicates feelings differently. Someone shy may avoid interaction while someone with a more outgoing personality may decide to engage in more interaction.  
Instead of trying to guess the intention behind another person’s actions, the best thing to do is to not overthink. Overthinking causes you to read into every interaction. When that happens, it’s like putting on a pair of magnifying glass as spectacles… everything you see is magnified and this may not always be good  
In a crush, the feelings normally fade away after a while as you choose not to focus on it. Another sign of whether it is a crushInfatuation usually values aspects we can observe easily from the outside, e.g., good looks or talents.  
If the other party is obviously declaring they have a special interest in you, e.g., admitting they like you, sending you gifts or letters or overt actions along this line, it’s better to try to take a step back and relate to this person as a regular friend first. Don’t build up a relationship in your head… it could be only an illusion.  
Every great relationship is built on a strong friendship so focus on being a friend. A good friend is someone we can trust, be honest with, laugh with, and who has our interests at heart. 
You can also have the talk with your parents on when you can have a boyfriend or girlfriend.

Teen Years (13-15 Years)

At this age, some of your friends may be in romantic relationships and you may feel some peer pressure to be in one. However, the best thing you can do is not to get in one just to be in one!  
Romantic relationships are special and it’s special because it’s with a great person who reciprocates. So if you are not sure if your feelings are reciprocated in the same way, it’s good not to commit to a relationship since you will have different expectations.   
When you are unsure if the other person feels the same way, it’s always good to hold on and hold off. 
Unless you want to confront them and ask them about their feelings, there is probably no way to avoid the “unknown” stage of a relationship.  
But because this stage is ambiguous, you probably don’t want to obsess over it. Choosing to take a step back helps you avoid emotionally committing yourself especially since the romantic relationship you will like to have actually does not exist yet! 

It is also a good time to assess if the feelings are based on outward traits like appearances and gifts rather than inward traits like strength of character and values.  
If a person really likes you, as long as you remain your usual friendly self, you are leaving them space to get to know you. Until they do give a clear signal, put your focus on developing yourself to grow in your full potential and confidence to be uniquely you. 
As a teenager, you would probably have seen kissing or other acts of physical affection on screen and maybe even in real life at home, in public spaces or amongst your friends.  
It’s good to remember that everyone has different expectations on physical boundaries in a romantic relationship. You can also ask yourself how your family and personal values line up with different expectations in this area and what you personally want.  

Remember that you don’t need to be in a romantic relationship to feel valued or loved. Build great friendships and enjoy your family. Think of these as gems you are gathering and one day when you are in a great romantic relationship, you can also share these gems with your significant other and both your lives will be enriched.  

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!