AS parents, we are expected to be able to talk to our children on various subjects. Some are easy, but there are a few topics which may make you feel awkward and uncomfortable to the point you end up avoiding the topic all together. Sex is one of them.

Recently, I was invited to listen to an unveiling of a sexual and reproductive health education (SRH) survey conducted by a reputable organisation.

The findings of the Malaysian Youth SRH Survey 2016 were quite shocking. It reflected a rather low level of awareness Malaysian youth have when it comes to sexual health.

For example, it was recently reported by the Ministry of Women, Family and Community Development that an average of 100 babies are dumped each year in the country with more than half found dead (The Star, 2016).

The Ministry of Health also reported that there was a total of 18,847 cases of reported teenage pregnancies in the country (NST Online, 2016).

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

Countless other accounts of baby dumping and teenage pregnancies go unreported each year. Many, if not most, of these cases can be traced back to a lack of understanding of sexual and reproductive health. With the ease of access to information thanks to the Internet, it is surprising that the survey revealed such low levels of awareness.

To me, the results highlight the importance of SRH education and the crucial role that we, as parents play in educating our children. First, there are a few popular myths that we need to bust. Contrary to popular belief, SRH education does not encourage teens to have sex.

Rather, it shapes a healthy understanding and attitude towards their bodies, their confidence and the act of sex itself that it is carried out between a husband and wife who love each other.

Secondly, a holistic understanding of SRH also helps teens and young Malaysians to make more informed decisions that can ultimately keep them safe. SRH education also helps the individual develop healthy attitudes towards the opposite sex, cultivating respect for the opposite gender.

This is especially true for boys because another misconception is that only girls should be educated on sexual matters.

Yes, girls are often the target of sexual misconduct but it won’t happen if boys play their roles well. I have always advocated that boys too should be taught how to respect women and be held responsible for their own sexual conduct.

Parents should, therefore, take the lead in educating their children, particularly because SRH plays such big part in ensuring the safety, health and happiness of an individual.

Perhaps it’s time you mull over the dreaded “talk” before it’s too late.

Zaid Mohamad coaches and trains parents to experience happier homes and more productive workplaces. Reach him at zaid@smartparents.

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