Channel NewsAsia

Too early to teach young children about sex

Child psychologists say "it is too early" to talk to young children aged between three and six about sex as they lack the ability to hold mental representations of concepts.

SINGAPORE: Child psychologists say "it is too early" to talk to young children aged between three and six about sex.

They say children at that age are "quite cognitively unsophisticated", lacking the ability to hold mental representations of concepts.

This comes after the Health Promotion Board (HPB) recently put up a tender for the co-development and implementation of interactive workshops to educate parents with such children on how to start talks about sex.

Sex education is a topic many would avoid but parents Channel NewsAsia spoke to say there is an appropriate age to discuss sexuality issues with a young child.

Dr Nina Powell, a post-doctoral research fellow at the Department of Psychology in National University of Singapore, believes children aged between three and six, are still in their developmental stage and not sophisticated enough to understand concepts like sex.

Dr Powell explained: "Most psychologists tend to agree that before the age of four, there's really not much going on with memory. So whatever you are telling a three-year old is not necessarily going to have an impact on their later years because of their lack of development of memory."

She added: "There is also a lack of cognitive development generally between the ages of three and six. Things are starting to happen but they are very kind of crude, and they are not necessarily sophisticated enough to understand concepts like sex or anything really. Kids from three to six are still trying to get their head around mental representations of their own emotions, other people's emotions and concepts as simple as colours, numbers, shapes."

In an email response, the HPB said it introduced the "Mum and Dad Where Do I Come From" workshop last year as part of holistic sexuality public education programme for parents.

HPB said the workshop was introduced because children become curious about themselves and others at around three years old.

Lim Lee Yee, deputy director of the Pre-school Partnerships at HPB's School Health & Outreach Division said: "At about three years of age, children become curious about themselves and others, and this includes their perception of their growing body. As such, HPB introduced the workshop to prepare parents with kids aged three and above so that they can talk confidently to their child about sexuality matters as they grow up."

And through this, parents will know how to talk to children about sex in an age-appropriate manner so that they are confident and comfortable to broach the subject with their children.

While it's best to leave the topic to a later age, Dr Powell said parents who still want to broach the subject should "just keep it as basic as possible and engage the kids in creative ways".

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