Tag Archives: Teens

Telling Our Teens They are Worth the Wait

The rise in underage sex is not an issue of sexual liberalization or promiscuity (“Underage sex on the rise in Singapore, say social workers”, Feb 9). The fall in teen births is not an issue of contraception or health education (“Teen births drop to 20-year low”, Feb 9). The underpinning common issue here is how our teens see and value themselves.

Over the weekend, 171 fathers spent a few hours valuing their daughters at Focus on the Family’s annual Date with Dad event. Why? Because research shows unwaveringly that Dad is the first guy a girl gives her heart to.

The reality though is this:

  • With many dual-income households today, children return home after school to an empty house or to non-parental caregivers. They are imbued with messages that they need to excel academically, that their worth is based on their performance. Often, less attention is given towards filling their love tanks with the knowledge that they are accepted, affirmed and approved by their parents for who they are and not what they have accomplished.
  • Movies and television programs have become more sexually graphic and explicit, with characters in the media losing their virginity and engaging in sex with “benefits” without the reality of consequences like pregnancy, sexually transmitted infections and being emotionally hurt. Pornography teaches young men that women are mere sexual objects to be used for physical pleasure, while young women receive the message that to get “love” they have to give sex.
  • Explicitly or implicitly telling our youth that “they are going to have sex anyway, so we might as well teach them how to do it safely” can send them a disempowering message that they have neither the ability for self-control nor delayed gratification.

Research shows that teens are less likely to engage in premarital sex if they have a close, warm relationship with their parents, and whose parents clearly communicate their expectations regarding sexual behaviour and the reasons for sexual boundaries. When teens feel the unconditioned love from the parents, it will prevent them from looking for love in the wrong places.

People are built for intimacy. As parents and society, let’s give the message to our young people that intimate sexual activity is an expression of love reserved for marriage. Why? Because they are worth the wait!

References:

  1. Cheryl B. Aspy et al., Journal of Adolescence 30 (2007): 449–466.
  2. Bruce J. Ellis et al., “Does Father Absence Place Daughters at Special Risk for Early Sexual Activity and Teenage Pregnancy?” Child Development 74, No. 3 (2003): 801–821.
  3. Resnick MD et al. Protecting adolescents from harm: findings from the National Longitudinal Study on Adolescent Health. JAMA 1997;278:823-32.
  4. Karofsky PS et al. Relationship between adolescent parental communication and initiation of first intercourse by adolescents. Journal of Adolescent Health 2000: 28; 41-45.

Editor’s note: This letter was sent to The Straits Times Forum on February 10 in response to the issue of rising numbers of teens engaging in sex before marriage.

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Speaking Words of Affirmation to your Teen

When you say something encouraging to your teen (or tween even, for that matter), does it feel like water off a duck’s back? Despair not, for your words matter. In fact, one of the 5 Love Languages is Words of Affirmation. Remember that your words have a lasting impact on your children. Here are 3 areas that we can focus on when speaking words of affirmation to our children:

+ Character
When your child demonstrates positive traits such as honesty, generosity and kindness, highlight their actions and praise their character. Such compliments will encourage them and spur them on to continue doing good.

+ Contributions, big or small
Simple things, such as the older sibling helping to pack up the younger one’s toys, may not seem important. However, by acknowledging and appreciating their efforts, it reinforces the message that what they do matters.

+ Courage
In a world that seems so big, trying and doing new things can be daunting. Applaud their courage for trying new things, and cheer them on as they do so. Having Dad and Mum’s support is reassuring, and means more to them than you would know.

Learning From My Parents: Deborah’s perspective

When I think of Mum, I think of kindness. I think of the chocolates she buys back from the numerous trips she and Dad made to overseas; half of what she buys is typically gifts for other people. Back home, whenever she finds seasonal rarely-found fruits like peaches or cherries, she always brings some to share with her siblings and her mother. The fruit-lover in me protests… Obviously I have some work to do in the generosity department.

Mum is really healthy and disciplined. In fact, Mum is the one who started our family on jogging, and can run faster than I. She remembers (and laughs at) the one time I stomped my way to the end of the track because I was tired. The point of jogging is to jog – not sure how much clearer I can get about that – and my loud steps must have given it away, but I’m thankful that Mum continued to be loving and patient with me.Lees [1]

Mum never complains about making Dad a honey drink whenever he eats too much sambal belachan. She never gets tired of buying a meal back for him, and I have also never heard her complain about Dad or say something bad about him. Think about that! A woman who doesn’t gossip? I think my Dad picked a great woman. I hope I get more than just her genes.

In consolation, I have been told that I am like my mother. Mum has even said that some things I do mirror her. Not her style, but her. Really.

I get really pleased when I hear that! While I am still some ways from that, I think I’m going to be a great woman. Talk about confidence…! Seriously though, I get my outgoing-ness more from someone else. Speaking of confidence, enter Dad.

Dad, to me, is the epitome of selflessness, the opposite of self-centeredness. I think of the times when Dad would do the laundry all by himself when Daniel (my twin brother) and I were studying for the ‘O’ Levels. I think of how he drives our family around 99% of the time. I think about how he circles the parking lot again and again waiting for a parking lot while Mum, my brother and I head to the restaurant and sit comfortably.

Back to confident Dad. He is really outgoing. Two years ago our family went to my mother’s invite-your-family-to-dinner company dinner. It was held in a Japanese restaurant, and each family was separated by the tall seat back rests. Most families were busy enjoying the food and talking among themselves. Dad looked over our back rest and started talking to the family sitting behind us. It’s hard to describe, but if you think about it, it’s something rather unusual for a Singaporean to do.

family pic in sepAnother incident that would prove my point would be the fact that he – together with another neighbor – organized a barbecue for the neighbors living on our floor. How often do neighbors get together to know each other a little better? Rarely. I liked that barbecue, and am thankful for Dad’s communal ways.

I also like that my Dad is honest with me. He thinks I could lose 1% of my body weight and says it as such. It’s not a toned-down version of “Deb, I think you’re fat”; he just thinks I could trim down the love-handles by a bit. Yes, I feel the “Ouch but I’m happy to hear him speak honestly. Dad is funny too.

He doesn’t eat almonds so when he eats a bag of mixed nuts he asks my brother and I to finish the remaining nuts… all of which happen to be almonds. He is also known in the office to be a joker, someone who lifts the atmosphere and makes everyone feel a little more cheery.

I’ve heard people say of how much they wish their parents – Dads in particular – would hug or kiss them. Me, I think I get a little too much. I’m out of secondary school and Dad still likes holding my hand. He likes telling people that they can find parts of his heart outside the my former secondary school, the consequence of my letting go of his hand one day as the both of us were approaching the school. I feel bad whenever I hear that.

However, the feeling doesn’t last long when I think I’ve experienced hug-overkill: my older cousin remembers my brother and I bargaining with Dad in her house when we were in primary school. Us kids went “Dad, five hugs a day maximum!” But as I say from time to time, I appreciate Dad’s gestures of love and affection.

I am grateful and proud of my selfless, loving, affectionate and community-minded Dad. My future husband is going to be a great man (refer to my brother’s post), and I can’t wait. (Wait… Dad are you reading this? Uh, your princess can wait. Anyhow, I love you Dad.)

daniel and deborah with chipsWhat do my parents model together? My genius brother wrote a post, and you can tell our styles are pretty different. That’s because we are pretty different. But we make an amazing duo, and I believe our reflections paint a more complete picture of our parents.

I hope you enjoyed reading our different perspectives on what our parents model, and what we learn from them.

Editor’s note: This post is written in conjunction with our Loving our Children series. We thought it’d be great to hear the impact parents have on their kids from young adults like Deborah and Abraham. For inspiration on effective ways to love your children, visit our website and/or download a free activity pack!

Deborah, our guest writer, is a second-year polytechnic student. Her brother, Daniel, shared his thoughts in an earlier post on how their parents have been his role models and inspiration.

Learning From My Parents: Daniel’s Perspective

My dad used to joke that we have two models in my immediate family: him and mom, because they are our role models. It’s true, though, because they truly are role models for Deborah (my twin sister) and I.

It is said that as a male, you will marry someone like your mother. And if you are female, you will marry someone like your father. As such, the role of parents in providing healthy role models for their children and its importance is obvious.The Lees

I remember that when they disagreed, they would quickly make up and apologize to each other. Longer, drawn-out arguments were a rarity, and the rarity of ‘serious’ arguments between Mom and Dad was seen when Deborah recently recounted that in Primary School, one of us said “please don’t get divorced!” after they fought.

Mom and Dad taught us to do the same (make up and apologize) when Deborah and I fought. They taught us different skills when it came to conflict management, and always tell me that my fights with Deborah are good ‘practice’ for when we get married.

One thing Dad taught us by example was the importance of family. I remember that when he travelled overseas, we would always plan a time to call each other via Skype. That would require deliberate planning as Singapore and the countries he visited were often in vastly different time zones. The intentionality of these scheduled calls was evident, and we saw that if we didn’t plan, there was virtually no way it was going to happen.

Putting it into place meant that the specified time was meant for family, and just because we were not in the same place (and time zone) did not mean that we were not going to talk to each other. Mom and Dad made it clear that family was a top priority; relating to one another was not a matter of convenience. Of course, Dad could have used the time to rewind or catch up on work, but the importance of family time, albeit virtual, was important.

Also related to travel, Mom demonstrated sacrifice for us. Often times Mom and Dad were supposed to travel together for work trips. However, considering that it would entail leaving their then-pre-adolescent (and eventually adolescent) children alone at home, Dad would often travel alone while Mom stayed home to hold down the fort.

Even though she could have entrusted us with someone else, she explicitly chose to stay on for our sake (and probably for hers as well, so she would not be so worried about us). Though it would obviously be refreshing to go to another country and not having to worry about childminding, Mom chose to give it up on many occasions.

Of course, doing it all the time would be unrealistic, and she did go with Dad a couple of times. People might say it is not always possible or preferred, but again, it is down to priorities: what you value you will show through your actions. What Mom and Dad have done over the years have certainly showed Deborah and I that they value our family.

When I have kids, I hope I will be a great role model for them; just as I learnt from my parents in order to pass those lessons on to my kids, I am sure they will pass it on to their kids. The impact of a parent goes beyond the immediate second generation.

Mom and Dad, thank you for being my inspirations, role models and parents. I Love you both!

Editor’s note: This post is written in conjunction with our Loving our Children series. We thought it’d be great to hear the impact parents have on their kids from young adults like Daniel and Abraham. For inspiration on effective ways to love your children, visit our website and/or download a free activity pack!

Daniel, our guest writer, is a second-year polytechnic student. His sister, Deborah, will be sharing her thoughts this Saturday on what’s she’s learnt from her parents. Be sure to keep a look out for it!

Would I do Plastic Surgery?

Editor’s note: This is a follow-up from Tuesday’s post on how youths these days seek to attain that “perfect look”.

I admit, I am a victim of vanity. I wish I was born with a smaller and sharper nose. Doesn’t this sound familiar?  As it is with all vain people, wishing to change parts of our appearance is common, especially if you weren’t born looking like Emma Watson.  But would I ever undergo plastic or cosmetic surgery to change my features? My answer would be a solid no.

A good majority of us have heard the perennial argument against plastic surgery – our features are unique to us and we must learn to love and accept ourselves for who we are. However, I would like to share another reason which I have discovered upon further reflection and introspection.

During my internship, I was tasked to read through some parenting blogs. As a result, I was suddenly exposed to a brand new perspective on things – the world as parents see it. It was interesting to note that amongst the numerous fresh insights I garnered, I also noticed a common thread of thought that weaved through the blog stories – the joy of discovering themselves in their children.

One very interesting post by Nick Pan was illuminating for me. He asked what is, to me, an interesting question: “Would my baby be cute?” It may seem like a quirky fear to struggle with, but it isn’t necessarily so when you stop to think about it. His fears disappeared the moment he laid eyes on her and I quote,

“Then It dawned upon me. My child is beautiful to me because my child is a product of my wife and I. My child looks familiar as she has the genetics from both my wife and I. My eyes, my wife’s grace, my nose, my wife’s lips. No matter how our baby looks, she is going to look familiar; she is going to look like the product of our love.”

So why would I not agree to undergo plastic surgery if I were given the chance to do it for free? It’s simply because I am a product of my parents’ love. I look familiar to my parents, and what they see in me, is what I see in them. Every part of my face and body has come from the unique and intricate combination of my parents’ genetics.

I imagine the joy that my parents must have felt as I was growing up and their sense of familiarity as they saw themselves in me. I love my parents, and no matter how old I become, I still want to look familiar to them.  In addition, even after they pass on, I want to still be able to see their faces in mine.

Similarly, it is these God-given features of mine that I want to see when I gaze into my children’s faces in the future, and to enjoy the beautiful miracle of each child being a product of the love that my future husband and I will have for each other. So no, I will not resort to plastic surgery, because if I do, I know that I would have missed out on this most beautiful miracle that comes from embracing this face, this body that I’ve been blessed with for all time.

This guest post comes courtesy of Rachel Kan, a former intern with Focus on the Family Singapore and university undergraduate. All views expressed in this post are Rachel’s own.

Perfection vs Keeping it Real

Full cascading hair, narrow face structure, almond-shaped eyes, and Angelina Jolie’s famous full lips – these are the ideal features of a beautiful woman. Or are they?

A recent survey found that one in three Singaporean youths feel it is perfectly acceptable to go for cosmetic procedures at their age. According to Dr Frederick Lukash, a New York plastic surgeon interviewed by The New York Times, many youths “do it to fit in.”

Images of ‘perfect’ men and women on advertisements and social media subtly influence us into thinking we need a specific product in order to look appealing. What youths are not consciously aware of is that many of these images today are edited computer composites.

Youths are at the phase in their lives where they are discovering their identities and are susceptible to conforming to society’s pervasive ideal values and beauty standards. Hence, it is hardly surprising that many of them believe it is not wrong to undergo plastic surgery as a ‘corrective measure’ in order to gain recognition from others or just to look ‘normal’.

It is unfortunate that many youths feel great dissatisfaction over their looks.

In our role as parents, guardians, relatives, mentors, teachers or friends, our role is not merely to shelter our next generation from negative influences that affect their sense of self-worth, but also to help them develop strong, positive values that can strengthen their self-esteem. We can do this by:

  • Connecting genuinely: Ensure that they are comfortable approaching you with any frustrations they may have about their looks. Be slow to judge or dictate how they should feel, and make the effort to truly understand their point of view.
  • Encouraging character development: Looks matter, but they are temporal. Remind them that what’s inside is most important. We are wholesome only when we balance presentation with positive character and values.
  • Providing meaningful affirmation: This is especially important when they are being teased because of their looks. During this sensitive period when a youth’s self-esteem is fragile, your reminders about their uniqueness and value will go a long way. Remind them that their worth is not based on attaining society’s seemingly ‘perfect’ images.
  • Setting a good example for a balanced, healthy lifestyle: Youths pick up habits, attitudes, and mindsets (good or bad) from you. Model a healthy self-image for them and implement family practices like eating healthily and exercising regularly together.
  • Role-modelling self-love and confidence: If you constantly express dissatisfaction with your weight or facial features (from the small grouses like “My tummy is so big!” to the “I wish my ears were smaller”) yet tell them that they are fine as they are, it sends across mixed signals – and your actions will eradicate the impact of your words. Being confident and loving yourself as you are will give the youths you are interacting with an example to follow.

To quote Zoe Kravitz, an American actress and model: “Beauty is when you can appreciate yourself. When you love yourself, that’s when you’re most beautiful.”  Let’s be there to sincerely say to our youths, “You are beautiful even when you think you aren’t, and I love you for who you are.”

Editor’s note: Are you curious to know what youths think about plastic surgery? We asked an undergraduate to pen her thoughts, and her unique yet heartwarming perspective is definitely worth reading. Keep a look out for it this Saturday!

Confiding in Parents – What Drives It? [Part 2]

Editor’s note: Abraham began by sharing his personal experiences on how his parents created a safe environment for him to communicate openly with them. If you haven’t read it yet, you can do so here. In this post, Abraham shares his thoughts on what parents can do after their children open up to them.

Creating the right environment for a child to share is just half the battle! What happens when they do share will determine how likely they are to come back and share again.

Consistency is key: listen to the small stuff

Parents are understandably concerned about their children confiding in them the important stuff. However, there’s going to be a lot of small stuff that children are going to want to share. They might seem inconsequential to parents, but unless it’s heard out, children are less likely to share the more important stuff. Many children share enthusiastically, and matching their enthusiasm when listening will communicate to the child a genuine interest in what they are saying. Further, in the sharing exercise encouraged above, it is important that the parents take everything that the child shares seriously, and act on what the child shares about. The key here is getting the child to recognise that their parents understand what they are going through and are both willing and able to help them with whatever difficulties they encounter.

Ask the difficult questions

Creating a safe environment and consistently listening to a child does not guarantee that they will take the initiative to share everything that they experience. Usually the things that parents are most concerned about are the things that children would find harder to share. Hence, it is important for parents to ask questions, even when they may not always want to know the answer to the questions or feel comfortable discussing it. There are a relatively standard set of problems and experiences that children have to grapple with, and parents will do well to bring up and discuss these issues with their children. It is easier for a child to remain silent about something than to lie about it to their parents when they are asked. Hence, asking the difficult questions could provide the child with the opportunity they need to share.

And in closing, here are two things I hope parents will remember when it comes to getting children to share their hearts:

a. Communication strategies will differ with each child

There is a question about how passive or proactive parents should be when it comes to getting their children to share. From the experience of my family, I would say it heavily depends on the child. Some of my siblings are always ready to confide in my parents. For me, the tendency is to keep things to myself. Hence, my parents need to prod me a little more to get me to share. Yet, at the same time, they have always given me space to share as much as I am comfortable with. How to get a child to share would depend very much on that individual child. Parents’ knowledge of their child is critical to know the extent to which they should push their child to share with them.

b. Sharing should not come at the expense of discipline

Finally, I think it is important to be careful of prioritizing getting children to confide in their parents over other parenting responsibilities, especially discipline. There could be a tendency to withhold discipline in the name of ensuring that children do not feel ‘judged’. Going back to the Cosby episode I described in my first post, the children reveal that one of the reasons that they would go to a friend ahead of their parents is because their parents would get angry. While acknowledging that he would get angry, Bill tells his children that he would still hope that they come to their parents because nobody can care for them with the love that he has for his children. In fact, part of this love is demonstrated in discipline. This is of course with the assumption that parents disciplines the child, not out of retribution, but for that child’s good. No discipline I experienced was pleasant at that time, but looking back, I am glad that my parents did not ‘let me off’ just so that I would confide in them more. Instead, as I grew and realised why my parents disciplined me, I was able to trust them more.

At the end of the day, children, myself included, do not always react rationally to situations they face. This means that although parents create the safest surroundings and do everything to encourage their children to confide in them, the child may not always do so. It could be that the child values the relationship with their parents so much that they do not want to risk it being affected by sharing their problems. In such cases, there is little that parents can do except to continue to affirm their love for their children in every situation. When this is done, it is just a matter of time before the child recognises the depth of their parents’ love and confides in them.

Abraham is an undergraduate who dreamed of playing professional football when he was 5 (and actually still does). While his love for football occupies a large part of his heart, the remaining portion is shared between his passion for photographing the wonders of God’s creation and love for his family.