Oct 05, 2016

    Birds-and-the-bees talk calls for great responsibility

    WHEN the new school year began in September, it was with more than the usual dose of a mother's trepidation that I greeted it.

    As a Primary 5 pupil, this is the year my son started reading about adolescent health issues and had his first sex-education lessons.

    Naturally, as I reached home after work, I would be bracing for "uncomfortably searching" questions.

    The questions flowed, as expected, and to answer them in a manner that was faithful to details but excluded prurience to all possible extent required a mental balancing act.

    My knowledge of human biology was certainly refreshed, and if that's possible at my age, I was decidedly awed by the range of information at my nine-year-old's disposal and at the alacrity with which on many small (and not-so-small) details pertaining to the human reproductive system, he made me stand corrected.

    My husband and I reminded each other of how, as children and then as adolescents, we had groped in the dark (no pun intended) over half-baked notions picked up from equally clueless playmates.

    How we had agonised over the occasional red-faced tips blurted out by our parents and had weathered frowns of disapproval from teachers when even strictly academic queries got a little "out of hand".

    We reminded each other predominantly of our sweeping ignorance of what constituted child abuse and sexual harassment and their most pervasive symptoms.

    As I flipped through the textbook and homework worksheets, the educational potential of pictorial depictions to warn children of the many lurking dangers from paedophiles was supremely reassuring.

    I marvelled at the skill of the teacher in charge of sex education in taking an approach so clinical, so devoid of suggestiveness that even precocious nine- to 12-year-olds are left in no doubt that many adolescent curiosities can be, one, satisfied right in the classroom without recourse to prurience; two, through academic discussions; and three, that none of their queries will be rebuffed.

    In my view, this is the ideal of adult-child interaction, a comfort level all parents and educators should aspire to.

    According to Lingnan University's latest Children's Happiness Index, children in Hong Kong haven't been so unhappy since 2012.

    A child's mind is like clay - his impressions are waiting to be moulded.

    That's why educators and parents have a great responsibility in ensuring that impressions - sometimes lifelong - are not negative.

    They have a greater responsibility in ensuring that fallacious and potentially damaging notions are effectively flushed out.

    For a society, nothing can be more important than raising a child responsibly. Hong Kong will be letting down its future generations terribly if it abdicates that responsibility.



    The author is Web editor at China Daily.