[Two Pronged] Not comfy talking about sex ed with daughter

Jeremy Baer, Margarita Holmes
This mom says sex ed will be taught in school, but she's not sure how to approach the topic with her daughter

Rappler’s Life and Style section runs an advice column by couple Jeremy Baer and clinical psychologist Dr Margarita Holmes. Jeremy has a master’s degree in law from Oxford University. A banker of 37 years who worked in 3 continents, he has been training with Dr Holmes for the last 10 years as co-lecturer and, occasionally, as co-therapist, especially with clients whose financial concerns intrude into their daily lives. Together, they have written two books: Love Triangles: Understanding the Macho-Mistress Mentality and Imported Love: Filipino-Foreign Liaisons.

Dear Dr Holmes and Mr Baer,

I’m a single parent living with my parents in England. I have a 10-year-old daughter. I came over to England and was employed by a hospital in East Anglia. I separated from my husband in 2008 kasi nahuli ko sa email may kasagutan na babae, (I caught him emailing a woman several times). It was like reading Abante. So my daughter grew up here, and every year we go to the Philippines.

So lately, I was so shocked when I received a letter from school informing me they will have sex education at school. They said I have a choice of withdrawing her from that class, but I thought, but what if she learns things from the street and what she learns is wrong, especially now that we are already in the information age. 

She has no books, all she uses is her iPad to do her homework. My problem is I am NOT comfortable discussing these things with her.  I would like to answer her questions based on the Bible but how would I do that?

Thank you.



Dear Cory, 

Thank you for your message. 

The topic of sex education is always controversial. There is a wide range of attitudes towards sex among the parents – ranging from the ultra-liberal to the ultra-conservative – and yet there is a set syllabus offering parents only the simple choice of permitting their children to attend or not (in the interests of full disclosure, I have to state that my views as a Benedictine-trained Catholic turned agnostic are close to the ultra liberal end of this spectrum).

Education, whether it is mathematics or sex, is intended to prepare children adequately for adulthood. You very rightly point to two other potential sources of (sex) education for your daughter: her peers and the Internet. You also realize that both of these can actually provide considerable misinformation.

Most parents who oppose sex education in school do so because they have their own views which they, and they alone, wish to teach their children. A significant percentage of these are often conservatives and adherents of ‘traditional family values’ – which seems to be a kind of shorthand for no premarital sex, no contraception, no divorce and no abortion. 

You however say that you are not comfortable discussing sex with your daughter (let’s call her Amy). Your frankness is admirable but your chosen alternative, the Bible, strikes me as eccentric at best.

After all, if you reject – as potential sources of sound information – Amy’s school, her peers and the Internet, and refuse your own services, why on earth choose a book purportedly two thousand or so years old as the manual of instruction for dealing with sex and all its ramifications in the 21st century? Do you honestly think a book containing such gems as:

  • You have six days each week for your ordinary work, but the seventh day must be a Sabbath day of complete rest, a holy day dedicated to the LORD. Anyone who works on that day must be put to death. (Exodus 35:2)
  •  A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent. (1 Timothy 2:11-12)
  •  If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall be put to death; their blood is upon them. (Leviticus 20:13)

is the best source to prepare your daughter to meet the outside world as a teenager and young adult?

Even leaving aside the interesting theological issue of whether one has to accept the Bible in its entirety, or if one can cherry pick (and if so, what is ‘in’ and what is ‘out’), there are lots of issues facing modern children that are not covered by the sacred text. 

To my knowledge, its grasp of basic human biology is sketchy at best and it has nothing obvious, except perhaps as interpreted by some ingenious theological scholar, to say about vital issues such as when is it ok to start dating, how far can you go when petting, is sexting ever ok, etc. etc.

If you concede, as I hope you do, that you want Amy to grow up as a well-adjusted, confident young person with a world view that is both morally sound and rationally based i.e. one that she both believes in and can defend when questioned, then I think that you have to ensure that she is as well prepared for life as possible. 

This does not mean that the burden of teaching her has to fall on just one person or entity. School, peers, Internet, you, her grandparents, even your favorite priest (or rabbi or imam) can all play a part in this.

Not only will this spread the burden, it will also show Amy the diversity of views on a very important topic and help her towards what should be in my view education’s main purpose: provision of a rigorous, rational and coherent framework within which to make informed decisions. 

All the best,



Dear Cory:

Thank you very much for your letter.  Jeremy has focused his answer on the cons of using the bible as your major source of information for your daughter and I agree with enough of his arguments to think he has a point. 

I think he could’ve been a wee bit less harsh(?) regarding your wanting to use the Bible as your only resource, but that is Jeremy for you. Indeed, that is why some people love reading his comments  [hrmph—sometimes even more than mine, when I would be ecstatic if readers would be equally pleased].

At any rate, I digress.  But there’s a reason for that, I think. In the same way that Jeremy could perhaps be accused of being  “anti-Bible,” I could also be accused of being “pro sex ed.” 

So, in the interest of fairness, allow me to share some links which talk not only about the pros, but also the cons of sex ed. Actually what these studies do is review the effectiveness of sex education classes. Read here and here.  

But before I go any further, I, too, should share something in the interest of self disclosure:  I am an advocate of sex education in classrooms, and I only hope you trust me enough to know I would not be unless I believe, based on research and clinical experience, that it helps.   

First of all, all the sex education classes I have been involved in were comprehensive, holistic, accurate and age-appropriate. Mainly, we tried to address the root issues that help teens make responsible decisions to keep them safe and healthy. 

What they really want to do is: provide young people with the tools to make informed decisions and build healthy relationships.  This would include providing medically accurate information about the health benefits and side effects of all contraceptives, including condoms, as a means to prevent pregnancy and reduce the risk of contracting STIs, including HIV/AIDS, but I am fairly sure this would not be in the curriculum of your 10-year old daughter.

At her age, I imagine one of the aims would be to encourage family communication about sexuality between parent and child and to teach her the skills to make responsible decisions about how to avoid unwanted verbal, physical, and sexual advances. 

However, if, despite my “press release” you still feel uncomfortable about her attending sex ed classes, ok na ok yun (it is perfectly all right).  I have no doubt that your daughter’s school will listen and act on your decisions.

One final thing, dearest Cory:  Your child doesn’t want a walking encyclopedia, when she comes to you with her sex questions. Mainly, she wants to be validated, wants to feel you listen to her, take her concerns seriously, and be willing to find out together with her, what the answers are.

Knowing you from this letter (not to mention the ones you’ve since written) I have no doubt you are more than capable of answering your daughter’s needs. Mabuhay ka!  


– Rappler.com

Need advice from our Two Pronged duo? Email twopronged@rappler.com with subject heading TWO PRONGED. Unfortunately the volume of correspondence precludes a personal response.

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