By Joanne Koh
Renowned Catholic author and chastity speaker Jason Evert spoke to more than 1,400 parents in two sessions at The Church of Divine Mercy in Pasir Ris, on Jan 14.
During the sessions, he explained that many young people have misunderstandings about intimacy and sexuality as they do not think much about the purpose and the meaning of their human sexuality. While many parents prefer to leave sex education to schools, churches or the government, Evert stressed that the responsibility of sex education lies with parents. According to a survey done with high school students, parents were the most influential factor that shaped their sexual behaviour.
However, the parents do face a challenge because their own parents never gave them a clear, adequate and convincing explanation of the Church’s teachings on sexuality. Therein lies the conundrum for parents.
Evert shared that the first step for kids to accept the virtue of chastity as an expression of love is for parents to create a home filled with praise and affirmation. And then lead by example in how they live out their faith and receive the sacraments.
“It is worth more than 12 years of Catholic education to see your dad in line for confession,” the father of six children said.
In a time when it is more difficult to be pure, Evert’s advice to parents was to obey the Church’s teachings on sexuality inside of marriage. After all, chastity is a virtue that is easier caught than taught.
“Set your standards high and make that clear,” he said. Evert also pointed out the fallacy about parents trying to be a buddy to their children, which could undermine the ‘enforcement’ of boundaries in this crucial area. “Kids have enough buddies but they only have one set of parents,” he said.
In order to build a relationship, parents were also encouraged to listen more to what their children had to say. But this, according to Evert, means that they have to ask the right questions.
Caroline and Remi D’Souza from Church of The Holy Cross attended the session in the hope of finding the right vocabulary and knowledge to talk to their 13- and 10-year-old sons about sex.
“I’ve read Jason Evert’s books but listening to him speak is different from reading. He gave examples that we could relate to,” said Mr D’Souza. “It’s good to know that we are not alone in this journey,” added his wife.
Mr Patrick Tan, who attended the talk with his wife, Monica, was another participant who found the talk useful. The father of two teenage daughters agreed with Evert that addressing the topic of sex was a shared responsibility between both parents.
When discussing parents who are facing difficulties dealing with teenage kids when it comes to chastity and sexuality issues, Archbishop William Goh said: “Parents must learn to journey with the young people as mentors and friends. Rather than speaking from a ‘moralising’ viewpoint of what is right and what is wrong, they should try to understand and feel with them; their need for acceptance, love, understanding and friendship. When we are more in touch with their emotional and affective needs, and the pressure they face from their peers and society, we will be better able to help them discern what is best for them.”
Archbishop William added: “Helping and enlightening them without judging or reproving would be the best way to invite them to share their struggles easily with us. And if they fail in chastity, we should be understanding, sympathetic and encouraging; assuring them of our undiminished love for them, regardless. At no time should we reprimand or condemn them because it will only drive them further away from us, and to seek refuge in their friends who might not be able to truly support them.”
The two sessions were part of a series of talks by Jason Evert in his one-day stopover organised by the Archdiocesan Commission for the Family.