Ten tips for talking to your child about sex and relationships
1. Explore your own attitudes and values to sex and relationships.
Explore your feelings around sex and relationships. Use the resources from tip 3 to help you if you need and don’t worry about admitting it to your child if you feel embarrassed about it- you could say something like , “You know, I’m uncomfortable talking about sex because growing up no-one ever talked about it to me. But I want us to be able to talk about anything—including sex—so please come to me if you have any questions. And if I don’t know the answer, I’ll find out.” Discuss your own values around sex and relationships with your child. After all you are one of the main role models in your child’s life, and your values will have an influence on their own developing values.
2. Start early.
The earlier the better- even very young children need to make sense of healthy relationships, friendships and respect. You don’t need to talk about sexual relationships until they start asking questions or you feel they are ready, but be aware at some point during their early years they will probably want to know how babies are made and about the differences between male and female bodies of both adults and children their age.
3. Know the facts and use resources to help you.
Being prepared will help you answer any questions your child may have and you can use resources to help you . For primary aged children-Teachers TV provide a sequence of living and growing videos which you could use as discussion starting points. The FPA leaflet “Lets grow with Nisha and Joe”– is also a useful resource for using with your child. For younger children; Babette Cole’s book Mummy I laid an egg would be a good starting point. For secondary age children there are lots of leaflets from FPA and Bishtraining. BishUK and Scarleteen are also good websites for over 14’s. If you still feel uncomfortable the Parenting channel have some good advice videos on discussing sex and relationships education and you could read the FPA’s Speakeasy Book – Talking to your child about growing up and talking to your child about sex and relationships or go on a local Speakeasy course
4. Try to talk about more than “puberty, plumbing and prevention”.
Your child does need to know the biological basis of sex but as they grow up they will also need to be able to recognise and negotiate healthy relationships, to be aware of the impact of peer pressure on their behaviour and to analyse and reduce risks within certain situations.
5. Answering questions.
Answer questions truthfully and honestly appropriate to their age. You could consider “if they’re old enough to ask the question, they’re old enough to hear the answer” but be careful- they may not actually require the detailed explanation you may be about to launch into! A top tip would be to ask “well what do you think?” as a way to establish the level of answer they require and to correct any misunderstandings. Try to use the correct terminology and names for body parts.
6. Don’t make it into a big deal.
You don’t have to sit down and have a single one off “sex talk” that can be embarrassing for everybody, instead deal with questions as they arise. You could try having a chat about sex and relationships when you are in the car, or on a walk or while watching TV if something comes up- that way it reduces the pressure on both parent and child of having the “big scary sex talk”. You could ask what they think or feel about something they’ve just seen or experienced eg. guinea pig having babies or Aunty getting married. Try to anticipate the next stage of development eg. talking to your daughter before she starts her periods etc.
7. Developing a good self esteem and sense of respect is essential.
When your child becomes a teenager they may be under increasing pressures to act a certain way. Wherever possible focus on the positives with your child and listen to, and respect them. Acknowledge their viewpoint and the pressures that they face. Show that you respect your child as a person by respecting his or her privacy.
8. Be approachable.
Ensure your child knows that they can come to you at any time and ask to talk about anything. Do your best to be open and non-judgmental – regardless of the subject matter. If your child approaches you at a difficult time to talk properly, make sure that you explain that you are busy and then immediately set up a time in the near future when you can talk properly. Make a habit of asking your child questions and listening to your child, so that you are seen as confident and a resource who they can return to time and time again as they get grow up. This is also a great opportunity to find out what your child feels, thinks, and experiences.
9. Be aware and be involved.
Your child is probably growing up in a very different world to the one you grew up in. Sexualised content is made easily accessible via the media, from billboards to magazines to the internet and TV. Be aware of the possible impact of sexualised media on young people and their sexual choices- discuss this with your child. Try to ensure you have effective suitable parental controls on the TV and internet so you can keep them safe from accessing pornography. It is a good idea to keep the computer in a family room rather than their bedroom so that you can monitor their computer access. You should also find out what is being taught about Sex & Relationships when at school so you and the school can work together to enhance your child’s learning.
10. Finally don’t demonize sex.
Your child is here because of sex and one day they will also most likely to be having sex. You have such an important role to play in helping your child develop into a happy and secure adult who is sexually active on their own terms.