The sooner you start, the easier it will be. It also means that you talk to your children before other people can give them conflicting or confusing information. Even if your child is older, they still appreciate the opportunity to talk. You could use storylines on TV or your own experiences of sex education to introduce the subject.
Be open and honest:
Children and teenagers get lots of information from their friends, other adults and the media and these messages can be wrong or incomplete. It’s so important that you answer questions truthfully to help separate fact from fiction. If you don’t know the answer, don’t worry, for advice and support just read the other pages on this website.
Start the conversation:
Try making it an everyday subject to be talked about in the car, over lunch or while washing up. This will help put your child at ease. For example, you could use events, like a family member getting pregnant, as a way to talk about babies and how they are made.
Men or Women?
Don’t assume only mums or female family members can ‘do the talk’ – men should get involved too. Children look up to close family members as role models and get their ideas about women and men from them.
It’s also good to teach girls and boys about each other’s bodies so that there is no mystery around puberty. For example, boys need to understand periods and girls need to understand wet dreams.
Don’t make assumptions:
It is really important to talk about sexuality. Young people are surrounded by images of men and women and mums and dads which can make it hard for young people who are not heterosexual, or who are living in families with lesbian or gay parents. All young people need to know that some people are attracted to the opposite sex, some to the same and some like both, and all are perfectly normal
Talk about emotions and feelings:
It’s really important that you talk about values and emotions with your child rather than just giving medical facts about the body and how it works. This will help them understand good and bad relationships, what’s appropriate behaviour and the importance of love and respect in deciding whether to have sex or not.
By always listening to what your child is saying or asking, you help them feel good about themselves. By paying them attention, you show them that they are important and that what they have to say is worth listening to. It’s always good to ask your child what they know about a subject to get a better understanding of what they know, or think they know.
Talk, talk, talk!
It’s good to keep talking openly and honestly about growing up, relationships and sex as children develop. For young children in particular, it can take a while for the information you give them to make sense so you may have to repeat something a few times before they understand. Also, if the conversation continues throughout their growing up, they’ll be more likely to come to you with questions or problems.
Don’t just leave it to schools:
It’s easy to expect schools to provide all sex education but it’s not a matter of one or the other. Schools and parents have a vital job to do in ensuring that young people get everything they need to prepare themselves for healthy and fulfilled relationships.
It’s a good idea to talk to your child’s school about what they’ll be teaching and when.
You can understand what your role at home might be and talk to your child about what they learnt in case they have any questions.
No one expects you to be an expert. There are lots of resources available to help give you the confidence to talk to your children about the tricky topics of body parts, puberty and sex.
If you don’t know the answer, don’t worry, just read some of the other pages on this site.
You could also check out the resources section of the website for more advice and help.