Our State of the Nation Parenting Survey revealed that just over two in five (44%) of parents feel it’s appropriate to have conversations about sex when their child is age 13 or under, followed by 26% believing 14 is the appropriate age.
Interestingly, 6% of parents don’t believe it’s an appropriate conversation to have until their child is 18 years or older, and a further 4% don’t think it’s appropriate to have that conversation at all.
If you’re preparing for the “sex talk”, here’s some tips and tricks to help both you and your child feel less awkward about the situation.
Start having age-appropriate conversations early on
And try weaving them into everyday life - it can be daunting to think about unloading ‘the talk’ onto your child, but sex education can feel a lot more manageable if you start small and build as they get older.
Avoid only preaching the ‘don’ts’ of sex
Stay clear of talking about sex in the negative – “don’t have sex”, “don’t get pregnant”. Although basic biology and awareness of sexually transmitted diseases is critical, focussing on the don’ts can create negative sentiment around the topic, or encourage rebellious behaviour.
Focusing on the ‘do’s’ will help ensure they’ve got a good understanding of sexual health, to know when they’re ready, and understand what to do in certain situations if they arise.
Talk about the emotional side
Branch out from approaching the topic of sex from just a physical or biological perspective. The emotional side of being sexually active is just as important (if not more so) and having positive conversations around relationships, values and consent should be an integral part of these discussions. Preparing your child to be emotionally ready for sex will empower them to make better decisions around the matter in general.
Be aware of your reactions
Keeping an open dialogue around sex (without judgement) is key - you want them to feel comfortable coming to you when any questions arise.
If you hear about a teenager from their school getting pregnant, or having sex at a young age, even if it’s a TV character, be considerate of how you respond – your child will assume this will be your reaction if this ever happens to them.
-Family Planning provides advice on talking with children about sexuality, as well as information on many sexual health-related issues including contraception, safe sex, and abortions.
-Rainbow Youth provide non-judgemental and accessible support around gender, sexuality and mental health. Call (09) 376 4155
-YouthLine provides a number of free resources for youth and anyone supporting youth, as well as a confidential and non-judgemental telephone counselling service. Call 0800 37 66 33 anytime or text 234 between 8am and midnight.
-Safe to Talk provides free information for people affected by sexual harm, as well as helpline support with trained specialists. Call 0800 044 334, text 4334 or talk to them online anytime.
-Lifeline’s helpline and textline offers confidential support from qualified counsellors and volunteers. Call 0800 543 354 or text HELP to 4357
-The Ministry of Health offers advice and provide a list of services you can access to help with any situation.