Sexual health advice for parents and carers

Children and adolescents want to be able to talk to their parents or carers about relationships and sexuality. It is important that they understand how their bodies grow and develop and that this is a perfectly normal part of our development.

Children should be prepared for puberty before they show any physical signs, just as we prepare them for other big changes in their lives. During adolescent years relationships and sexuality are fundamentally important to each individual, how others see us in part forms our self-esteem, therefore it is crucial that both children and adolescents feel safe and valued as unique human beings. We need to be able to firstly listen to our children and adolescents, clarifying the question or the conversation and to reassure them that their questions are valuable and important to us.
Relationships and sexuality are a normal part of human development which starts pre-birth and spans the rest of our lifetime. We learn a lot about ourselves from our relationships with each other; do not over think the conversations we have with our children, our approachability is the most important factor.

Every child needs to know they are safe and able to ask questions that will help prepare them for adult life. Teachable moments can be the most comfortable for both parent and child, e.g. listening and talking about lyrics to music in the car together, what messages are the lyrics portraying, what does the child or adolescent think about those messages, watching television programmes together, picking up on the storylines, or even just talking about their school day and things that happened throughout their day. There is no one conversation to help children and adolescents learn about relationships and sexuality, it should be an evolving process.

What skills does a parent/carer need?

  • Be approachable.
  • Be a good listener.
  • Be able to take time out if you can't answer a question but don't forget to revisit the question.
  • Be knowledgeable.
  • Be able to let the child/adolescent lead the conversation.
  • Be confident, it’s all normal.
  • Be able to reaffirm, there is no silly question.

Some of the things a child needs to know during puberty and adolescence, is entirely at the parents discretion regarding age appropriate conversations but it is important that children understand about safety before they are exposed to internet and social media etc. It is also important that a child understands body changes before puberty happens.

  • Changes to expect during puberty. 
  • How babies are made. 
  • What a healthy relationship means. 
  • How to keep themselves safe – social media, relationships, what an unhealthy relationship may look like. 
  • Sexuality including sexual orientation - we are all different and unique. 
  • How pregnancy happens and how contraception can prevent it. 
  • Safer sex and how to use condoms. 
  • Where they can get information and advice about sex and relationships. 
  • Tell your child that they're growing up, there will be some changes that happen to everyone and you want to let them know what to expect.