Let's talk about sex! How best to do so with your child

If you’re feeling uncomfortable about discussing the facts of life with your child consider this: he’s going to learn all about sex somehow – wouldn’t you rather it was from you?

Mum, where do babies come from?

If you feel a tad uncomfortable about discussing where babies come from with your child, you’re not alone. It can be hard to face up to the fact that the child who was once an innocent babe in arms will one day be a sexually active adult – and sooner than you think, if research is anything to go by.

But the tough talks are a necessary part of parenting – and studies suggest that kids whose parents are open and direct with them when it comes to discussing sex feel more able to talk to their parents about it and are less likely to engage in the kind of high-risk behavior that can result in unplanned teen pregnancy. And at the end of the day, your child is going to learn all about the facts of life somehow – wouldn’t you rather it was from you? Your guidance can steer your child towards making the right choices when it comes to sex.

Take the initiative or wait to be asked?

This all depends on your child. Most are naturally curious enough to start asking questions once they reach their tweens, especially if you become pregnant again. If your child seems to be maturing fast it’s probably a good idea to broach the subject yourself, especially if it's a daughter on the verge of her first period. Studies suggest girls are maturing much younger these days and forewarning her about what to expect will avoid panic.panicking.

Broaching the subject

A good kickoff-point is a book, or you could find a way in through a TV program your child watches, using the characters as examples. Pregnant mums often become obsessed with TV shows on pregnancy and birth, and sitting down with your child to watch one is also a great way of raising the subject (how the baby got in there is bound to come up!). So, assuming it’s time to talk the talk, how should you go about it?

If your religious or cultural beliefs make it difficult to be open with your child this needn’t preclude discussion – after all, you can convey your values to your child when you talk to him.


Single parents

Single parents often feel awkward bringing up the subject of sex with their children of the opposite gender but try not to avoid the subject if you can. A trusted relative or friend your child is close to might be able to help out; alternately your child’s paediatrician might agree to see you both for a chat. 

Find out more

Parentline Plus has a section on young people and sex, and includes advice on how to talk about the issues.

The Family Planning Association is the UK's leading sexual health charity


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