Talking to your children about sex
It is important to talk to children about sex. Although they'll learn about sex at school, and pick up some information in the playground and online, it is best that they get the facts from their parents as well as from their teachers.
The best time to begin having these discussions, sometimes called 'the talk', is when your children are in their preteen years between 10 to 12 years old - ideally before girls start their periods.
Be ready to answer questions at any age - even a young child asking 'where do babies come from?' Make sure answers are age-appropriate - younger children need far less detail than older ones.
Sometimes a storyline in a TV show could be a handy cue for a talk.
Why should I talk to my children about sex?
Talking with your child about sex is important to help him or her develop healthy attitudes towards sex and sexual behaviour. Openly discussing sex with your child also enables you to provide accurate information. What they learn elsewhere might not be true, and may not fit with your family values.
They also need to understand the possible consequences of being sexually active, including pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections, as well as being emotionally hurt.
If I talk to my children about sex, won't that just make them want to do it?
It is important for children to understand sexual feelings and relationships before they become sexually active. Studies have shown that teenagers who have discussed sex with their parents are more likely to wait longer before first having sex and are also more likely to use contraception.
What should I tell my children about sex?
This list covers many things girls and boys will want to know about. There's no need to leave some things out for girls and boys - it helps for both sexes to understand things about each other when it comes to sex.
- Explanation of sex anatomy in boys and girls, men and women - the penis, the vagina and the womb
- Puberty, and how things change for girls and boys, periods, arousal, erections
- Having sex, different types of sex - oral sex, masturbating, just kissing
- How girls get pregnant, dispel myths about when you can and can't get pregnant
- Contraception (birth control), and how pulling out is risky
- Sexually transmitted infections, and how condoms are important for safer sex
- Sexuality and orientation - gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender
- Emotional aspects of having sex not just physical ones
- Self-image, body image and peer pressure issues
- Dangers of date rape and rape, including how alcohol or drugs can make people make bad decisions
- How 'no' means 'no'.
How should I talk to my children about sex?
Pick the right moment, work out what to say first - and whether it is better for both parents to be there for the talk or to do it separately.
Remember to respect your child's privacy, and try to show that you trust him or her to make good decisions.
If parents have concerns about what to say and how to say it, the support organisation FPA offers help and advice.