When is the right time to talk to your pre-adolescent children
about sex? Well, evidence points to the fact that good sex education tends to
delay actual sexual activity.
When is the right time to talk to your pre-adolescent children
about sex? Evidence points to the fact that good sex education tends to delay
actual sexual activity.
So, in a sense it’s never too early to start. Of course, loads
of parents feel anxious about having these kinds of discussions, but if you
think about this part of education as being a long, ongoing process in which
you answer questions as they arise rather than go in for one ‘big’ serious
talk, you will probably begin to see the whole thing as being routine rather
Certainly, you will find it enormously difficult to have a big
talk with your older teenage kids if you have never created this environment
where sex is discussed naturally.
Older teenage children find it seriously embarrassing to talk to
their parents if the subject was taboo when they were younger.
In the year 2000, a MORI poll of parents was conducted for the
FPA (formerly, the
Family Planning Association and in it 92 per cent of parents said they believed
that they should play 'a significant role in informing young people about sex
and relationships'. A further two-thirds mentioned teachers as important
sources of information.
Interestingly, these results were rather different from a 1994
study that showed that parents found it difficult to discuss sex with their
children. In that study, only half the parents interviewed said they had
broached the subject with their own offspring.
So, even if things have changed hugely for the better since
1994, it seem likely that what parents believe they should do, is not the same
as what they actually do when it comes to talking about sex with their
Broaching the subject
Given that you probably want to do something about talking to
your children – or you wouldn’t be reading this article – how should you get
Our experience over the years suggests that parents are happier
to ‘do the talking’ if they feel prepared and know what words to say.
So you might like to buy a copy of a video made by the FPA
called 'Talking to your kids about sex' (more details at end of this
The video is aimed at parents with children approaching puberty
and its purpose is to advise mums and dads the best way to go about talking to
their own children on this difficult but terrifically important
This video was funded by the Government's Teenage Pregnancy Unit
as part of the government's commitment to reducing
in teenagers. Currently, the UK has the highest teenage pregnancy rate in
Western Europe - and
diseases are on the increase among young people.
Sex education is vital
It is clear that children need to know about sex - both
anatomically and emotionally - and that they need accurate information before
Some people believe that talking to young people about sex
encourages early sexual activity, but as we have already mentioned, all the
evidence points to the fact that when children are given good sex education,
they tend to delay actual sexual activity.
We saw this fact borne out at first hand during our research
into our 1995 book, 'The Big "O"'.
We interviewed a group of girls in the West Country - who had
all had babies despite their young ages of 12 and 13 - and also a group of
children who had had good sex education both at school and at home in
Hertfordshire. The Hertfordshire group - whose average age was 14 - knew far
more theory about sex, but none of them had tried it. The West Country group
had had no sex education at all and did not even know about periods or how
babies were made prior to their pregnancies.
So, education is vital in giving young people informed choices.
And it's important that this education should start before the child notices
bodily changes in him or herself.
Having said all that, many parents are extremely anxious and shy
about discussing sex with their kids. So here are some useful tips:
talk about your own experiences. If you were shy about kissing
or about how to put an arm round a girl, tell this to your children. Children
of this age love stories about you when you were younger. And it helps them to
realise that you understand what it's like to be fascinated by sex, but nervous
at the same time.
talk about feelings - not just anatomy. Of course children need
to know what happens during sex. But they also need to know about feelings.
When youngsters get into trouble with sex - such as when they fall pregnant -
they often say to health professionals: 'No one told us how much we were going
to want to do it.' So make sure that your kids know that there's a strong urge
to have sex because it's very nice, but also that it's worth saving for a very
special, loving relationship.
when your child asks difficult questions, ask them some
questions back before you launch into an explanation. This will give you a bit
of time and help you to know how much knowledge they have already.
try to create a climate at home where kids can ask about sex.
That way when, for example, some story-line about sex emerges in a TV programme
and they want to know about it, they'll feel they can ask you.
don't set aside a special day or time to talk about sex. Most
kids find this quite alarming. Instead, be prepared to answer questions as and
when they happen.
it helps parents to have the right 'language' to talk about
sex. Buying the FPA video or getting hold of some good books on sex can help.
If you and your children are all using the same words for body parts and
activities, then you'll feel much less embarrassed.
if your child asks a question about sex in a public place, like
the supermarket, delay answering, but promise that you'll talk about this
important subject just as soon as you get home. And make sure that you do!
The fpa (formerly the Family Planning Association) have released a new parents' pack to help mums and dads talk to their children about sex. It is available , price £5.50, from fpa, 2-12 Pentonville Road, London N1 9FP . Or you can email, making sure to give your credit card details and address, to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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