We know that talking to your children about growing up, relationships and sex can be tough.
Some parents find it easy. But many mums and dads don’t. In a survey about half (44 per cent) of parents said they’d either given no (or very little) information to their kids about sex and relationships. (fpa.org.uk 2011)
What should I tell them at this age? Will I know the answer? I’m embarrassed to talk about it. These worries can stop you from talking altogether, or you answer a few questions but don’t know how to carry on.
Sound familiar? Then you’re in the right place. The Community Sexual Health Service for Halton and St Helens want to give mums, dads / parents / carers across the local area the confidence and information to talk to their children about the facts of life.
Talking about puberty, relationships, sex (and everything else that goes with it) doesn’t have to be difficult. With a bit of help it can be easy.
Your child will get the facts not the myths, you’ll build trust and communication together, and you’ll become the first person your child goes to for advice and information.
And with your help, they’ll know how to look after themselves and their sexual health too.
Why talking about the Facts of Life matters
When kids can talk to their parents about sex and relationships, they are more ready for puberty, understand more about relationships, and are less likely to do things just because their friends are.
They’re more likely to talk to you about other stuff like drugs and alcohol too.
Growing up is scary enough – your body starts to change in lots of weird and wonderful ways and some young people end up feeling totally confused as to why these changes happen and what it all means.
Peer pressure is a huge issue for young people because most of the time you just like to fit in with everybody else – so if everybody talks about having sex and let people believe that they’re doing it then you’d wonder if there’s something wrong with you wouldn’t you?
Try to remember what it was like when you were growing up and add to it all the pressures that are apparent in society today, along with the fact that sex appears in the media a lot more these days than ever before. Some media is positive and helps to reinforce safe sex messages and educate people on their sexual health, but others sensationalise negative stories or issues and gives off mixed messages.
It’s your job – your responsibility to help your kids to grow up understanding the facts of life, the importance of being in fulfilling relationships and making safer informed choices about their sexual health.
How to get started
Lots of people find they get embarrassed talking about sex and relationships.
It’s OK to tell your child you’re embarrassed. By saying it you’re being honest. They can learn to trust you and know it’s OK to feel embarrassed too.
You might find it helps to use everyday situations or TV storylines to start off conversations. Someone is always falling in and out of love in a soap!
The earlier you start talking to your kids the better.
If your child is under ten you can start by finding out how much they know already. You can fill in the gaps and correct anything they’ve got wrong.
If your child’s already a teenager and you’ve never spoken to them about sex they may not want to talk to you about it. But you can let them know you’ll always listen if there’s anything they need to share. Try and make sure they know who else they can talk to, for example a nurse or counselor at school or college.
How to go about it! – Facts of Life
You can still help your child learn about sex even if you don’t feel very comfortable talking about it.
Here are some tips to help you.
Start early – Use everyday situations or TV characters to start off conversations. Someone is always falling in and out of love in a soap! Or if you see a pregnant woman you can use this to talk about where babies come from.
Talk when you’re doing something else – It could be whilst doing the washing up, sorting something out or driving in the car (taking them to football or swimming might be the only time you get to talk properly).
This makes the subject normal and not special. If you don’t find this a comfortable subject, you’ll probably find it easier to talk about if you’re busy doing something else.
Use humour – You don’t have to make jokes all the time but you can show your child you can talk and laugh about sex and relationships.
Get some books or use a good website – Your child can use these on their own but it can be useful to look at them together too, so you can chat about what you’re reading and ask each other questions.
Be prepared for those awkward or inappropriate moments – You’ve probably been at the checkout when your child suddenly develops a huge interest in tampons or how babies are made.
If it’s not the right time or place, try saying something like “That’s a good question – let’s talk about it when we get home”. Just make sure you do.