Talking to your child about sex and relationships:

I talk to a lot of parent’s in the course of our work and one thing that I know is universally true of all of the parent’s we have spoken to – they all want what is best for their children – they want them to be happy and to have positive relationships.

Indeed, we also talk to a lot of young people – and they tell us that the sex and relationship education they get from school isn’t enough… so instead they are left to get their info from other sources… their friends… from the shows they watch on TV and from the internet… in fact it is one of the most common reason that young people watch porn…

So, it raises the question of what messages are our children getting if their primary source for positive relationships is Ex on the Beach or Georgie Shore…?!?

But there is hope… they also tell us that they would like to talk to you more… but are too embarrassed to…

In all other walks of life – we realise that the way to keep our children safe is to talk about things – give them as much information, as soon as possible that they can cope with. Explain things, answer their questions and talk… whether it is crossing the road, eating healthy or fire safety… but when it comes to sex… we are at a loss!

The fact is evidence shows that earlier and the more young people learn about sex and relationships – the later they tend to go on to have first time sex – and the more likely that they will use protection and not regret their experience when they do.

It is widely recognised by professional that the best way to protect child from abusive relationships is to talk to them about what a healthy relationship is – how are they supposed to know if we don’t tell them…

Most parent’s realise this is something they should address… but most parent’s are also putting it off waiting for the right time… but please, don’t wait… and don’t bother with the talk…. it is painful and embarrassing for everyone involved… instead: Start now… little and often… make sex and relationships a topic that can always be discussed not a taboo for a special talk. Talk about the relationships you see on TV, talk about friends kids at work… ask your child what they would do in that situation… Make it clear that this is something that is ok to talk about…

Remember you don’t have to have all the answers… in fact searching for answers together can be a really good way of breaking down those barriers.

I am not sure if you are aware, but there are a set of guideline called the Fraser Guidelines, that mean that Young people – even those under the age of consent of 16 can access confidential sexual health service advice and treatment. This means professionals can provide them with contraception even an abortion at the far end of the scale, without your knowledge or consent. You may not like this fact – but they are there to help protect young people and to empower them to take control of their own lives.

Many young people choose to speak to their parents before accessing services – and it is much better when they do… but here’s a a question – how would you react if they did ask…?

In the 1980s, there was a mother who when ‘tidying’ her daughter’s room, came across a pack of contraceptive pills. She hit the roof – accused her GP of going behind her back and even took the local health authority to court – accusing them of negligence, of encouraging her daughter to have sex underage and abusing her rights as a mother… she lost – and it is due to this case that the Fraser guidelines were put into force.

It is much better that young people can have safe access to contraceptive services if they choose to be responsible rather than leaving them without support – especially as they are likely to still have sex without contraception if we turn them away…

But there is probably a very good reason why that woman’s daughter chose not to speak to her and visit her doctor on her own…

It is scary and it is hard to watch your kids grow up – but think about it… why when our children turn 17 do we celebrate the fact they are old enough to drive. We save up to buy them lessons, take them out in our own car (let them scare us to death and never do it again) – it is a big thing – they have come of age and can now access freedom… we recognise that driving is dangerous, we talk about taking precautions, driving safe, wearing a seat belt and drink driving. We warn them that there are idiots on the road and prey that they come home safe… but still we celebrate the fact…

But then it begs the question, why when they turn 16 and are legally able to have sex do we not celebrate and make a big deal out of the fact…?!? Why do we run scared instead? Curious, especially as for most adults having a sexual relationship is a key part of their happiness and family life…

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Instead, we buy dad T-shirts with slogans like I have a daughter and I have a gun… written on them… may I suggest an alternative..

 

 

You don’t have to be happy about the fact your little one is growing up, and nothing will stop you trying to protect them and keep them safe… but you do have to accept it. In my experience the best way to protect them is to talk about things. Invite their friends and partners around for dinner,  make your house the place they hang out – it is secrets that are dangerous – not the things we can talk bout and share together… Be on your child’s side and don’t be the enemy. They will make mistakes, they will get hurt…

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