Tips on how to talk to your children about sex and relationships

It can be difficult to talk to your children about sex and relationships, but in order to keep them safe from harm, it is vital that protective adults are able to have these challenging conversations, and that they know what warning signs look like.

Our guide provides parents and carers with information on how to start conversations with children and young people around sex and relationships, helping them to understand what is age-appropriate, and what harmful behaviours look like.

You can read through the guide on our site or it is available to download in English or Welsh.

How to talk to your children about sex and relationships

  • Start talking to your children from a young age about relationships, and staying safe.
  • Think about what messages you want to convey to your children about sex, and sexuality.
  • Consider how you conduct your own relationships and what messages young children in your life are learning from your behaviours. Children will take in more from actions and behaviours that they see, than from what they are told, especially if these messages are inconsistent.
  • Think about using age-appropriate interactive resources that help children and young people learn about sex, relationships, consent, the law and staying safe.
  • Children will be naturally curious about sex and relationships as they start to develop and mature, and will have questions that they might feel embarrassed to ask you as their parent or carer. You can make sure your children know about reputable sources online where they can get accurate and up-to-date information about these issues.

How to talk to your children about pornography

  • Speak with your child about sexualised content online, including pornography, particularly as they move towards adolescence. The reason for this is that many children and young people are exposed to this kind of content, and some may actively seek it out. This could involve talking in an age-appropriate way about what pornography is, why people look at it, what the dangers can be in looking at it, as well as how it differs from real-life relationships.
  • Use reputable resources that help young people understand what healthy sexual relationships look like.
  • It is illegal to show pornographic material to anyone under 18, but helping them make sense of what they may have already seen is really important.
  • Talk to your child about how they feel about online sexual content they have seen, find out what it means to them, whether they value it or not and whether there are other ways to meet their needs.
  • Some young people turn to pornography to learn about sex, as it is so easily accessible. Encourage them to instead visit websites to explore sex and relationships for themselves, such as the resources available on Brook.
  • Inform yourself about what type of sexual images are illegal and explain the consequences of accessing illegal sexual material.
  • Learn about pornography addiction. This might be helpful if your child has been viewing pornography regularly and is saying that they don’t know how to stop.

Remember to give your child privacy as they grow into an adolescent so they have the space to explore and learn about their own body and sexual needs.

The next page has information on how to navigate the online world safely and positively, as well as how to open lines of communication with your children around their internet usage and helping them to make appropriate digital choices.

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