How to talk to your children about sex and relationships: START the conversation to keep them safe
19 June 2023
If you’re not sure how to talk to your children about sex and relationships, we can help you to START that conversation.
- Learn about age-appropriate sexual behaviour in children with our traffic light tools.
- Find out what to do if your child has got in trouble online, including sharing sexual selfies, looking at adult pornography, or viewing sexual images of children.
- Discover tips on how to keep children safe online.
- Learn about preventing harmful sexual behaviour in children and young people.
What’s the risk?
Having conversations with children and young people about sex and relationships can help them to understand what’s okay for their age, what the law says, and what harmful behaviours look like, so that they know what to do if something upsetting happens.
It’s especially important now because the summer holidays mean many children and young people will be spending more time online and away from protective adults. Although there are plenty of benefits to spending time online, there are risks, too. Some children and young people might be more at risk of harm, or they might engage in harmful sexual behaviours themselves.
Encouraging open communication about sex and relationships with your kids means that you can discuss issues as they happen, and you can help them to navigate the challenges they might face, both online and offline.
How can we help?
One thing you can do to help keep children safe is to talk to your child about sex and relationships in a way that’s appropriate for their age. This includes talking to them about what they do, or may have seen, and assuring them that they can talk to you about anything that happens that worries or upsets them.
If you’re worried about a child’s sexual behaviour, offline or online, it might help to speak to the experienced advisors on our confidential helpline. You don’t have to give identifying information and can stay anonymous.
It’s never too late to START to talk to your children about sex and relationships
- Start today: Don’t put off having age-appropriate conversations with children and young people about sex and relationships. It can be awkward, but avoiding conversations about sex can make it even more uncomfortable if the topic needs to be addressed later on.
- Talk to them: Not sure how to talk to your children about sex and relationships? With younger children, it can be helpful to speak about topics such as privacy, appropriate touch and boundaries. The NSPCC’s Pantosaurus tool can be a good start. As children grow older, topics such as sex and relationships become increasingly important. As well as talking to them, you can make sure your children know where they can get accurate and up-to-date information about these issues – we have listed a few at the end of this article.
- Be alert: Do you know what sexual behaviour in children is to be expected and what is harmful? If you’re unsure, or if something feels wrong, don’t ignore that feeling. Check out our information on preventing harmful sexual behaviour.
- Respond: If you’re concerned about a child’s sexual behaviour, trust your gut. Use our traffic light tool to understand age-appropriate sexual behaviour in children, and to learn how to respond to concerning behaviour.
- Talk to us: If you’re unsure or want more information, you can always talk to us. Our anonymous and confidential helpline is here to offer non-judgemental support and advice – call 0808 1000 900. If you’re not ready to speak to someone yet, you can use our live chat or secure messaging service or look at the links below.
Even more helpful information
- Brook traffic light tool – for professionals to understand sexual development in children and young people
- Parents Protect sexual abuse prevention short films
- Kooth – online emotional and mental health support for children and young people aged between 11 – 24 years
- Bish UK – a guide to sex, love and you for everyone over 14
- Thinkuknow – protecting children both online and offline
- The Reward Foundation – relationship and sex education charity