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  • Writer's pictureLeah Jewett

At the heart of Valentine’s Day: 14 tips for talking openly with children and young people

Updated: Oct 15, 2019

Valentine’s Day is a catalyst for talking with children and young people about love and healthy relationships – and the perfect symbolic moment to emphasise that respect, LGBT inclusivity and enthusiastic mutual consent should be at the heart of relationships and sex education (RSE).

Presenting – for 14 February 2018 – 14 ways that parents can be their children’s best relationships and sex educators…

1 Start talking openly with your children early on. Think: “Little and often.” Just as parenting is a process, touching on things periodically – rather than in a one-off conversation – paves the way for ongoing openness

2 Make use of opportune moments and use prompts from the media to trigger engaging with relevant topics. There is no shortage of current events that are full of underlying issues, from #Weinstein to #metoo to #Timesup

3 Good language: use anatomically correct names for body parts. Accurately naming body parts empowers children’s bodily integrity and autonomy and gives them the vocabulary to explain if something has happened to them

4 Be proactive, not reactive. Most parents would like to talk openly about sex with their children. Do not wait for your children to approach you – take the lead and let them know you are receptive and non-judgmental

5 Talk to other parents about their experiences with their children and with talking to their children. This will get you to practise saying awkward words out loud, appreciate other people’s viewpoints and more clearly define your own values

6 Do not shy away from your children’s questions: if they have a question, it is valid and worth addressing. If the timing isn’t right, respond positively, reflect and come back to the subject another time

7 Don’t let resources replace parenting. Explore them with your children or leave out a resource for them to look at in their own time. Older siblings can also be a great resource for opening up a more peer-to-peer discussion

8 Discussing with your children the differences between desire, infatuation, intense attraction and long-term love will help identify the components of destructive unhealthy relationships vs supportive healthy relationships

9 Aspire to being your children’s primary relationships and sex-education resource and reference point so that they will interpret relationships and sex issues through the prism of your values and perspective and become critical thinkers

10 Don’t be put off by negative responses or body language. Children still take in what has been said. Get your message across before your child gets bored, and revisit another time

11 Talk about consent early – personal space, bodily autonomy and respect are a springboard for talking about sexual consent when children are older. The short film Screwball humorously teaches consent and RSE issues for older children

12 Ask your children questions about relevant sex-ed topics. Asking them questions instills trust and respect for their knowledge, judgement and contributions and will engage them in conversation

13 Emphasise sex positivity. Surrounded as we are by unrealistic sexualised images, it’s easy to forget the important message that sex is natural, enjoyable and involves mutual consent, communication, pleasure and fun

14 See talking openly with your children as a challenge. It’s a way to revisit your formative years and define your current sex-ed views, to figure out what messages you are conveying and want to convey, to create a closer connection and to build up your children’s confidence and resilience for the rest of their lives

For the full list, go to the Outspoken Free Parent Resource

Outspoken Sex Ed presents panel discussions and holds small parent discussion groups around how to talk openly with children and young people about sex-ed issues

Be part of the conversation so you can spark conversation at home…

© 2018 OUTSPOKEN Sex Ed

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