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  • Writer's pictureLeah Jewett

Sex ed: what do young people want from us as parents?

Is it important for parents to talk openly at home about sex and relationships topics? We’ve long known the answer is yes – parents are, after all, their children’s first and most influential sex educators – but the Sex Education Forum Young People’s RSE Poll 2021, published earlier this year, is even more evidence that relationships and sex education (RSE) is most effective for kids if their parents play a part. No pressure! And no surprises there really.

The most vital message we learned from this poll is that young people want their parents to have open, honest conversations with them – more often and earlier.

Though 33% of the young people aged 16 and 17 surveyed said their sex ed at home was “good” or “very good”, only 17% had regular discussions and 23% had none.

17% of young people would like to have learned earlier from their parents about sexual harassment, “how to get help if you were sexually abused or assaulted” and “how to tell if a relationship is abusive or healthy (including online)” – while 18% wish they’d heard earlier from their parents about the attitudes and behaviour of boys and men towards girls and women. Porn, pleasure, FGM and “how to access local sexual health services” were the topics least often covered “at the right time” by parents.

“Young people are clear that they want RSE to be discussed at home through open and supportive conversations that better equip them for the challenges they face on a daily basis,” remarked Sex Education Forum director Lucy Emmerson, adding: “Parents and carers are willing but need support to get started.”

Getting started is hard – but set yourself the challenge of bringing up a sex and relationships topic with your child. Pick a topic, any topic – use a recent news story as a talking point, a way in – and you’re on your way towards forging a closer connection with your child.

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