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  • Writer's pictureLeah Jewett

Taking the plunge: how to talk openly with children about sex & relationships

As parents, we get it: everything has gone digital fast. It’s hard to keep pace with our children’s onscreen lives because it’s near impossible to know what they are being exposed to by friends, the media, social media and the internet – and when.

But there is something you can do that will help safeguard your children against negative influences, shore up their mental health and in the process strengthen your connection.

You can involve yourself in your children’s sex education. You can start the conversation.

Though we live in a hypersexualised society, ironically we tend to find it difficult to talk with our children about things like sex and relationships. Generally we didn’t have comprehensive sex education or parents who talked openly with us. No wonder we often don’t have the language, skills or confidence to talk openly with our children; unsurprisingly, it doesn’t always come naturally.

Talking openly is, however, a surefire way to support your children and help them become resilient. That might mean challenging yourself. But if you become comfortable in talking about tricky subjects, you will mirror that confidence to your children.

Sex ed begins at home because you are your children’s first and most influential educator. So start talking openly with them now – and continue, little and often, over time. Listen to your children and ask them questions. Bring up news stories, the ads you see, the songs you hear and other people’s experiences as ways in. Use humour. Be factual. Keep going.

Knowledge is of course power, so if children can talk and think about their changing bodies and brains – if they learn about puberty before puberty hits, or if they realise that the brain is still under construction up to age 25 – it will be easier for them to take the developmental phases they are going through more in their stride.


From the start, use correct names for body parts. It’s a protective measure for children, in case anything happens to them, to be armed with anatomical knowledge. Also, if you don’t say words like vulva or penis out loud, you are automatically imposing a sense of secrecy and shame onto body parts that shouldn’t feel any more awkward to label than eyes or elbows.