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Making sure your child seeks out healthy, respectful relationships from childhood on

The facts

  • The average age of “sexual debut” (what a term!) in the UK is 16 to 17, but bear in mind that virginity is a social construct – the idea of “popping your cherry” is a thing of the past. People often define first-time sex along sliding scale of sexual experience

  • Children whose parents talked to them about sex at a young age do not have sex younger – but they do have safer sex, a North Carolina State University study shows


  • Almost 4 in 10 young people have started seeing someone they met first online, according to Brook’s Digital Romance report. Read it to come to terms with how your child might be moving fluidly between technology and face-to-face in their romantic relationships. It’s not all bad…

We agree with ScaryMommy that it’s never too early to start talking to your children about sex (in simple terms, with spiralling levels of detail as they get older). 

To give your kid a shot at being a good engineer, when would you start teaching them to count?

What is age appropriate? Be led by your child's level of interest. Add detail if they ask – and if they don’t, be on the alert for any of these Sex Ed Rescue teachable moments as they come up. has a helpful list of questions to expect at each age

Educate yourself. You want to be a myth breaker, not a myth maker, even if that means saying “I don’t know – let’s find out” now and again.


With you child, consult Brook or The Mix together for straight facts, Amaze for video content and Scarleteen for “real world” advice

Our children want open and supportive relationships with us that include less threat and punishment, according to Brook’s Digital Romance report.


They want to hear about the positives, and not just the negatives, of sexual relationships.

Be conscious of what you want your family’s “values” to be. The family environment mostly develops naturally but there may be a gap between what’s happening and how you want your family to be. Cath Hakanson advises: share your ideas on behaviours and attitudes but avoid TMI (too much info)

We’ve been taught that the hymen is some kind of freshness seal on the vaginal canal… [but] for most women, there’s nothing to break.  The hymen expands and contracts. The hymen is not a predictor of virginity

Anya Manes – 5 Patriarchal Myths I Bet You Believe (Talking About Sex)

Never “If you ever…”…The only productive “if you ever” statement I can think of around sex and teens is something like: “If X ever happens, I hope that you’ll come to me, knowing and trusting I will do my very best to be supportive of you..."

Heather Corinna (Scarleteen) – A Top Ten List of Resolutions for Parents… (Rewire News)

Young people describe their parents as influential relationship role models: 75% of young men, for example, cited their parent's relationship as one they admire in FASTN's Love, Lust and Loneliness report.


This means they need to observe healthy behaviour from you!

Our favourite of these illuminating Top Ten Resolutions for Parents Talking to Teens About Sex (it’s an oldy but a goody) is about encouraging and respecting healthy boundaries: 


Practise what you preach by allowing your children privacy and respecting their boundaries yourself

More help with #Sex&Relationships
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Fill the gaps in your 9- to 12-year-old’s education so far with this reassuring Canadian video series set within a very normal-feeling classroom. The UK version, BBC’s The Big Talk, is good too but aimed more directly at teachers  Go to Sex Ed School >

Justin Hancock’s Bish – a comprehensive sex and love guide for teengagers aged 14+ – also has a Sex For Parents guide to help you talk to your children. See also Meg-John and Justin, aimed at a slightly older crowd  Go to Bish: Sex For Parents >

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We highly recommend listening to American Kim Cavill’s podcast together with a teenager as a jumping-off point. Episodes include “Let’s talk about nudes” and “What’s an HIV test like?”  Go to Six Minute Sex Ed >

If you’re in the mood to get lost in another rabbit warren of links and resources, try this Parent Toolkit. Birds+Bees+Kids by Amy Lang is also very comprehensive, if a little sales-y  Go to Sex Ed Rescue >

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