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…

I WANT TO… teach and reassure my young child about sex


Think consciously about how and when you want to introduce your child to the idea of sex


You don't know when your children will start learning elsewhere – from friends, family or the internet – and how accurate it will be


Use straightforward language and practise first to avoid awkwardness. Be led by your child’s level of interest or bring it up if appropriate

  • We agree with ScaryMommy that it’s never too early to start talking to your children about sex (in simple terms). To give your kid a shot at being a good engineer or doctor, you’d start teaching them addition and subtraction at six, surely? Add detail if they ask – and if they don’t, be on the alert for the any teachable moments that come up. has a helpful list of questions to expect at each age


  • First, look to yourself: think about your own sex education and how you came by the knowledge and wisdom you have gathered today. Bish recommends these useful exercises for parents who want to talk to their children about sex. How about trying the Talk For a Minute challenge together with your partner?

I’ve been preparing them since they were toddlers. I’m sure to some, it seems extreme. When we think of talking to our kids about sex, we feel like we’re going to somehow rob them of their innocence or purity, or that it’s encouraging them to be sexual. But here’s the thing: sexual development begins during childhood

Rita Templeton – It’s Never Too Early To Start Talking to Your Kids About Sex (ScaryMommy)

  • Use books, by all means, but talk around them with as little shame and embarrassment as possible for the best chances of a repeat conversation. See Bodies & Body Image for more on this


  • Try involving a parent or carer of another gender in the conversation sometimes – the more different perspectives your children hear, the fewer myths you’ll inadvertently propagate (along the lines of “men only want one thing” or “girls are too tricky for me to fathom”)

I WANT TO… support my older child with their first sexual experiences


The hope is that our kids  will be confident, communicate about consent and pleasure and wait till it feels right


It’s important that they have good decision-making skills about choosing to be with someone and self-knowledge


Discuss the social conditioning of boys’ entitlement and girls’ deferring to boys. People can write their own script instead

  • 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 from Sex Ed Rescue advises: share your ideas on what behaviours and attitudes are OK but avoid TMI (too much info)

  • Read and absorb this Am I Ready for Sex checklist. We think it’s a nice decision-making tool. Do you agree? Would you share it with your child?

We’ve been taught that the hymen is some kind of freshness seal on the vaginal canal… [but the] “breaking” of the hymen is simply a misnomer.  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)

  • 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” every 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. The most common barrier to children communicating openly with their parents is fear of judgment

I WANT TO… promote healthy relationships for my child


Be aware, day to day, about how your relationships model values and encourage behaviour for your children


Children learn from observing. Relationships learned at home are blueprints. Those patterns can be hard to break 


Practise active listening: concentrate on the message behind your child’s words and play it back to them

  • 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 – not that you need to come to them for advice about your own romantic relationship! Try to avoid making it all about you, even though it’s hard not to bring your own baggage

  • When you ask questions, sometimes you may get a “Don’t know” and sometimes you may get a fuller response. When this happens, soak it all in: listen actively, shushing any anxious voices in your head. Repeat back what you have heard in summary to check you’ve got it right

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, will help you as best as I can and will love you, no matter what”

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

More help with #Sex&Relationships
Sex Ed School.jpg


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 >

Sex for Parents | BISH

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 >

Six Minute Sex Ed_edited.jpg

Six Minute Sex Ed | KIM CAVILL

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 >

Parent Toolkit | SEX ED RESCUE

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 >

Remember: every child is different. Adjust these suggestions for the age and stage of your child. Children with special educational needs and disabilities, looked-after children and children who have experienced abuse may all need different support.

If you’re in doubt about your child’s development, you should seek the advice of a professional



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