We understand that talking with your child/tamaiti about sex, sexuality and relationships can be challenging. But talking is important - it shows your young people that you think this is important and that you're someone they can talk with and come to for help and information. It's also important to remember that this is not just one conversation - it's going to be many conversations across many years.
There are some things it might be helpful for you to know or think about - before you talk with your young people about sex. Our health promoter was interviewed about ways you can make this conversation more effective - for you, and for your young person. Watch the video here.
What is the difference between sex and sexuality?
Sex is about the physical act of having sex.
Sexuality is about the whole person and involves relationships with other people, feelings, communication, intimacy, attitudes about your own body, and ideas about how people should behave.
Teaching your children/tamariki about sex is just a small part of sexuality.
Children learn by watching their parents/mātua, seeing how they relate to others, how they express loving and caring feelings and how they respect other people’s differences – including different values.
Why should I talk with my child about sex and sexuality?
Children learn from their friends and from the media, whether you want them to or not.
If you don’t talk to your child, they will get their information from other places and you won’t know the kind of messages or information they’re getting. When you have these conversations it gives you the chance to share your family's values and what you hold to be most important.
Silence is also a message as it implies there is something wrong with bodies and sexuality.
We can all feel embarrassed by personal questions but it is important that we show by our actions that it’s okay to talk about sex and sexuality.
When should I start talking about sex and sexuality with my child?
If you want your child to come to you for support when they’re a teenager you need to start talking to them and developing good communication when they’re little.
When families/whānau are confident talking about sex and relationships, young people/rangatahi will find it easier to:
- resist peer pressure
- express their beliefs and values
- challenge bullying
- understand negative messages about sex and relationships.
When do I start talking to them about sex and sexuality?
Start early and talk often is the best advice.
Start talking early before they experience any changes in the own bodies. This can help them feel less worried when they do have pubertal changes.
What can I do to get ready to talk with my child?
Prepare yourself and talk with your partner, friends, family and whānau to build up your confidence.
Use everyday situations to talk about sex and relationships. This might be a friend or relative having a baby, a storyline in a tv programme they watch or a book they are reading. It might be easier to have a conversation with them while you’re doing the dishes or driving the car.
Go to the library or ask at your children’s school or kindergarten for information that might be helpful.
Our online shop has free resources to help you with these conversations.
It's also okay not to know the answer to a question they raise or to want some time to think about your answer. You can let them know that you're not sure, or that you'd like time to think about it, but that you will come back to them. Make sure you do.
what about those tricky questions?
Often the question itself isn't tricky - it is more likely that it comes when you least expect it or at an inappropriate time (at the supermarket for example). A good way to buy yourself some time to think about the question is to use a strategy called - Clarify, Respond, Check.
Clarify - Be clear what your tamaiti is asking. You can clarify what their question is by asking what they mean or where they heard it. This is helpful to give you some context.
Respond - Answer their question succinctly and honestly. Don’t be afraid to buy yourself time by saying, “That’s a good question, let me think on it and get back to you at bedtime.”
Check - Finally, check that you have answered their question and that they understand what you mean. You can check by asking “Does that answer your question?” or “Did I explain that ok?
Family Planning has clinics located throughout New Zealand. Use the clinic finder to find your nearest clinic.