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Talking About Sex

Whether young people are sexually active or not, talking about sex in an open and honest way can help them build their own values and feel more confident in making safer choices. 

It can be challenging to talk about sex. It’s easy to assume that young people will learn everything they need to know at school, or that they know it all already, but often they don’t. 

Teens who can have conversations with their parents or caregivers about sex are more likely to delay having sex, use protection and be more responsible about their sexual behaviour. If they can’t turn to you, they're likely to get their information from the internet, magazines, television, or friends, and that can be inaccurate or even dangerous.

Healthy conversations

Teens want and need a reliable source of information about sex. Create opportunities to talk about issues around sex openly, honestly, and without judgement. You’ll help them build their own values, feel more confident in making choices about sex, and start thinking about the consequences of their actions.

  • Prepare for the conversation. You could read about topics you are unsure of and make sure you have current and accurate information. If something comes up during the conversation that you’re unsure about, that’s okay too. You don’t have to be an expert on everything. Do some research and share what you know
  • It doesn’t have to be awkward but if it is, say so. Be honest, tell them that it’s not easy to have these kinds of conversations but they are important and it’s okay to talk about it
  • Don't make assumptions about whether they are sexually active or who they are attracted to
  • Talk about the facts. You could talk about some of the risks around sexually transmitted infections or unplanned pregnancies. You want them to have the right information so they can make good choices and stay safe
  • As well as the risks, talk about consent, respect, and healthy relationships. You could ask questions like, "How do you know when your partner is ready to kiss you?"
  • Don't avoid topics you might feel uncomfortable with. You could cover issues such as birth control, sexual orientation, or how alcohol and drugs can affect making decisions around sex
  • Share your values and beliefs about sex, but remember that ultimately they will make their own choices
  • Ask their opinion. What do they know about a certain topic and is there anything they’d like to know more about?
  • Listen to them. Give them a chance to ask questions, discuss the topic with them rather than giving a lecture
  • Respond to their comments or questions non-judgementally. They need to feel that it’s okay to ask questions, and to talk about it
  • This doesn’t have to be a one off conversation. There’s a lot to cover, so you could have lots of smaller talks about different topics

Resources

FAMILY PLANNING

Family Planning works to promote a positive view of sexuality to enable people to make informed choices about their sexual and reproductive health.

SEX'N'RESPECT

Sex'n'Respect works to create communities free of sexual violence; where young people are enjoying positive, respectful and pleasurable experiences of sexuality and relationships free of pressure, coercion, harm or violence.

JUST THE FACTS

Just The Facts provides information about sexually transmitted infections, and where to go for help.

YOUTHLINE

Confidential Helpline: 0800 376 633

Youthline provides free phone, text, and email counselling support. Its website has great information for youth dealing with challenging situations, including useful information for young people about sex

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