Parents

Your role

The quality of the interaction and ease with which young people can discuss sexual issues with their parents is likely to be an important predictor of better knowledge and less risky behaviour. From
infancy children look to their parents to gain understanding. Parents bring an entirely different
dimension, and individually different methods, to sex education. The parents’ role in providing
knowledge and guidance about sex health and sexuality is a significant one. Parents have the
advantage of responding to informal learning moments that surface in daily life. For example, a
child’s accidental exposure to online pornography, need a trusted adult to provide them with
accurate information and an opportunity to think and talk about how they feel. Parents’ can discuss
their family’s values about sexuality. The parents’ positive response can encourage the child to feel
good about themselves.

Children will learn about sexuality from their parents, irrespective of their parents discussing sex
with them or not. A child learns about sexuality by watching their parents interact, by listening to
them, and observing how they react to sexual messages or behaviour, for example a movie or
parents embracing. Not speaking openly about sexuality may be sending the message that it is a
forbidden topic. Or children can get the idea that sex is bad, which can affect them throughout their
lives. When a child’s natural curiosity is not satisfied they may seek information elsewhere, and this
information may be inaccurate or incomplete.

Parents are an untapped resource when it comes to sexual health and sexuality education.
However, there are some things parents should consider with respect to discussing sex and sexuality
with their children. Talking to your child about sexuality can be difficult for many parents. Sexual
education specialists recommend the following advice to those wishing to increase their level of
comfort when approach the matter.

    • Try to develop a healthy attitude toward your own sexuality.
    • Consider your own feelings and identify possible reactions toward different topics
    • Familiarise yourself with the topic, so your child can benefit from your knowledge. Don’t feel you should be an expert. Your knowledge is less important than your attitude towards sexuality. Often you and your child can find the answers together.
    • Be prepared for common questions. Accept the role of sex educator. Become knowledgeable about sex and sexuality. Many young people are open to their parents providing them with information on issues surrounding sexuality, but are often uncertain how to open the conversation. Accept that at first it is likely to be a little awkward and embarrassing. But you have a responsibility to your child, so do it any way.
    • Practice answering questions. As well as providing facts, talk about feelings and relationships. Discuss how other people can be affected. Communicate your family values around sexuality. The four-point plan can help you respond to questions your child may have about sexuality (see PDF)