Here is a fact: absolutely no parent wants to talk to their teenager about sex. Here is another fact: absolutely no teenager wants to talk to their parent about sex. Despite this, and rather unfortunately, it is it is an inevitable part of your job as a parent. Teenage pregnancies in Northern Ireland are at an all time low and this dip can be partly attributed to greater access to contraceptives. However, the drop in numbers is also seen as a result of better sex and relationship education. Teenagers have always and will always have sex, informing them about necessary precautions to take and the risks that can be involved when becoming sexually active is much more effective than pretending it isn’t happening. This information can largely come from schools but should be coupled with open, if somewhat awkward, conversations with you.

Whilst formal education on sex and relationships is becoming more mainstream there is no guarantee that your child will receive useful and helpful information at school. Educational facilities vary on their approach to the subject and often the environment isn’t the most appropriate for conveying an important message. Picture a room full of 30 pubescent boys and girls talking about sex and you’ll understand how some of the seriousness could be lost.

Here is our advice on how to go about this: 

Don’t make it a big deal. There is absolutely no need to make this a formal occasion where you try to look as serious as possible and everyone feels uncomfortable. Keep it casual and it will be a lot easier. The NHS recommend that you talk to your teenager about sex ‘little and often’ to encourage a more open and honest environment.

Be practical. No one needs an old fashioned ‘the birds and the bees’ style conversation where you stammer about what goes where. They’re teenagers, they have internet access, they probably know how it works. What we recommend instead is making it less about the mechanics and more about the safety. Talk to them about the need for contraceptives, the different forms available, and where they can get them. If you are comfortable you could offer to provide contraceptives like condoms or to book a GP appointment to arrange the contraceptive pill.

Listen to them. It is important for you to know the attitudes, information, and questions your teen has about sex. Listen to them, even if what they say shocks or upsets you. Answer their questions as honestly as possible and this will create an environment where they feel comfortable coming to you for advice or answers.

Be serious…but not too serious. You know your child, so you should be able to give them the vital information without making them feel doomed to contract an STI or an unwanted pregnancy. They need to know the risks but they also need to know that sex is natural and should be enjoyed.

Perhaps most importantly, don’t do this…

how to talk about sex

Share your experiences of talking to your teen about sex. Give your advice and offer some tips. Join or start the conversation below.