Parent & Carers Tips

Being real matters so that our kids come to us when they want to know something about sex. If you are not real it can sometimes shut down any form of communication. They need to know that it’s important, and that you will give them the right answers and be authentic in what you say and not make it up. It means saying sorry, I don’t know but I will find out.
In fact research tells us that the opposite is true: Children who have the knowledge and have talked about sex from a young age, wait longer to have sex, feel more prepared when they do, are safer from sexual abuse and to top it all tend to make wiser decisions around safe sex and contraception and isn’t that what we as parents and carers want for our kids?
Values are principles and fundamental convictions which guide our behaviour. Everyone has values about sex. Values are based on things like, religion, culture, peer group, how people were raised. It’s important to know what your values are when it comes to sexual health topics- so you can communicate what you believe to your kids.
Before having the conversation with your child, you need to ask them what they want to know and not just tell them what you want them to hear. When my son at 8 asked me what a condom was, I launched into a 10minute description losing him in the first minute. I could have explained it much more simply, instead he interrupted saying “just stop talking!”
Look for opportunities to have open and positive conversations. Opportunities are everywhere, like in the media, while you’re in the car listening to music, advertisements on public transport. The possibilities are endless and you want to be the parent your child can go to for answers so they don’t look elsewhere and find misinformation.
There is a first time for everything. The first time your child learns to swim, gets their period or you notice their body changing. It’s often the hardest. It’s the same when having conversations about tough topics. But it will get easier. I love this saying, “If at first you don’t succeed then try again!
My daughter was young when she asked me about oral sex. She could tell how shocked I was, I mumbled something and then that was the end of the conversation!! Parenting is hard, especially dealing with difficult issues. But you need to be the parent your child can go to. So take a deep breath tell your child that you are proud of them for coming to you and stay calm.
It might be your upbringing, culture or beliefs that stop you from having difficult conversations, but be brave. For example say, ‘Have your friends ever seen something called pornography?’ Simple questions can generate a rewarding conversation that prepares the way for ongoing discussion in the future.
Life is full of twists and turns and you never really stop being a parent. Often opportunities have arisen when I’ve least expected it and it gets easier the more open you are. No one can do the job of a parent as well as you. Life-long conversations are exactly that, so never give up. Because research tells us that as a parents you have more influence on your child than anyone else.
Having one conversation with your child is not enough! Lots of everyday, natural chats are the best! Why? Well, it’s impossible to get out all the information all at once and your child probably won’t recall it all let alone ask any questions. What each child wants to know, what they are ready for or understand is different according to their different developmental stages.
Often as parents when faced with tough topics we use inaccurate information. Like talking about genitals we call them ‘rude parts’, or creating stories that are not true when discussing sex or even change the topic. Children who know the right information are less likely to be sexually abused.
Have you ever launched into a conversation with your child and ended up off topic, rambling on or forgetting what question you were answering? That would be me sometimes! I want my kids to know all of the information, so I feel like I need to say it all, there and then, however that’s not what they want, so they tune out and don’t hear what I am saying.
Life is one long learning lesson, don’t you agree? As parents it is important to educate yourself around sexual health and what’s going on in the world and your child’s world too. This will provide unlimited opportunities to understand how the world is changing, and give your child the correct answers, while being able to relate to them.
Every child is unique, there is not just ‘one’ talk or ‘one’ answer for each stage. That means we need to think about the context of the what, when, why and be age appropriate. Putting yourself in your child’s shoes can change your mindset and the way that you answer their questions. I wish I had done this more often with my own children.
As a parent I thought I needed to know all the answers. I realise that that preconceived idea was far from the truth. I am still learning, I will never know all of the answers. So, next time your child asks you a question that you don’t know the answer to, tell them that you will get back to them and go and find out!
In our ordinary lives, opportunities arise to talk about sex when we least expect it! Why not take up the opportunity. It might not quite be the right time, especially in the checkout at Kmart, but you open up the lines of conversation and that makes you an ‘askable’ parent!
I remember my mum talking to me about sex in a negative way, it made me not want to talk about sex with her at all. As a parent I wanted to be different. Do you? Use ‘open door’ conversation starters. Questions that are positive, and encourage ongoing conversations, like; That’s a good question! What do you think about that?
We need to empower our children to make wise decisions, based on our values and beliefs as early as possible, so that they can make well informed choices later on. The earlier you have these conversations in an honest age-appropriate way, research suggests that this can your child make wise and safe sexual decisions in the future.
That means that, you don’t have to know all of the answers and you can make mistakes (I’ve made 1000s of them) and that’s okay. Therefore it can be less of a pressure to get all of the information out in one go and also mean that you can answer what your child actually wants to know.
The more time you spend with your child, the more opportunities naturally come up to talk. Being together often builds trust and confidence even when you or your children find it difficult.
Feeling nervous or awkward is nothing to be ashamed about in actual fact, your child might be more open because they feel the same way too, so tell them. They might laugh (which breaks down barriers). You are normal and so are your feelings!
When I feel shame, I feel like I’ve done something wrong and that I’ve let someone down. It’s uncomfortable, and I don’t want to talk about it. I sometimes even get anxious and fearful. If we are positive, honest and open to conversations, our families will understand that there is nothing to be ashamed of.
What do you want your child to know, and maybe not know, at their age about anything to do with sex. If your child asked you what pornography was what would you say. You can start by thinking about how you would answer questions like this, what you believe about them, make a plan and practice. It will help you to be calmer and know what to say.
When you respect others you value their ideas and opinions, you act from a place of appreciation and equality, impacting the way you behave and what you say. Conversations will happen when you respect opinions, ideas, feelings and bodies. Your child will be more open, confident, accept their own bodies and ask more questions to you, not google.
Often, we are the ones that sexualise conversations with our young kids, thinking that it may over-sexualise their behaviour and cause them to experiment at an early age, but the opposite is true. So start with the facts have ongoing conversations and be the maskable parents that our kids need.
With our kids being exposed at a much earlier age to sexual content and with visits to family and friends our kids aren’t necessarily protected in other people’s homes. Parents often have differing ideas about boundaries too. It’s up to parents to be both prepared and pro-active having age-appropriate conversations about safety.
Parents often tell me that their child hasn’t asked any questions, therefore they are not ready to know about sex. I’ve got 3 kids, one, who did not stop asking questions and the other two hardly ever asked me anything but that doesn’t mean that they weren’t ready. Be pro-active. You never know where the positive conversations might go to next.
The more honest and accurate information that your child knows early on the healthier, safer and wiser choices they make later on. If you are at a big party and your child asks you a question, or you feel embarrassed or perhaps don’t know the answer, you can still be honest and accurate and get back to them later on. 
Sometimes it’s important to have a script and to practise. How would you answer your child if they asked you what sex or pornography is? Think about it and get prepared so that, not only you know what you believe, but also what you might say …especially if you’re put on the spot.
Talking about sex with your kids can give feelings of discomfort, but that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t talk about it. Often, society conditions us to believe that uncomfortable feelings are not normal. The best place for the kids to be uncomfortable is with you and the advantages of you being the askable parent surpass the discomfort.
We can think that the whole conversation about sexual abuse will scare our kids. They often seem way too young to be grasping the whole concept. But if we approach the topic in a holistic way from an early age by talking about bodily autonomy, consent, private and public, it can build an environment of trust and positive connection.
Breathe. It's quite natural to feel shocked or embarrassed when faced with a question about sex from your child. Take a few deep breaths before you begin. This can help you feel calmer. This will also give you the opportunity to gather your thoughts and think about the answer and what they want to know.
Tell your child that you really want to talk with them but you feel a bit awkward or embarrassed because you never had these conversations with your own parents, and it's private. Kids benefit when they see us stretching beyond our comfort zones, messing up, and modelling what it is to be well intentioned but also imperfect.
If you get angry then conversations will probably shut down. Keeping calm is key. You are their safe space.The aim is to be the first person they turn to instead of the internet. So, lean in to them with your body language. This shows to them that you are open to talking. The tone of your voice matters too.
It's our responsibility to ensure our children's happiness, health, and safety. Ongoing conversations about sexual health topics strengthen parent-child relationships, making you the go-to source and fostering an environment where your child feels comfortable seeking guidance.
The word ‘with’ implies an interactive, ongoing, inclusive conversation. Where a person can validate and acknowledge the other person’s thoughts, feelings, questions and curiosity. The word ‘at’ implies a monologue, maybe even a lecture. Our kids deserve dialogues not monologues.
Saying things like “I’m not talking about this until you are much older” are unhelpful and stop opportunities for further conversations. Sex should be a positive part of being human but instead because of the way that we talk about it can be portrayed in a negative way. This can then cause shame, taboo and misinformation.
When my kids were growing up, I sometimes wondered at different stages if they were listening to anything that I said. But kids are clever; they often hear even when they seem not to. They might roll their eyes, stay on their phones, or act uninterested, but that does not mean that they are not listening or paying attention.
This is a constant learning curve for me. Often, I just blurt out information that I want them to hear and talk at them when all they wanted was for me to listen. Listening helps your child to feel respected. If they don't feel that talking to you met their emotional needs, this makes it much less likely your child will ask you questions in the future.
Conversations aren't easy, especially if your parents didn't talk to you or you may have experienced abuse. I have had to forgive myself for comments and overreactions. So, get support and advice from professionals. Say sorry—it’s a powerful word—if you have told them an untruth or never talked to them at all.
Let your child know they're not in trouble for asking you anything. Reassure them you're a safe person to ask, that they won’t be ridiculed, and you'll always love and support them. Also, that you will respect the privacy and confidentiality of their question. Ask "Did I explain that okay?" or "Is there anything else you're wondering about?"
They might have heard the number 69 for example or want a reaction. So find out what they already know and what they are curious about. In other words, you are not just going to launch into a detailed conversation about oral sex!
Remember when your kids ask endless questions, oblivious to social norms? Embrace their curiosity! Kids learn best when the learning is child-focused. So, when they inquire about sex, birth or tampons, set aside your agenda and provide honest, age-appropriate answers. Let their curiosity shape their understanding.
Communication is every parent’s responsibility. For dads in particular, to give the message that men can talk about sex and that it’s not just mum’s responsibility is important. One parent not talking about sex can also send an unhelpful message. Different perspectives are important, that’s the way our kids become more empathetic. 
"My kid's a nice kid; they wouldn't watch porn." I get this statement a lot! Yes, they do, and are and will. Why? Because they are curious. It's easy to access, free, and no one needs to know. So, even though your kids come from a good home where they have respectful boundaries, high standards, and morals, they can still watch pornography.
Have you heard these sayings: "Live out what you believe," or "Practice what you preach"? Research indicates that children learn more from what we do than what we say. If we exhibit negative stereotypes or engage in unhealthy relationships or disrespect, for example, our children are likely to take on these behaviors as they grow.
"Does that make sense?" "What do you think about that?" "How does that sound to you?" "Would you like to ask me anything else?" "What would you like to know about that?" Clarify what they are asking by using open-ended, positive questions without judgment. This helps validate what they are asking you.
Make it clear that it's not their job to share certain information with friends and family and other members before they ask you, similar to how we don't reveal Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny. Family rules may need repeating and stress the importance of respecting that boundaries in each family may differ to yours.
Isn’t it great that your child trusts you and are open to having conversations. This could ultimately strengthen your relationship with them, start other conversations about sex and for you to be the ‘askable’ parent that your child needs.
It's normal to feel shocked and deflect, however it's important to go back to the conversation again later by saying something like “I’m really sorry because the other day I ignored you when you asked me about……. I want to chat about it again.“ It’s a tough topic so cut yourself some slack.
Our kids learning about sex, it's an ongoing journey. There are tough moments, but also beautiful ones. Our role is to support and guide them towards happiness, safety, and health as they grow towards being wonderful sexual humans. Remember, just like a marathon it takes time and can’t possibly be a one-time talk.