Sex, sexuality and relationships

As a parent, or guardian, you probably want to give your children knowledge and guidance about sexuality, relationships, communicating sexual limits, and protecting themselves from unsafe situations.

Youth Mental Health Sex Sexuality RelationshipsYoung people can sometimes need help dealing with peer pressure, body image and sexual feelings when growing up. How you talk to your son or daughter about these topics will vary greatly depending on their age.

Having the conversation

Whatever stage you decide to talk your son or daughter about sex they will more than likely know quite a bit, whether from friends or from things they’ve seen on television or online.

Be open to discussion if they initiate it

This will help if you’re happy to talk about the everyday ups and downs of relationships. If you’re uncomfortable, you can say so, but try to still be honest and open so they know you can be there for them.

You can also take advantage of stories that come up in the media, on television soaps to talk about sex. This can be less intimidating for your both.

If you don’t know answers to their questions you can offer to look up information online together with them.

Consent and sex

In Ireland the legal age of consent is 17-years-old for everyone, not everyone knows this as we are influenced by media from other countries such as the UK.

The law however, may not be a contributing factor on when a young person decides to have sex, whether they know the age of consent or not.

Avoid being overly strict

Any kind of heavy-handed or moral approach such as “No child of mine will have sex before marriage” can be counterproductive.

Teenage years, in particular, are a time to question authority.

Questions about sex and sexuality

Your role can be more than imparting facts but also making sure they have good self-esteem, feel loved and respected and are able to give love and respect others.

Here are some questions you may be asked, or at least be ready to answer.

How do I know when I’m ready for sex?

Let them understand that deciding when to have sex for the first time is something everyone needs to do on their own.

Your son or daughter may be feeling pressure because their friends are sexually active, so they need to feel confident in making their own decisions.

My boyfriend/girlfriend wants to have sex, but I don’t, what do I do?

No one should be coerced to have sex out of a sense of obligation or fear. Any form of forced sex is rape, no matter what the relationship is.

Drugs and alcohol can affect people’s ability to make decisions, including whether or not they want to have sex. This means if someone’s really drunk, they can’t give consent.

Having sexual activity with someone when they don’t know what’s going on is also considered to be rape under law.

Discuss what consent is with your son or daughter. They need to fully understand what consent is, that it’s necessary to get as well as give.

What if I think I’m gay?

The majority of young people will wonder at some stage whether they’re gay or bisexual.

Irrespective of you son/daughter’s sexuality, let your child know you love him or her unconditionally.

Ensure you’re supportive

In focus groups many young people described situations where parents have no problems with other people’s sexuality but feel it’s different if it’s their own children.

Evidence suggests that LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender) people have a higher risk of experiencing suicidal feelings, self-harm, drug or alcohol misuse and mental health problems such as depression and anxiety.

These issues experienced by LGBT people have been linked to incidences of discrimination, homophobia and bullying.

 

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