Photo: Adrian Dreßler
Brook's Richard Essery offers advice on talking about sex and relationships.
It's often hard to start a conversation about relationships, sex or contraception with your child, especially if you are already feeling nervous or worried, confused or upset because of some change in your child, something that's happened, or the thought of having to talk to them about something intimate.
There's no universal method or answer, because each situation is different: for instance, you may know your teen is already having sex or you may suspect they are. You may want to have ‘that chat’ before they do start having sex; or, if you have a relationship where your child feels they can talk to you about anything, they may come to you with questions.
There is often a catalyst for conversations about sex and relationships: you may be concerned that they're spending too much time locked away in their bedroom (on the internet or with someone else); there may be tell-tale signs of masturbation; you may find condoms or contraceptive pills; a storyline in a TV show or soap opera might raise issues that you feel you should really address.
It is understandable to feel anxious. The most useful thing is to think about how they might react before you speak to them. Put yourself in their shoes - how would you feel if your teen started asking you intimate questions about your love life?!
If you don’t usually discuss sensitive matters at home, then diving in at the deep end of sex and love might feel really intimidating, especially if you don’t feel confident that you have the knowledge to answer any potential questions they might have.
Whatever your situation, it’s always good to listen and be prepared: you may like to have a look at the following websites: Brook www.brook.org.uk, the FPA www.fpa.org.uk, NHS Choices http://www.nhs.uk/Service-Search/Sexual-health-services/LocationSearch/1847, and theSite www.thesite.org for factual information about contraception, sexual health, sexually transmitted infections (STIs), relationships and preventing unwanted pregnancy.
Once you have looked at these sites, you may feel more confident about speaking to your teen, or you may prefer to encourage your teen to look at these sites themselves.
It might also be a good idea to look for your local young person’s services, like Brook. These are clinics where young people can go to talk to a doctor, nurse or counsellor confidentially about sex, contraception, relationships and anything else that might be on their mind.