Supporting positive sexual behaviour

Supporting positive sexual behaviour

As teenagers' interest in sex develops, you can support them to develop their understanding of positive sexual behaviour. Here’s some tips on how to start an ongoing conversation.

Parents text content

 As a parent there is a lot you can do to support your child to develop positive views and healthy behaviours around sex, most importantly – talk to them. Talking with your child about positive principles for sex could help them to:

● say no to sexual acts or conversations that could harm them or others 

● choose sexual acts that are positive and safe for them and the other person

● know they can come to you if something is worrying them

● develop positive sexual self-esteem          

Tips for talking

‘How do I describe positive sexual behaviour?’. It can be difficult to know what to say, see below for a starting point on describing positive sexual behaviour. 

‘When should I talk to them?’. Start having these chats as early as your child learns about sex, and if and when you sense their sexual interest might be developing or their puberty is beginning.

‘They won’t want ‘the talk’ from me’. There is no need for a big sit down chat, little and often is much more effective. Look for opportunities for small chats, for example using film or TV scenarios to ask their views and open up discussion.

‘It’s embarrassing for both of us’. In these chats you’re showing your child that it’s normal and important to talk about sex. It will soon become more comfortable to discuss and shows your child that they can talk to you about anything. 

‘What else can I do?’. Starting regular chats is important, but you can also help your child with your actions. Lead by example, by showing respect, empathy, kindness and good communication in your relationships. 

Whilst young people may feel ready for sex earlier or later than this, the legal age of consent is 16 years old. Young people need to be aware that any sexual activity where one or both people are under 16, is illegal. It is also important to let them know that they shouldn’t feel pressured to have sex once they turn 16.

Describing positive sexual behaviour

As a starting point, you can talk to your child about the things that should be present in positive sexual behaviour. Let them know that in a healthy and positive sexual relationship there should be:

● Shared enthusiasm. Sexual activity should be between those that equally want to, without any force, persuasion or tricks involved. It is always OK to withdraw at any point from sexual activity, and saying or showing that you want to stop should be responded to and respected.

● Equality. Sexual activity should take place in equal relationships, where there is no actual or perceived power imbalance, or anything received in exchanged. Equal relationships mean people are equally able to say yes, no and withdraw from the activity without fear of negative consequences.

● Empathy. Before, during and after, people should think about, care about and respond to their own and the other person’s feelings.

● Communication. People should check in with one another about their feelings, what they like and what they don’t. Communication should be based on trust and you should feel confident that you can speak openly and so can they.

● Knowledge. It’s important to really know who the other person is. There shouldn’t be any lies or holding back on important information.

There are certain sexual situations when it is much harder to follow these positive principles, these include:

● being under the influence of alcohol or drugs

● sending sexual images

● more than two people

● between people who have only recently met

… So these situations are best avoided.

Some tips

  • Have conversations with your child about what positive sexual activity involves, covering the points discussed above.

  • Start having these chats as early as your child learns about sex, and certainly if and when you sense their sexual interest might be developing or their puberty is beginning.

  • ‘Little and often’ is more effective than ‘The Big Chat’. Explore their views, for example by using films or TV soaps, or imaginary scenarios rather than taking a lecturing approach.

  • Don’t let embarrassment stop you. In these chats you’re showing that it’s normal and important to talk about sex. This will help any embarrassment to subside and make it easier for your child to bring up any things that are bothering them in the future - parents and carers of teenagers often depend on their child’s openness to know what’s going on in their lives.

  • Spend time together, and model in your own life the values of respect, equality, empathy and communication in relationships. This will provide a powerful counter-point to any alternatives your child is exposed to in other parts of their life.