Talk early, talk often: How to communicate with your children about sex

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If you are a parent or carer, it is never too soon to start having conversations with your children about their bodies and about healthy relationships.

Having conversations of this nature from a young age will pave the way for continued and open conversations with children about puberty and sexual development as they get older.

With the increase of technology and accessibility to online content on hand-held devices, pornography is one of the topics which will need to be discussed.

Research shows that 48 per cent of boys have seen pornography by the age of 13 and 48 per cent of girls have seen pornography by the age of 15, predominately via online channels.

Most young people discover pornography well before they encounter sex, and sometimes even before they have kissed or held the hands with someone they have romantic feelings for.

A recent analysis on the website of the most watched pornography sites found that 88 per cent of the scenes also included acts of aggression and violence.

Caroline Knight, senior clinician at Safe Wayz, which is part of the Western Sydney Local Health District (WSHLHD) Integrated Violence Prevention & Response Service (IVPRS) said that “we cannot afford for pornography to be the basis of our children’s sex education”.

“As parents or family members, we need to be talking with our children and adolescents about healthy respectful relationships, consent and explaining that pornography does not usually reflect healthy or respectful relationships,” said Caroline.

Ly Johnson, coordinator at IVPRS understands that it can feel uncomfortable or awkward to start these conversations but said “the sooner you begin with children the easier it will be to continue these conversations as they become adolescents”.

Tips for talking to children about sex and their bodies include:

  • Starting conversations about bodies when children are young and normalising conversations about relationships and sex
  • Having quick conversations – they do not need to be particularly serious or lengthy: using time in the car with teenagers to have conversations can be a winning approach
  • Using something you have seen (on TV, social media, in real life) or heard as a conversation starter
  • Teaching them about boundaries and who they can talk to if they feel unsafe
  • Making sure children know how to name parts of their bodies and identify which parts are ‘private’
  • Modelling healthy relationships with your partner and friends,

For further information about the IVPRS, visit