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Sex education

Sex education means talking about all the factors that affect children and young people’s sexual growth and development. Topics might include how their body is changing, respectful behaviour and language, privacy and sexual decisions—including when it’s the right time to have sex.

If you don’t ever bring up the subject of sex, your child might assume you don’t want to talk about it, or that it’s not important.

Talking to your children

As a parent, it can be difficult or uncomfortable to talk to your children about sexual matters. Sex education should be an ongoing process. Shorter, frequent conversations are better than a long, one-off talk. Talking about your child’s concerns can also help them feel supported. They may make better decisions about their relationships and sex life as a result.

Find more tips on how to talk to your child and offer them guidance and support.

Besides talking to you, your child might benefit from speaking to:

Where to start

You should try to talk in relaxed environments when doing everyday tasks like cooking, washing the dishes or walking the dog. Maintain eye contact with your child as much as possible. Try not to interrupt while they are talking.

Be as well informed as you can before you start these conversations. Sex-related topics your child or teenager might ask about could include:

If your child is of primary school age, they will need age-appropriate information about their body, puberty and sex.

Older children and young people need more accurate information about sex and sexuality and how to negotiate sexual relationships.

Safe sex and sexual health

Is your child ready for sex?

If you think your child is thinking about having sex, you can explain that:

  • they and their partner both need to agree to have sex
  • they need to talk to their partner about safe sex
  • no-one has the right to force them to have sex
  • they always have the right to say no
  • it is OK to change their mind at any time.

Sex and the law

Find out when your child can legally have sex, and what sexual activities are legal at certain ages.

Sexual health

Read tips to help your child have safer sex and prevent sexually transmissible infections (STIs) and unplanned pregnancy.

Sexual health checks are check-ups by a doctor, nurse or other health worker related to sexual health.

Information for your children

The following resources are written for children and young people, but may also be useful for parents. Read about:

  • unwanted sex and sexual assault—educates your children on their rights and how they can feel safer. Counselling and emergency contacts are also listed
  • relationships and sexuality—including information on respectful relationships, dating, sexting and same-sex relationships
  • sexual health—including information on sexual health checks, contraception and STIs.

Educational sex health videos are available for children of all ages. The animated videos cover specific STIs as well as topics including using condoms, emergency contraception, the reproductive cycle, and visiting a sexual health service.

Further resources

Public libraries have information on sex education and reproduction that’s suitable for both children and parents.
Licence
Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Australia (CC BY 3.0)
Last updated
12 September 2014
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