The ‘birds and the bees’ talk – How to broach the topic with your teenager

Would you be ready if your teenage child asked: “Mum/Dad, how old were you when you started having sex?’’

The key to answering awkward questions is to treat them as teachable moments. Educating your child about sexual behaviour is a lifelong conversation. 

So, think about what kind of sexual activity and dating you’d be comfortable condoning for your teenager. How much do you want to reveal about your own sexual history to your teen? You can help your teen make sense of their inexperience by drawing on your own, wider experience. 

When your teenager asks you a question it’s the chance to talk about sensitive topics such as contraception and safe sex or pornography. It’s also good to talk about relationships and values and help them think through, plan for and make decisions about having sex. 

It’s important to realise that, should you refuse to share information, teenagers may take the message that sex is something to be hidden, or ashamed about. They will also look for information elsewhere, normally from their peers.

Even if your teenager doesn’t ask questions about sex, it’s still important to start a conversation. Find a quiet time to discuss things, such as in the car or at bedtime. Keep the conversation brief – just one or two topics. And always let your teenager control the discussion.