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Let’s Talk about Sex – Start Early, Talk Often
The best way to work out what a young person knows, needs and understands is to talk to them. It is never too early to start these conversations about sexuality.
Whether there are problematic behaviours or not, normalising conversations about sex, sexuality and relationships is crucial. It will help young people understand that sexuality is a normal part of life and development. By modelling that it is not rude, shameful or taboo to talk about the body and sex, young people may feel more open in raising questions or concerns as they arise.
Young people who have accurate and clear information about sexuality and relationships are more likely to:
- Feel positive about themselves
- Understand appropriate and inappropriate behavior
- Understand and accept physical and emotional changes
- Be able to talk about sexual matters when it is important
- Avoid or report exploitation or abuse
- Make informed and responsible sexual decisions in life
- Enjoy their sexual experiences
Young people in out-of-home care are recognised as experiencing more vulnerability that their peers in the community in relation to sexual health and sexuality issues because of their complex life experiences, particularly sexual abuse. Often, this can mean that they have a lot of shame, anxiety, depression or confusion in relation to their bodies, and sexual identity.
Additionally, many of the sources of information about sex, sexuality and relationships that young people access are problematic in their messages. Many young people in out of home care, miss out of the education provided in school and if they don’t have positive family relationships, they rely on their peers and the internet to get their information.
Young people in OoHC are recognised as experiencing more vulnerability in relation to sexual health and sexuality issues because of their complex life experiences
It is normal to feel ill-equipped and find this topic difficult to address, particularly with young people that may have had negative experiences in the past.
Some things to consider when having this conversation:
- Start by chatting about lighter topics before asking about more sensitive things
- Be proactive and give them permission – young people probably won’t raise these issues themselves
- Don’t just focus on the negatives, sex and relationships after all can be positive
- Be informed or learn with the young person
- Be empathic, it will often be just an uncomfortable for them as it is for you
- Choose your timing
- Use anatomical language
- Be creative and interactive in how you deliver the information
- Be open and honest
- Don’t make assumptions the young people are engaging in behaviours they talk about
- Check in with them, have you answered their question or… do they feel comfortable?
- Be aware of your own values and experiences effecting your responses.
Although you may be carer and worker rather than parents a great resource for talking about sexuality and its importance is the ‘Talk Soon – Talk Often’ resource.