The Daily Telegraph - Saturday
FIVE THINGS every parent SHOULD TALK to their teen ABOUT BY 16
By Jade McLellan, Deputy Head Pastoral at St Dunstan’s College, London
Accept that the last thing your child wants to do is speak to their parents about sex. Discuss other places they can go for sensible and reliable advice – not the playground or social media. Themix.org.uk provides frank advice for young people on everything from porn to domestic violence.
Your child’s first encounter with sex may well be through pornography. This could be easier to bring up in connection with online safety. This is one of the first conversations to have as your child may stumble across pornography online even before they hit secondary school, and if not by accident, natural curiosity will lead to them searching for answers online. They need to know that pornography is not a realistic representation of a healthy sexual relationship.
You can never talk about consent too many times and in too many different contexts. Most young people think about sexual assault in terms of a stranger in the park. They are less likely to be aware that sexual assault can occur within a relationship or the need to actively seek consent, without pressure, from a partner who has the capacity to make an informed decision. Chat about what your teen would do in different scenarios and reassure them that they can and should stop at any point if they feel uncomfortable. There is a big difference between understanding consent in theory and having thought through what you would do in the heat of the moment.
Does your child know what a healthy relationship looks like? Are they seeing a healthy relationship modelled at home? Nobody is perfect so this can include sharing with your child how you have worked to resolve conflict in your relationship. Does your child know what the signs of an unhealthy or abusive relationship are and that this can involve coercion, gaslighting or other forms of emotional abuse, even when physical abuse is not present?
Ask your teen what they would do if they or their friend was in this situation.
We spend so much time talking about the negatives of sex – risks of pregnancy, risks of STIs – that we sometimes forget to mention the positives. We want our young people to understand that sex is supposed to be pleasurable, for women as well as men, and also to have knowledge about pregnancy and fertility. Our young people could well end up navigating unexplained impotence, miscarriage or infertility without ever having talked about it.