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Health Tips: Raising Sexually Healthy Children

By Nancy Gesner RNBN
Horizon Sexual Health Program Team Member, Sussex Public Health

As parents we strive to do the best that we can in all areas of parenting. Dealing with the 'big issues' may be especially difficult or daunting. One of the 'big issues' that many parents worry about is the sexual health of their children and teenagers.

Your child is going to hear about sexual health topics through the media, school, the Internet, and of course through their friends. The good news, is that research suggests that children/teenagers still want supportive advice, information and guidance from their parents.

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Some worries that parents may have include:

  • the timing to have 'the talk'

  • how much information is too much?

  • should I answer that question now?

  • should I agree to birth control use?

Answering questions about sexuality from your child or teenager is very important. However, many do not ask, so introducing these topics is just as important. Below are some practical tips for parents wanting some help in raising sexually healthy children.

Practical Tips

  • Show love and affection clearly and often.

  • Be clear about your own values and attitudes.

  • Talk early and often. It is a lifetime of talks, not just 'the talk.'

  • Supervise children and teenagers, set limits and provide guidance.

  • Know what programs and websites teenagers are watching and listening.

  • Know their friends and friends' families.

  • Discourage early, steady dating.

  • Discourage relationships where age gaps are large.

  • Encourage and help teenagers set goals and continue education.

  • Be an 'askable' parent.

  • Think about possible questions and practice your answers.

  • Answer simply and honestly. Share your feelings and values.

  • Patience and good listening skills are important.

  • Use 'teachable moments' such as television commercials or shows with sexual content, a pregnant woman or a news report about teenage pregnancy/sexually transmitted infections. Long car drives give you a captive audience.

  • Tell them when you do not know, or if you are embarrassed…this is okay. Seek help from outside supports as necessary.

Sexual health is an important part of who we are throughout our lives, and needs respect and protection. Research shows us that children and teenagers that have good understanding about sexual health issues are more likely to postpone sexual activity, or protect themselves from the possible dangers if they choose to be sexually active.

Children and teenagers that are sexually healthy will usually also, have good body image, good relationship skills and well-developed decision making skills.

Our role as parents is an important part of the sexual health education of our children. If they ask, answer. If they do not ask, ask them. If you need help, do not be afraid to ask by talking to your primary care provider or contacting your local Sexual Health Program and/or other valuable community supports.

You may find the following websites helpful in your search for credible and up-to-date answers.

 

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