The Instructions Not Included campaign will help promote a shift in attitudes so that seeking support is seen as a sign of strength. By unlocking the power of parents and families to help themselves and one another, we will reach out to more families, overcome more barriers to support, and help to prevent the escalation of parenting problems.
Are you worried about having ‘The Talk’ with your child? Are you unsure what to say and when to say it? Do you live in fear of those awkward questions which always come at the worst possible moments? Most parents find talking about sex with their children difficult, but it’s important to establish a good relationship where sex can be discussed openly.
Many parents fear that talking about sex will make their child more likely to do it but research shows that in fact kids who feel they can talk openly with their parents wait longer before having sex and are more likely to use contraception when they do. The easiest way to make both of you feel more comfortable about the subject is to incorporate it into everyday conversations. This way you don’t have to gear up for an embarrassing ‘big talk’. Start these small conversations early - teenagers often find it difficult to talk about sex with their parents so get talking now before it gets awkward!
When should I start?
Children as young as 3 or 4 are naturally curious about their own and other people’s bodies. You can start at this age by giving them a basic awareness and understanding and then building on this as they develop. Children can begin puberty as early as 8 years old so need to be prepared for this and understand how and why their bodies will change.
Mummy, where do babies come from?
It’s a moment every parent dreads. You’re out shopping or with some friends and your child blurts out a difficult question. Try to remain calm, don’t laugh or ignore it, instead have a line ready such as: ‘That’s a good question – let’s talk about it later’ and then make sure you do. If they persist, a simple answer such as ‘daddies have a special seed that they put into mummies’ will often satisfy their curiosity. Above all don’t panic: a question such as this doesn’t have to immediately lead to an in-depth biology lesson. A good way to avoid these situations is to recognise when your child is beginning to become curious. You can then initiate discussions at times when it’s appropriate. You may not like the idea of your child learning the facts of life at a young age, but if a child is old enough and knowledgeable enough to ask a question then they’re old enough for a truthful answer. Try not to confuse your child with myths and stories. The amount of detail you go into will vary according to their age but you should always reply honestly and not ignore their curiosity. This will encourage open discussion in future.
What if I don’t know the answer?
Sometimes even very young children may ask a question that you don’t know the answer to. Don’t be embarrassed or worried about this, and certainly don’t let it put you off having a full discussion. Simply answer that you don’t know but that you can find out together. See our useful list of Books and leaflets if you’re not very confident about your own knowledge. As children get older they often feel like they have to pretend to know everything about sex or risk looking stupid. By seeing that even adults don’t know everything, your child may be less ashamed to ask questions in the future.