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What is sex and sexuality?

The topic of sexuality can mean a lot of different things for children, depending on their age and what they may have been exposed to on TV, online, through music or in the classroom. It could be uncomfortable for your child to ask questions, which can keep your child from learning about healthy sexuality (or sexual orientation). Sexual orientation relates to a person’s identity in relation to the gender or genders they are attracted to.

What does sexuality look like for your child?

Children and teenagers have an innate curiosity about sexuality and a healthy interest in learning about it. Unfortunately, they also get a lot of confusing, and sometimes upsetting, information about sexuality from their peers, online environments, and the media.

Talking to your children about sexuality

Start a conversation

Here are a few ways to start:

  • Ask your child what they think about when their classmates or peers talk about their crushes.
  • Ask your child what they think about media representations of sexuality
  • Talk openly. Tell your children that physical romance can be a wonderful part of life when the time is right.
  • Let them know that sex is natural and healthy as long as it is consensual and is practiced safely when they are mature enough.
In conversation

When children bring up the topic of sex and sexuality, they often have a specific concern or question in mind. As a result, they look for information from a reliable source but worry about the awkward conversation that might result.

Here are a few tips:

  • Ask what brought the topic or question to mind if they asked about it.
  • Limit your answer to the topic or question.
  • Ask if they have more on the topic they want to discuss.
  • Ask permission (and wait until you receive it) to take the conversation further if you are inclined to do so. Doing so will increase the chances that your child will return to you for future discussions about sex.
Get help

Sexuality can be a complex topic. Get the help you need from resources you can trust.

Five conversation starter pack cards splayed out on a blue background.

Continue the conversation 

Our Conversation Starter Pack (CSP) is an interactive resource, available in English and Spanish, that supports parents, caregivers, trusted adults and young people in discussions about emotional wellness. It includes reflection questions, dialogue prompts and activities everyone can take part in.