Whether you think your child is lesbian, gay, bisexual, transexual or straight how you talk to them about sexuality is important

Child discussing sexuality with parent

A parent awkwardly having the ‘birds and the bees’ chat with their child encompasses how we, as a nation, see intergenerational conversations about sex and sexuality.

Of course, not many young people want to go into detail about the intimacies of their sexual lives, not least with their parents, but it doesn’t have to be this way.

Healthy conversation about sex and sexuality with your child can help them during their teenage years, when feelings around attraction begin to take an active role. As our Good Childhood Report showed this year, children and young people that are attracted to same or both genders are 50% more likely to self-harm.

Whether your child is gay, bisexual, or heterosexual, it’s important to nurture a healthy attitude towards sex and sexuality, so that they have the confidence and information they need when navigating their future relationships. You may also need to be cautious about assuming that your child is sexually attracted to anyone or any gender. There are young people that feel asexual, and that is also perfectly normal.

Be prepared

If the day comes that your child asks for advice, you want to be prepared. You can equip yourself with some key knowledge and information so that you can be confident you’re giving sage advice.

Parents across the country are quietly taking to their search engines for advice on how to talk to their child ­– whether it’s their daughter being gay or their son hitting puberty – join them! The internet is a great source of information, and there are plenty of quality resources around. Start with well-known organisations for the best guidance, such as Stonewall

Listen and show love

The most important thing you can do is listen. Your child may want to express their feelings, they may have anxiety about their emerging sexuality, or they may want to talk about something that has happened to them. They may simply have a few questions about sex.

Let your child know that the lines of communication are always open. Give them the time and space to talk, and show them that no matter what they say, you’re a loving and supportive parent.

Remember, they may have spoken to you about their sexuality one day, but they may not want to the next. Don’t force it.

There's no normal

Recent figures from YouGov show that over half of young people say they are not 100% heterosexual. With figures like these, it’s perfectly ‘normal’ for your child to have bicurious, bisexual or homosexual preferences, or they may not have feelings of sexual attraction at all.

With young people embracing a more fluid approach to sexuality, there should be no assumptions that your child is exclusively heterosexual.

It starts with language. If you want to ask about your child’s romantic life, instead of asking about a boyfriend or girlfriend, ask if they have a ‘partner’ or ‘if they are seeing anyone’. By opting for gender-neutral terms, you’ll make your child feel more included if they are having feelings towards people from the same or both genders. 

Be sex positive

We are generally more comfortable talking to young people about the practical aspects of sex ­– where do babies come from, what do our reproductive systems look like?  – or the negative sides of sex – beware of STIs, don’t get pregnant.

While it’s important to discuss these subjects, it’s also important to remember that the way you talk to your child about sex will impact their attitude towards it.

Talk to them about what healthy relationships look like, how to explore their sexuality safely, and how to respect other people’s sexual preferences or choices. Teach them that consent matters and that respect and being caring are key to sexual relationships, no matter the gender they're attracted to.

It means your child will grow up with a healthy, respectful attitude towards sex that they can take into adulthood, and instil in others too.

If you’d like to know more about how a child’s sexuality can affect their well-being, read our 2018 The Good Childhood Report.