Tips for talking

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Conversation starters

Will my children feel confident to come to me?

Children expect (and want) parents to start conversations about sex.

Young people can worry that if they bring up topics that their parents will think they are doing ‘it’, so by starting the conversation, you can take the pressure off them.

Many parents expect that their children will come to them if they have questions about sex, but in a recent survey of WA teens10, very few felt confident to talk to their parents. 

Percentage of WA teens who felt confident or very confident to talk about sex with: 

mother/female guardian
father/male guardian

Children expect (and want) parents to start these conversations too.

Young people can worry that if they bring up topics that their parents will think that they are doing ‘it’, so you starting the conversation can take the pressure off them.6

Start having a chat while in the car or while you are washing the dishes together. This way you can talk without eye contact and it gives the chat a finite time so that it doesn’t get too ‘heavy’.


It seems a lot of other parents leave it until the children are too old or don’t really talk about these things at all. I am casually talking about it whenever the opportunities and questions pop-up, and also have had longer one-on-one conversations when the kids had particular questions.

Parent of boys 4, 11 and girl 8

Conversation starters

The following scenarios offer some ideas to help start conversations in general ways that are too personal or confronting. 

Asking what a friend or fictional character from a movie might do keeps things 'a step removed' so that your child can talk freely without worrying that you are making judgements about their behaviours and choices. 

~ Readiness for parenthood ~ Here is Auntie's ultrasound. Isn't it amazing?

She's going to be a great parent.

What age do you think a person is ready to be a parent?

What do you think are the qualities that a parent should have?

~ Latest scandal ~What do you think of...?

Insert an example f the latest scandal of a celebrity doing something controversial, such as being photographed wearing no underwear, sexting, cheating, etc.

Use an example that your kids will know and are able to give their thoughts on.

~ Age for first sex ~ While watching a TV show in which teenagers are having sex...

What age do you think a person is ready to have sex?

How will you decide?

(Instead of asking, Have you had sex?)

~ School sex ed lessons ~How are you finding your Relationships and Sexuality (RSE) lessons going at school?

What would you like more information on?


~ Support network ~Who are three people you would feel comfortable going to if you need advice about relationships and sex?

Offer suggestions, such as:

older sibling, friend's parent, auntie, doctor, SHQ Helpline.

~ LGBTI support ~The Pride Parade is on this week.

I am thinking of wandering along to check it out and show support.

Is that something you and any of your friends might like to come along and show support for as well?

~ Transgender student support ~Did you see the article about the student who is transgender

and how the school support her to affirm her gender?

How do you think your school would respond?

~ Contraception options ~My friend's daughter has just had 'the rod' fitted.

What have you heard about 'the rod'?

What other kinds of contraception have you heard about?

~ Reliable websites ~
I found this great website

It has lots of frequently asked questions.

Let's have a look at some of the questions people ask.

It also has an 'ask a question' feature where you can ask your own question anonymously.

~ Homophobic behaviour ~This person got sacked for making homophobic comments to a co-worker.

What are your thoughts on this?

~ Sex, alcohol and other drugs ~In response to a news story on TV...

That party go out of hand and the police arrived.

What do you think you would do in that situation?

If you were at a party and your friend had too much to drink, what would you do if you saw them leaving with someone they don't really know?

~ Gendered school uniforms ~This school has changed its uniform policy

so that there is no separate 'girls' and 'boys' uniform.

What do you think?