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Protecting Children

Educate Your Child About Sexual Behaviour

A big part of keeping children safe is making sure to look after their emotional and mental well-being. Helping them develop healthy emotional bonds from infancy can have a lifelong effect, and a strong relationship can make it easier when you want to discuss issues such as expressions of sexual behaviour or self-harm.


Help your child understand about sex, about his or her body and about what is sexually healthy. Talking about this may be a little difficult at first, but it can play an important part in protecting your child against abuse and developing your relationship with your child.

For example, your child needs to understand about private parts of their body in order to understand what is appropriate touching and what is not. Be as positive as possible - children should feel proud of their bodies and not ashamed. They also need to know that their bodies belong to them alone.

These conversations are a normal part of parenting.

Talk to your child about sexual mattersYoung children quickly start to pick up sexual information from other children once they begin school. This information is often inaccurate and expressed in crude language. So it may be a good idea for you to tell your child first, from whatever age he or she begins asking questions, or earlier if you think it appropriate.

What’s more, you may find it easier to talk to your child at this age than when they are older, particularly as they approach adolescence. It is important that you also know what is appropriate sexual behaviour as children grow older and become adolescents.

Help with sex educationTalking about sexual matters is normal but if you feel embarrassed, your health visitor or doctor should be happy to advise you. Ask your health visitor or health clinic whether there is a local parenting group you could join or if other sources of advice are available. There are also good books in local libraries and bookshops.

Why not ask your child’s teacher for advice about talking to your child at home? He or she may be able to suggest some helpful reading material that you and your child can look at together. 

Build an open and trusting relationship with your children from when they are very young. Always listen carefully to their fears and concerns and respond sensitively. They may be trying to understand what they can talk to you about.

Explain the difference between good and bad secrets.  Help your child understand that it’s OK to have a secret about something like a surprise birthday party, but not about things that make them feel unhappy or uncomfortable.

What about sexual exploration between ’children in the family?

Sexualised play between children is a normal part of growing up, but sometimes sexual behaviour between children can become abusive, particularly where there is an age gap.

Talking to children about appropriate sexual behaviour is also a normal part of parenting.  Below are some examples of normal and healthy sexual behaviour:

Pre-school children (0 to five years) commonly:

  • use childish sexual language to talk about body parts

  • ask how babies are made and where they come from

  • touch or rub their own genitals

  • show and look at private body parts.


They rarely:

  • discuss sexual acts or use sexually explicit language

  • have physical sexual contact with other children

  • show adult-like sexual behaviour or knowledge.


School-age children (six to 12 years) commonly:

  • ask questions about menstruation, pregnancy and

  • sexual behaviour experiment with other children, often during games,

  • kissing, touching, showing and role-playing eg,mums and dads or doctors and nurses

  • masturbate in private

  • older children in this age range are also more likely than pre-school children to use sexual words and discuss sexual acts, particularly with their friends.


They rarely

• masturbate in public
• show adult-like sexual behaviour or knowledge.

Adolescents (13 to 16 years old) commonly
ask questions about relationships and sexual behaviour
• use sexual language and talk about sexual acts between
• masturbate in private
• experiment sexually with adolescents of a similar age.


They rarely

masturbate in public

• have sexual contact with much younger children or adults.

If you are concerned that sexual abuse is taking place, seek

professional advice from your local social services department, the police or Contact a Counsellor or Psychologist. 

You must protect children by stopping the abuse.

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