Discovering about sexuality, your own and other people's, and working out what it means is a key part of becoming an adult.
Children are all different but at some stage they will all go through puberty. Some reach puberty at 10 or 11 years while others do not experience it until they are 15 or 16, or maybe even later.
Puberty can be a confusing time. Coping with the physical changes can be embarrassing, for both boys and girls, while the emotional changes can seem bewildering. Teenagers often feel self conscious and worried about what others will think of them.
It's about this time that they are likely to start experiencing sexual feelings. Gradually their friendships start to change and you may find them becoming more interested in relationships.
These first relationships are often all absorbing, taking up many hours on the telephone. And when they come to an end it can seem as if the Earth has stopped turning.
All of this is entirely normal, but many parents struggle to find a natural way to talk to their children about what is happening to them and how they are feeling. A new booklet, published by the Family Planning Association, has some good suggestions.
Parents: Talking to Your Kids about Sex says children respond in different ways to the subject and there isn't any one right way to react to their questions or situations. The right way will be what feels best for you and your family. Think about your own teenage years and about what you found helpful.
The booklet suggests parents look for ways to raise issues and listen to what their children want to know about. For instance, if your children don't ask questions, find some way to bring sexuality issues up yourself. News items, songs, TV programmes and current events are a good way to start a discussion.
The booklet also suggests making contact with the parents of your children's friends. This can be a good way of sharing values and helping to support one another without breaking confidentiality issues with your own child.
During puberty some teenagers will discover that they might be gay, lesbian or bisexual. This can be frightening for them, as they find they don't fit their main peer group. It can also be challenging for their parents.
For some parents, this discovery will confront their personal values and maybe those of the community around them. They may feel disappointed in their teenager or angry. They might even feel tempted to ostracise them from their family.
If you find yourself in this situation it's important to seek some help and support. Once you have identified how your child's sexuality is impacting on you, you can then find a way of talking to your teenager in a way that will maintain your relationship with them.
If you would like to talk to a counsellor about teenagers and sexuality contact Relationship Services on 0800 RELATE (0800 735 283) or telephone your local office.
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