Respectful Relationships – What Do You Need To Teach Your Children?

pornography respectful relationships talking to kids about sex Aug 26, 2021
Originally posted 11/11/2015

Recently I wrote about the topic of Respectful Relationships (see below), featured in Michael Grose's Parenting ideas, Happy Kids newsletter.  


​What Can Parents Do To Promote Respectful Relationships? 

  • Pornography is the most prominent sex educator for our young people, it is widely believed that at least 90% of young boys and around 60% of young girls having viewed it, some say 100% of young teens have viewed it.
  • The most popular pornography seen is: violent, degrading, humiliating, intimidating, psychologically abusive, coercive and shocking

Parents can support their children by:

  • Providing the opposite environment and alternative views of the world, so when they experience these images, they can decode the almost comical/fake version of reality being depicted
  • Modelling respectful/appropriate/real relationships
  • Demonstrating the value of privacy
  • And creating a positive, enthusiastic culture around consent

​Mid-late primary and early secondary age is a critical time for our children’s development and learning skills around friendships, partnerships and relationships. The popular culture and online world they are immersed in is providing them with inaccurate and adverse messages and images about what respectful human relationships look like.

Media, advertising, fashion, music, and popular culture are infiltrated with pornography concepts and gender inequality. Themes of power of another person, sexualisation of young women and men, aggression, violence and force in intimate encounters is so mainstream now it is seen as legitimate amongst many males, as well as females, in our society. Young impressionable people soak up this popular culture, and many have 24-hour access to it. Unfortunately this exposure coincides with their approach to and journey through puberty.

It is important for parents to acknowledge childhood sexuality. Every human is a sexual being; this begins at birth and continues throughout their lifetime. Adolescents begin their transformation into adulthood with their sexuality changing from simple awareness of gender, body parts, conception, birth and pregnancy into experiencing some of the following normal adolescent development:

  • Increased interest in and curiousness about: relationships, pleasure, secrecy, privacy and the mechanics of intimate partnerships
  • Experience feelings of attraction and desire
  • Spending more time away from family
  • Influenced by peers
  • Many commence exploration of body and pleasure - ‘alone time’ (masturbation)
  • Eventually they will have intimate experiences with others

Tool kit young people need for respectful relationships and intimate partnerships:

  • An adequate vocabulary and communication skills
  • Good decision making strategies
  • Understanding of human sexual function and pleasure – for example:  brain and skin are the two most important sexual organs, not just genital focus
  • Knowledge of how to prevent pregnancy and STIs (Sexually Transmissible Infections) and how to take responsibility for this
  • A constructed view of self – their identity, sexuality, self-belief, self esteem, a view of “who am I?”

What can parents do?

Parents/carers and teachers may feel powerless against these prominent influences, when in fact, there is a lot we can do to facilitate a culture of respectful relationships for our young people. We need to provide them with alternative versions of relationships and sexuality.

We can start with:
  • Providing the opposite environment and alternative views of the world, so when they experience these images, they can decode the almost comical/fake version of reality being depicted
  • Modelling respectful/appropriate relationships
  • Demonstrating the value of privacy
  • And creating a positive, enthusiastic culture around consent.

Tips for parents:
  • Model respectful relationships to one another as well as good communication
  • Eroticise consent: explain that pressuring someone into something they are not into, is not ‘sexy’, intimate encounters should always involve shared enthusiasm & motivation
  • Explain that real intimate encounters are so much better than what is depicted in porn and media, giving pleasure is as awesome as receiving it, especially when it is mutual
  • Take time to think about your vision for your child’s sexual journey throughout their adult life, what role will you play in guiding this outcome? Hopefully words like these come to mind:  fun, safe, happy, joyful, healthy, resilient, empowered, fulfilling, respectful, informed, able to experience shared intimacy and pleasure
  • Explain that porn is not how couples really have sex. Here is an analogy –
    • Just as car scenes in movies have explosions, crashes and speeding, that is not really how you drive a car. But normal/usual/fun/safe driving of a car is boring to watch on camera, so they fake it so it looks exciting.
    • So to, intimacy and sex between two people is normal/usual/fun/safe but only enjoyable for the two people doing it, quite boring to watch on camera.
    • Porn is ‘made up’ depictions of sex, the people are actors, the bodies and positions are altered and enhanced and most importantly that is not how two people relate to each other in real life.
  • Lose your embarrassment and fears by stripping back (excuse the pun!) your layers of your own thoughts related to sex; your journey/fears/pleasures/ regrets/behaviours/experiences are not part of the discussion. You need to give them accurate information and simple answers to their questions
  • Do not view sex as dirty or negative
  • Talk in the car, where you don’t have to face each other
  • Give them reliable websites such as those found here:

Find Talking The Talk on Facebook for more tips and tricks on healthy sexuality education for young people.