Three tips for starting a difficult conversation with your child


Photo: Nevil Zaveri

Sex, drugs, internet porn... No, no, no, you don't want to talk to your child about that! But it's one of those jobs (like changing nappies) that parents are put on earth to do. Here are our tips for making it less of an ordeal

Take the plunge

As a parent, there are lots of conversations you might rather not have with your kids. The idea of willingly starting a talk about sex, substance use or the kind of things they may be seeing online can feel very scary.

But if you don't do it, who will? Unfortunately for you, your kids are relying on you for information and, just as importantly, support on the really challenging stuff.

Open the conversation early and they may come back when they're really stuck and worried. 

Be prepared to listen

These days, of course, it's not just you and their friends who have information. There's the whole rest of the world, via the internet.

‘You don't have to know everything any more. But you do still have to be on their side’

This is a good thing, in a way. it relieves you of some of the pressure (nope, sorry, not all). You don't have to know everything any more. But you do still have to be on their side. perhaps more than ever, given the barrage of social media information they face.

If they think they’re not being listened to, kids turn off. So your job is not (at least initially) to tell them what you think, so much as to hear what they have to say.  Approach conversations with an open mind. Let them know you’re committed to engaging with their opinions…even if you secretly know you’re really still in charge!

Trust yourself

As a parent, you’re already one of the leading experts on your child. It’s easy to get paranoid about all the potential risks out there, or feel like you don't know enough to be authoritative. Be honest about your own uncertainties and go into any conversation with an open mind. You know how to be a parent – and that's skill enough to be going on with.

Further reading

Preparing to talk to your child about sex


The advice published on Parent Info is provided by independent experts in their field and not necessarily the views of Parent Zone or NCA-CEOP.

First published: September 2014

Updated: May 2018


Creative Commons Licence

Health and wellbeing