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Why Christmas could be the best time to talk to children about sex

Image of Debbie Bere and mum and daughter watching a Christmas film. (Getty Images/SWNS)
Sex education expert Debbie Bere says Christmas could be a good time to talk to children about sex. (Getty Images/SWNS) (SWNS/Getty)

A sex expert has revealed why Christmas could be the best time for parents to talk to children about sex and porn, particularly while watching Love Actually.

Debbie Bere, 34, from Tiverton, Devon, who runs sex education workshops in schools around the country says Martin Freeman and Joanna Page's awkward sex scenes during the festive rom-com are a great example of discussing consent.

In the film, their characters - Judy and John - are professional stand-ins and meet doing sex scenes for a movie and Bere believes watching the film can help get kids talking about sex in a healthy, accessible way.

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"This time of year is great for conversations about sex," she explains. "You’re with your children for two weeks in an intense space.

"You’re probably watching Christmas movies and so many of them have awkward sex scenes in them.

"A great example is Love Actually - which features the scene with the porn actors."

Bere believes watching the film together can throw up some good opportunities to open a discussion about the subject.

"You could ask them things like, ‘Have you seen porn before?’ and ‘Have your friends spoken much about it?’ - in a very conversational way," she suggests.

Dad talk to children about sex
Talking to children about sex has multiple benefits. (Getty Images)

How to talk to your children about sex

Talking to your children about sex is often filed under the awkward conversations parents dread, but being able to talk openly and honestly about the subject has multiple benefits.

In fact, Bere believes that parents should be talking to their children about sex as young as eight years old, and that they should always answer them honestly.

"We should talk about sex from an early age," she explains. "It needs to be before aged eight or nine as this when they get icky and embarrassed.

"If they are old enough to ask a question, they are old enough to hear the answer."

Research has revealed that children who feel able to talk to their parents about sex are more likely to delay having sex until they are older, as well as making sensible choices like using contraception.

"They’ll make better decisions," Bere adds. "You don’t have to go into lots of detail. We often over-explain because we feel uncomfortable. I always answer honestly."

Sex education: Read more

Knowing you should tackle the subject is one thing, knowing how to do it is quite another. But there are ways to open up the discussion with minimal blushes and embarrassment on behalf of all parties.

When should I talk to my children about sex?

While there is no correct age to talk to children about sex, according to the NHS, it’s never too early to start talking about it. "If your child is asking questions about sex, they’re ready for truthful answers," the site explains.

The site adds that "talking to children about sex won’t make them go out and do it. Evidence shows that children whose parents talk about sex openly start having sex at a later stage and are more likely to use contraception."

Plus, the earlier you do it the less chance they will already have picked up, often incorrect, information from their playground pals, which could warp or distort their views on the subject in the future.

How to talk to your children about sex

Check your reaction

Your reaction to children asking questions or being curious about sex or gender has a huge impact on the child and the messages they internalise about sex.

"Children pick up on verbal and non-verbal behaviour," explains relationship therapist Sarah Calvert.

"If they feel a parent/carer is negative about sex, they can develop a negative attitude; conversely if the parent/carer is positive, they are more likely to develop a positive relationship to sex and their own sexuality.

"That's why it's so important for parents to think about where they are with this subject, and what they may be unconsciously communicating to their children."

Try to be sex positive

Calvert says good sex education encourages positive attitudes towards sex and sexuality, enabling children to grow up to lead confident and happy sex lives.

"It's important to be positive about sex and speak about the pleasures that a healthy and happy sex life (with one's self or with another) brings," she explains.

"We should feel confident to empower their sexual exploration and development rather than cloud it in a cloak of shame. It's also important to ensure our children have information that empowers them and enables them to keep them safe, teaching them about boundaries and consent."

Do some prep

Give yourself time to think and explore your own attitudes and beliefs about this subject before speaking to children.

"It's crucial that parents are aware of their own filter, and question why it exists," Calvert adds. "We need to be aware of the lens that we view these subjects through before discussing them with children."

Watch: Education Sec: Sex-ed topics must be age appropriate

Try not to cringe

If sex comes up on television, children will be looking for their parents’ reaction, so it's important to give a measured response.

"If you change the channel, change the subject or make a joke every time that the subject of sex comes up, your children are more likely to believe that sex is secretive, dangerous, embarrassing or something to be ashamed or afraid of," the charity Family Lives told BBC. 

Instead use it as an opportunity to kick-start the discussion.

Mind your language

While it might be tempting to use kiddie-friendly terms while discussing the topic, when it comes referring to body parts, parents are advised to steer clear of euphemisms. 

Eve Appeal, a UK-based gynaecological charity, previously said male and female body parts shouldn’t be shrouded in secrecy and urged mothers and fathers to have open conversations with their children about the subject.

Follow your child’s lead

Giving children the opportunity to explain what they know about the subject already means parents won’t have to worry about sharing too much information before they are ready.

Parenting expert Michele Borba suggests parents ask their children what "their friends are saying" about sex-related topics when they come up.

"Then you can say: ‘That isn’t quite right but I’m so glad we had this chance to talk about it,’" Dr Borba told the Independent.

Parents often feel uncomfortable talking about sex to children [Photo: Getty]
Parents often feel uncomfortable talking about sex to children [Photo: Getty]

Be inclusive

"Most discussions around sex talk about heterosexual relationships, but this can make some young people feel excluded and ignored. Try to be open – everybody needs to be heard and listened too," advises ChannelMum.com editor Cathy Ranson.

Be mindful of safety and consent

The NSPCC Pants Rule is a great place to start with small kids. It teaches children that their body belongs to them, they have the right to say no, and that they should tell an adult if they're upset or worried.

Seek further help

Something you can't answer? As Ranson points out your job as a parent isn't to know all the answers – it's to be a supporter and help point them in the right direction.

The Family Planning Association has helpful information for parents who want to speak to their children about the subject. Its book Speakeasy: talking with your children about growing up spells out how to sit down and talk to your children about puberty, sex and relationships in an age-appropriate way.

Additional reporting SWNS.