What Should We Tell the Children about Relationships and Sex?

One of the issues that parents often find most difficult to discuss with their children is relationships and sex (R&S), particularly as the children approach their teens. The reasons given by parents include:

  • It’s too early

  • The children will receive information through school

  • They felt unequipped with the information to do this

  • They did not know where to start

  • It is embarrassing or uncomfortable

  • In the case of fathers, it is the mother’s responsibility

But in fact, research has shown that young people would prefer to get information about R&S from family members, and parents are the best people to do this.  Information from schools is usually focussed on the biological aspects, or specific subjects like bullying, whereas parents can pass on their own values and experiences, and encourage the communication that is so vital  as young people become more independent.

To help overcome the embarrassment and lack of confidence in parents, a Parenting Programme called What Should We Tell the Children about Relationships and Sex was developed in 2004 by Coventry University Health Services Research Centre, commissioned by Coventry City Council. Mothers’ Union parenting facilitators were amongst those on the steering group, and have been the major providers of the programme in Warwickshire. 


The programme consists of four sessions, the first a 2 hour Standalone session, during which parents will gain some knowledge, skills and confidence to talk with their children. From feedback and evaluation we know that this works well for parents. At the end of the session parents have the option of continuing for a further 3 weeks looking more closely at other issues not dealt with in the Standalone. The majority of parents have wanted to carry on and complete the programme.



Through discussion, case studies, role play and quizzes, as well as time for individual reflection and planning, parents think about the range of topics covered by R&S, sources of information and how accurate they are, how to talk more confidently about embarrassing subjects, how to respond when put on the spot, and how to give age appropriate messages.  They are also given information about contraception, resources available and where to get help, and look at what the actual risks are and how they can support their children in making wise choices.


The Programme is run by externally accredited facilitators, and has been successfully hosted by Schools, Children’s Centres and Churches. It is aimed at parents with children aged from 5-14 years. 

There is a small charge to cover the cost of the Parents’ Guide for each parent, and refreshments and a venue are usually provided by the hosting organisation.

If you would like further information about hosting a group, or about taking part in one, please email mu.cov@CovCofE.org

If you are an accredited Facilitator and would like to access a day’s training to deliver the Programme, please email outreach@mothersunion.org

To order resources, if you have completed the extra training, click here to download the order form

Registered Charity: Mothers' Union (Coventry Diocese) No.250129 

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