Sexual health is about ensuring that young people are emotionally, mentally and physically healthy.
It's not just about sexual relationships and what's important is that they understand they have the right to safe, healthy relationships, free from pressure, coercion or harm.
Preventing sexual transmitted infections or unplanned pregnancy are important and so is having a safe and respectful relationship.
Feeling pressured - healthy and unhealthy relationships
Relationships can be confusing. Young people need to learn what's right for them and feel comfortable saying ‘no’. And they also need to understand and respect someone else’s feelings and decisions. Childline has some great advice for young people on healthy and unhealthy relationships.
Helping young people make the right choices
As young people move into their teens, they are able to make more of their own choices so there may well be a tendency towards taking risks. And that's fine, all part of normal development, but the adults around them need to be aware of the signs that they are experiencing difficulty.
Why we need supportive relationships
Having supportive people around is essential if young people are to develop the healthy brain architecture that they need to thrive as adults. A healthy brain supports the learning of life skills like organising information and regulating behaviour, prioritising, delaying gratification, planning ahead, coping with frustration and managing risks.
Fostering strong, positive and supportive relationships enhances healthy brain development and helps to mitigate the impact of any negative early life experiences. Find out more about brain development in young people.
What is sexuality?
Sexuality is personal to the individual. It's about all the things that influence who you are as a sexual being. Young people have the right to feel safe and happy without feeling judged or ashamed.
In fact everyone has a right to feel happy; regardless of age, gender, ability, sexual orientation, religion or beliefs, race or ethnicity.
Sexuality is a personal journey, it's about how you and your feelings. Feelings can change over time (you’re not alone) and this is normal for everyone. There are contributing factors such as:
- sexual development (puberty)
- self-worth (how you see yourself, your body image, your confidence, your self-identity)
- relationships (family, friends, boyfriends, girlfriends)
- emotional regulation (understanding your emotions)
- spirituality (beliefs, religion, values, your sense of self)
- identity (if you have ever faced stigma or discrimination)
Physical sexual health
Physical sexual health is about ensuring young people make healthy sexual health choices to keep themselves safe and prevent sexually transmitted infections (STIs) or unplanned pregnancy.
Talking to a sexual health professional could help them make informed choices and explore different forms of contraception and condom use.