Communicating with and counselling young people about sexual issues
Communicating with and counselling young people about sexual issues can be challenging because you are dealing with sensitive topics about which they often feel emotional, defensive and insecure.
Young people must often make significant decisions on the following sexual and/or reproductive health matters:
- How to discourage and prevent unwanted sexual advances.
- Whether or when to engage in sexual relations.
- How to prevent pregnancy and STIs, such as HIV.
- Whether or when to conceive a child.
- Whether to continue or terminate a pregnancy.
- How to deal with sexual abuse and/or violence.
You can work through most of these decisions together if you use good communication and counselling skills. During counselling sessions with young people you need to:
- consider the young person's age and sexual experience
- demonstrate patience and understanding of the difficulty young people have in talking about sex
- assure privacy and confidentiality
- respect the young person's feelings, choices, and decisions
- ensure that the young person feels able to ask questions and tell you about their concerns and needs
- respond to expressed needs for information in understandable and honest ways
- explore feelings as well as facts
- encourage the young person to identify possible alternatives
- lead an analytical discussion of the consequences, advantages, and disadvantages of the available options
- assist the young person to make an informed decision
- help the young person to implement their choice.
If you develop and use these approaches, it will foster good decision making by the young people you counsel.