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St Andrew's College Dublin St Andrew's College Dublin

How to Speak with your Teenagers about Sexuality and Consent by Dr Siobhán O’Higgins

On the 15 February the PTA were delighted to host a virtual talk for parents by Dr Siobhán O'Higgins. 

Parents and guardian often dread speaking with their kids about sex, and their kids can equally feel awkward. Even though talking about sex can be uncomfortable, it’s a conversation that should happen. Talking to your teens about sex and consent helps them understand their rights and responsibilities, and what safe and healthy sex should be. Sexual activity is an important component of physical and mental health and wellbeing and the behaviours, norms and practices are established during adolescence, the ages spanning between 13 and 18.

Topics that were included in the session were:

  • Addressing parental anxieties about consent and speaking with children about sexuality and intimacy.
  • Understanding the context and influences which inform adolescents’ decisions to explore their sexuality.
  • Prompting conversations about consent and media at home by sharing relevant resources to enable children to safely navigate and explore their sexuality.

Dr Siobhán O’Higgins moved to Ireland in 1979 after her primary degree. Siobhán has been promoting sexual health since 1990, working with parents, young people, teachers, educators, prisoners and professional groups like GPs, first as a youth and community worker, then as a teacher, lecturer, sexologist and clinical researcher, in the Department of Health Promotion and since 2010 the School of Psychology, NUI Galway.

Her PhD, awarded in 2011, explored what young Irish people want to learn and how they wanted to be taught about sexuality and relationships. The research also looked at RSE teachers’ reactions to the young people’s data and what they felt they would need in order to teach the highlighted topics and methods. Siobhán translated her academic understanding into practice working with schools and parents with Sexual Health West (formerly AIDS West) as the basis for the WISER and Little WISER education and prevention programmes.

Siobhán has published extensively in journals and contributed to books related to sexuality education, participative research methods and, more generally, on the health and wellbeing of children and young people.

Siobhán has qualifications in counselling, youth and community work as well as postgraduate diplomas in Criminology and Sexology. She has been working with schools since 1990. Over the past 10 years, Siobhán has collaborated with her colleagues in Active* Consent, Dr. Pádraig MacNeela and Dr. Charlotte McIvor, to translate research data into Consent workshops and dramas that raise awareness and sow the seeds to positively influence behaviour in relation to sexual consent.