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Navigating hard-to-have conversations

Navigating hard-to-have conversations

Talking with your young person about tricky personal subjects

Perhaps your child has been bullied online, sent or received an intimate image, or come across pornography online. Conversations about experiences like these can be difficult.

When you talk to your child about personal subjects, you are trying to balance a number of different things:

  • respecting your child’s privacy while still making sure they are safe and happy
  • giving them space to test their own problem-solving skills online but supporting them as they make their own way
  • educating them about people’s different personalities but knowing you can’t make their choices for them
  • establishing boundaries while being understanding and open

How to start the chat

General tips about how to start the chat, whatever the subject. 


Work out what you want to say and how you want to say it, depending on the issue you want to talk about. Go somewhere together where you can talk privately, like in a car driving somewhere. Being in an environment where you can talk without being interrupted can also make things more comfortable for both parent and child.

Perhaps have the talk while you’re doing something together, like a long walk or a car trip – especially if you think it will be hard to keep your child engaged in the conversation. Filling out Dolly’s Dream Family Tech Plan together can also be a good way to initiate the discussion.

In advance, try to think of some positive examples of good behaviour that you can use to contrast negative or harmful behaviours.

Listen, don’t judge

Let your child know you are there to help them, no matter what. Listening will also help you understand their attitudes and respond to specific issues. For example:

  • ‘I understand what you’re saying, and I’m glad you came to me about this. You’re not going to get into trouble, but we need to trust each other, fix this and move forward.’
  • ‘You might not want to tell me all the details, but if we can talk honestly about what’s happened I promise I will listen and stay calm. No matter what happens, we can do this and I love you.’

Ask questions

Asking questions about how they feel and what they know helps you to gauge your child’s level of knowledge and keeps you from lecturing.

For example, you could ask:

  • ‘Have you seen anyone being bullied online? How did you think that made them feel? How did you feel? Has anything like this ever happened to you?’
  • ‘Is cyberbullying a problem at your school?’
  • ‘Do kids at your school talk about watching online porn?’
  • ‘Do you think it was right for him to post that video online of his friend in private with his girlfriend? What do you think might happen to him now that he’s done that?’
  • ‘What do your friends think about sending nudes? Do you agree with them?’
  • ‘Have you ever been sent a nude? How did you feel? What did you do?’
  • ‘Has anyone asked you to send a nude? How did that make you feel?’
  • ‘Have you ever felt uncomfortable about someone contacting you online?’

Get help if you need it

  • We have a variety of resources for parents, carers, and young people readily available on Parent Hub.
  • Dolly’s Dream offers a 24/7 helpline that can be reached by call or text at 0488 881 033.
  • Your child’s teacher may be able to point you towards suitable resources to help you explain things.
  • You could also seek advice from a counsellor or Parentline.
  • If your child says that they have been abused or assaulted, help is available from a professional counselling service, like Kids HelplineThe Australian Institute of Family Studies also has some advice on this.
  • Click here for more information about how to report bullying or abusive content via the eSafety Commissioners website.


If you are concerned about a child or young person, please seek help.

Speak to a trusted GP, school wellbeing staff, or a helpline such as:

Dolly’s Dream Support Line 0488 881 033

Parentline in your state or territory

Kids Helpline 1800 55 1800

headspace 1800 650 890

Lifeline 13 11 14


Original article appeared here – eSafety.gov