How to talk to children about sexuality and reproductive health?

How to talk to children about sexuality and reproductive health?

How to talk to children about sexuality and reproductive health?

Raising a child is one of the most important tasks of a parent – and certainly one of the most difficult. Parents face a number of issues every day that are complex for them but also for their children. 

Sexuality is certainly one of the more difficult topics and a large number of parents feel uncomfortable even at the very thought of starting a conversation about it with their children. It often happens that children surprise us with questions about sex sooner than we expected, and this is especially pronounced today given the development of technology due to which children are exposed to various information much earlier. Namely, there is no specific rule regarding the age suitable for talking to children about sexuality because sexual education is a continuous process that starts from the child’s earliest age.

MYTH 1: Let the children remain children! Children are too small to talk about sexuality.

Often parents feel that children are too young to talk to them about sexuality, which is not entirely wrong, but certain developmentally adjusted information should be given to children from an early age. As very little is said about the sexual development of children, it is often thought that sexuality begins to develop only in adolescence. However, sexual development takes place from an early age and as information is easily accessible to children, children will get it whether we like it or not, but the question is what kind of information it will be. Of course, when it is said that we will talk to children from an early age about sexuality, it does not mean giving them information that they are too young for, but it means gradually introducing children to the topic of sexuality in a way appropriate to their age.

MYTH 2: Talking about sex will encourage children to have sexual relations early!

Research shows that adolescents who are more informed actually enter into sexual relationships later. Namely, greater information can increase the sense of responsibility of sexual intercourse and indicate the possible consequences that children are often unaware of and satisfy curiosity and reduce the need for experimentation. Since avoiding the topic or insisting that children do not enter into sexual intercourse early cannot prevent them from doing exactly that, by informing we can reduce the risk of unplanned pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases etc.

MYTH 3: I am going to have a big conversation about sex with my teenager.

Often parents wait for their children to become teenagers and think that then they should have one big conversation. But by talking to children about sexuality from an early age, you are letting children know that you are open to issues related to sexuality, which is why they develop trust and will turn to you sooner in old age. Talking about sexuality should not be one big conversation but a continuous series of smaller conversations throughout child’s growing up. Try not only to wait for your children to ask you questions on their own, rather use everyday situations as an opportunity for small conversations and the transmission of information about sexuality.

How to start a conversation?

  • Relax and do not worry if you do not know all the answers to your child’s questions. More important than what you know is how you react. Try to be calm, without attacking and condemning and imposing your own views. If you can maintain an atmosphere in which no topic is forbidden, you encourage open communication and you are a successful parent.
  • Develop a relationship of trust and adapt the conversation about emotions to the child’s age, but make it a continuous conversation, not “one big conversation”. Try to connect the topic with everyday things or activities to make the atmosphere as relaxed as possible.
  • Try to re-examine your feelings about sexuality and intimate relationships first. If you are uncomfortable talking to your child about this topic, read a book or talk about it with close friends, relatives, or a doctor. Even if you cannot completely overcome the feeling of discomfort, do not be afraid to admit it to your children. You can tell them: “You know, I’m embarrassed to talk about sex because my parents never talked to me about it. However, I want us to talk freely about everything, so please ask me anything that interests you. And even if I do not know the answer, I will try to find out more about it.”
  • Teenagers need information about biological development, but they also need to understand that sexuality involves mutual trust, respect, and responsibility of partners. The more we emphasize the importance of feelings to them, the more likely it is that they will, when the time comes, make decisions about their own sexuality and be more resistant to peer pressure. Furthermore, prepare them for changes that are happening or will happen in their body during puberty to prevent the onset of anxiety in teenagers.
  • Many parents are uncomfortable talking to a child of the opposite sex. While this is understandable, it is important not to give up completely. For example, if you are a single mother with a son, you can find help in literature that is already available in our country, ask for the help of a family doctor or a close male relative you trust. In addition, you can always contact the experts who are the members of our Counselling Centre who will be happy to help you with their advice.

 AUTHOR: Silvija Stanić, dipl.psih.univ.spec.iur.

My legal rights before coming of age

My legal rights before coming of age

My legal rights before coming of age

The Convention on the Rights of the Child defines a child as a human being under the age of 18 unless, under the laws applicable to children, the age of majority is attained earlier. Before reaching the age of majority, every young person goes through a turbulent and challenging period of growing up marked by intense physical, sexual, emotional, psychosocial, and cognitive changes. Step by step, young people are leaving the security of childhood and taking on rights and obligations that they have not encountered thus far. In the Republic of Croatia, these rights and obligations are defined by the Family Act, but sometimes it is very unclear which of these rights can be exercised before reaching the age of majority.


The family law lists the child’s personal rights, which include the right to care for life and health, the right to safety and upbringing in the family appropriate to their physical psychological and other developmental needs, the right to live with their parents, and if they live apart, the child has the right to parental care of both parents, the right to have personal relationships with other close persons and the right to choose education and occupation and the right to employment in accordance with his/her abilities and well-being. Within the enumerated personal rights of a child, there are some that can be realized independently, before the age of majority.

Child’s right to initiate proceedings 

A child who has reached the age of 14 has the right to initiate proceedings independently before the competent authorities regarding the exercise of his / her rights and interests, but only if he / she is able to understand the meaning and legal consequences of such actions. Before taking any action, the court is obliged to seek the opinion of the social welfare centre on the child’s procedural capacity to act in court proceedings. In addition, if a child is in dispute or has a conflict of interest with his / her parents or a legal representative, the social welfare centre or court will assign a special guardian to the child who is obliged to represent the child and protect its rights and interests during the proceedings. 

Informed consent of a child to medical procedures 

A child who has reached the age of 16 and who, in the opinion of a medical doctor, is mature enough to make a decision about procedures related to his or her health or treatment may independently consent to an examination, test, or a medical procedure. If, according to doctor’s assessment, given medical procedure is more complicated, the consent of the parent or other legal representative will be required. In the event of a dispute between a child and a parent or a legal representative regarding undertaking medical procedures, the court will issue a decision which is in the best interests of the child.

An important component of the legal parent-child relationship is parental care, which consists of the responsibilities, duties, and rights of parents, in order to promote the child’s personal and property rights and welfare. They are obliged to exercise it in accordance with the developmental needs of the child and cannot waive the right to parental care. Its basic content consists of caring for (1) health, development, care, and protection, (2) upbringing and education, (3) establishing personal relationships, (4) determining the place of residence. Parental care ceases when the child acquires the legal capacity acquired by coming of age or by entering into marriage before coming of age. Then the person who has acquired legal capacity can independently decide on his / her rights that belong to him / her by law, but such person also assumes certain obligations. Suspension of parental care due to legal obstacles occurs in cases when a child’s parent is a minor or a person deprived of legal capacity in the part in which it is unable to exercise parental care. While parental care is suspended, the other parent can exercise daily care independently or with the other parent of the child or guardian. The suspension of the exercise of parental care due to legal obstacles ceases when the reasons for which the exercise of parental care suspensions ceases to exist.


One of the basic preconditions for marriage is the age of majority, that is, when a child reaches 18 years of age. However, there is an exception here, which states that a minor may marry if he / she acquires legal capacity, but not before the age of 16. Legal capacity implies the property of acquiring rights and obligations by one’s own manifestations of will. The court may allow a person who has reached the age of 16 to marry if it finds that he or she is mentally and physically fit for marriage and that the marriage is in the welfare of that person. If a person is deprived of legal capacity to make statements relating to personal circumstances such as marriage, the marriage may be entered into with the consent of the guardian. However, if the guardian refuses to grant permission to marry, the person deprived of legal capacity may independently submit to the court a proposal for permission to marry. It should be borne in mind that courts and bodies governed by public law which conduct proceedings in which the rights of a child are directly or indirectly decided are governed primarily by the protection of the rights of a child and his or her welfare.

Children are born with fundamental freedoms and rights that belong to all human beings, and the participation of children in court proceedings in which their rights are decided guarantees that the child is informed and can express his or her opinion. However, given the physical and mental immaturity, there is a need to emphasize special rights due to their vulnerability. In making all decisions or carrying out actions that affect the child, the welfare and interest of the child must be paramount. 

If you have any questions regarding the exercise of your rights, visit our web portal for underage pregnant women and parents

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Author: Karmen Stipečmag.act.soc.

Friends with benefits?

Friends with benefits?

Friends with benefits?

What does it mean to be friends with benefits? 

Some research show that more than 50% of young people in their twenties have had at least one experience of having a friend with benefits. The reason for this may be the unwillingness to take on the responsibilities and obligations of a relationship, so entering into a more casual relationship is usually easier. 

Marriage and family psychotherapist Sheri Meyers explains the differences between friends with benefits relationship and casual sex. Friendship with benefits includes a friendship in which sex occasionally occurs while having casual sex – there should be no expectations! 

There is usually a great deal of physical attraction, affection, liking, and approval of mutual characteristics between friends with benefits, however the risks of such a relationship exist.  

What does such relationship include? 

FRIENDSHIP – it often happens that friends with benefits were just friends prior to that relationship so the main focus of this relationship should be on maintaining the friendship, not just on sex. 

YOU WERE HIS/HER FIRST CHOICE – since you are not in a real relationship, it is obvious that you were not his/her first choice when choosing a partner. The thought that we were not someone’s first choice is not such a pleasant feeling. 

POSSIBLE DEVELOPMENT OF FEELINGS – it is difficult to imagine that no feelings develop after some time spent together. It is possible that only one person develops feelings and it does not necessarily mean that your partner will feel the same and they may continue to behave casually which can be painful. The possibility that the person you care about may have another relationship in addition to a relationship with you can be very difficult. 

What such relationship does not include? 

FAITHFULNESS / LOYALTY – in friendships with benefits, faithfulness and loyalty are not expected; that is, one person or both may have another partner (unless you agree otherwise). 

CLOSENESS – the advantages of romantic and partner love are the deepening of the relationship and closeness and can lead to a very fulfilling and supportive relationship, but as a rule they are not part of a friends with benefits relationship. 

DEVOTION – the lack of devotion that is characteristic of this relationship can lead to loss of passion and intimacy. Since you are not obligated to account to each other or invest in that relationship in any way, it can happen that the passion and excitement that unites you slowly disappears. 

OPENNESS AND SINCERITY – important characteristics of friendship and partner relationship are openness and sincerity, but in this type of friendship, this is not really expected, so the question arises whether it is a real friendship? If friendship is what binds you in the first place, it is normal to talk about everything, but the sexual behaviour of your partner is still a forbidden topic if you are just friends with benefits. 

What is lacking in friendship with benefits is devotion, faithfulness, and loyalty. In theory, it may sound great and fun because it is optional; however, in practice things are not so clear and simple. As social beings, we strive for closeness and connection. It is normal that we want to be loved and that we want to give love to someone else. 

Research shows that men in such relationships focus more on sex, and women on friendship. Is it possible to have an equal relationship with a friend with benefits in which you both have the same attitude and opinion about that relationship throughout the duration of said relationship? Can you have complete control over whether and when you start to feel something, over wanting something “more”? Can you know if one of you will want to spend more time together, call more often than he / she “should”, want to sleep over or want to meet mutual friends? 

No matter what kind of relationship you choose to have, it is important that you communicate with that person, that you agree on the rules, that you both understand what you are getting into, and that you are protected and act responsibly and with respect towards each other.  


Author: Mia Krpan, mag.psych.

Advantages and disadvantages of online dating apps

Advantages and disadvantages of online dating apps

Advantages and disadvantages of online dating apps

Mobile apps have become a big part of the dating scene among young people. Apps like Tinder, Bumble, Happn, Hinge are mostly based on posting your own pictures and a brief description of yourself on a profile. After that, other users can indicate whether they like your profile or not. When two users indicate that they like each other, they can start communicating

Some research shows that a large number of rejections occur in such applications. As many as 50% of those rejected are men. However, research also shows that between 2005 and 2012 one third of couples in America met online. Some research also shows that couples who met online were less likely to break up than couples who did not meet online. 

Related to this, regardless of whether you already have a profile on a dating app or are considering creating it, we bring you a list of advantages and disadvantages of the described apps.

 Advantages of online dating apps:

  • YOU ARE SHY – if you are shy by nature and do not feel comfortable talking to new people, you do not like to go to places where you do not know a lot of people, it may be easier for you to start communication in writing 
  • YOU HAVE DIFFICULTIES EXPRESSING YOURSELF IN PERSON – you think you do not always represent yourself well when talking to someone in person, when you like someone you find it hard to find words in a conversation with that person, written communication gives you time to think about what you really want to say and express yourself better 
  • YOU DO NOT GO OUT OFTEN – you do not have a lot of opportunities to meet new people, so apps allow you to do that 
  • YOU CAN DECIDE WHEN AND IF YOU MEET – before you meet someone in person, you can get to know them well online, thus you meet that person when you are (and if) ready for it 
  • YOU LIKE TO MEET NEW PEOPLE – you can meet different people from all over the world and it is totally OK to just be friends with them! 
  • REJECTION IS LESS PAINFUL – as we noted above, rejection is common in the world of online dating – mostly because it is easier to reject someone online than live. While rejection is always painful, it is a little easier when someone does it online before you have strongly (or even!) connected. On the other hand, when you achieve a strong connection and intimacy with someone, online rejection is much more unacceptable and harder to deal with.

Disadvantages of online dating apps:

  • QUESTIONABLE SECURITY – one should be careful when disclosing information about oneself, the Internet is not always a safe place. If you decide to meet someone you have met online, it is best to tell a friend / family member that you are with that person so that someone else can be informed about where you are and whom you are with in case something goes wrong and if it turns out that the person you are meeting is not the same person you communicated with online. It is also good to be in a public place where there are people so that you can ask for help from passers-by in case something happens. 
  • QUESTIONABLE TRUTHFULNESS – you can hardly check if the information someone gave you online is true. Therefore, for example, you cannot know based on a picture or a description on a profile if it is really the person you were corresponding with. It is easier for people to lie online because it is difficult to verify the information someone provides and because people are “protected” by not communicating in person. 
  • BE YOURSELF AND HONEST – since a lot of people use online apps, people want to stand out as much as possible and exaggerate (or lie) about their virtues, appearance, successes, etc. However, in order to meet people you will like or a partner who will love you for who you are, then it is best to be honest. Try to be as authentic as possible and be yourself in order to attract people who like you for who you are.


AUTHOR: Mia Krpandipl.psych.

I had a baby, how not to lose myself?

I had a baby, how not to lose myself?

I had a baby, how not to lose myself?

Caring for a child can be exhausting for parents. Somehow, the moment we become parents, our needs are moved to the back burner and responding to the needs of child becomes more important.

In addition, although children differ in temperament, so some are more or less demanding, the period of entering the world of parenthood is almost universally stressful for all parents. Caring for a child involves adjusting to the child’s sleep rhythm, maintaining hygiene through frequent diaper changes and changing clothes, adjusting to the rhythm of feeding either through breastfeeding or later preparing special meals, responding to the child’s crying for which we often do not know the cause. As children grow older, their needs change, but the need for parents to adapt to children’s needs somehow remains a constant. We may have had difficulties in the first days of parenthood due to sleepless nights and attempts to put the child to sleep, while in another phase we may encounter difficulties in organizing time due to the child’s school obligations and activity schedule. But, what about us?

We can agree that caring for a child is primary and demanding for most parents, but how do you still take care of yourself? How to meet our needs for the interests we had before we became parents, how to provide time for ourselves, shared moments without a child, walking, reading a book, going to the hairdresser or to the cinema? Do we have the right to our own interests and time for ourselves? Am I a bad mother if I need to get away from the baby for an hour and go for a coffee with friends? Although most will agree in principle that parents need time for themselves and their interests, we as a society look at it with disapproval. Countless times I have heard comments and criticisms about a mother who left her child with a father, grandmother or babysitter and went to the hairdresser. At the same time, countless times I have seen mothers with grey cheeks, dissatisfied and exhausted from caring for a child, mothers who do not even think about what they need. Although this is a topic that applies equally to both mothers and fathers, it seems that mothers are still in the focus of the social magnifying glass that assesses whether they are good or not.

I ask myself when and how did it happen that once we become parents, we and our needs are no longer important and is it possible for both parties to be satisfied? Through personal experience but also many years of counselling work, it seems to me that it is possible and that one of the most important things we can do for our children is to be happy and satisfied. Children need happy parents. Often, we only need little things to make us feel better, it is just important to recognize what we need and allow ourselves that moment for ourselves. Most often, these are small pleasures that remind us that we are still important, small moments that are only ours and that do not endanger anyone. Reading a book while the baby sleeps instead of wiping the dust that has accumulated, taking a nap in the afternoon, having coffee with a friend when grandma is visiting, going to recreation or shopping.

It sounds simple and it is actually amazing how hard it is for us to allow ourselves to do something for ourselves. Someone has obviously been thrown for a loop when they convinced us that taking care of ourselves is no longer important when we become parents and started taking care of the child.

By taking care of ourselves, we do not stop taking care of the child. If we take care of ourselves, we will take better care of the child.

AUTHOR: Silvija Stanić, dipl.psih.univ.spec.iur.

The play “Two Blue Lines”

The play “Two Blue Lines”

The play “Two Blue Lines”

Teenager Vita Mayer is horrified to discover that she has become pregnant. She is faced with a difficult choice of what to do. Abortion or keeping the child? In a sea of ​​questions that bother her and to which there are no answers, she feels alone. 

The play “Two Blue Lines” was created with the aim of raising the awareness of young people about the importance and necessity of responsible sexual behaviour in the prevention of underage pregnancies. It premiered on Thursday, September 27th, at the Exit Theatre. In the first season, a total of 30 plays were performed in front of young people from the area of ​​central Croatia, with one guest appearance in Montenegro. 

The play, intended for final grade primary school and secondary school students, parents and educators, and educational workers, openly discusses the issue of underage pregnancies through the story of a teenager Vita, who, after learning she is pregnant, faces a decision that will change her life forever. 

The play was co-produced by the Full House Theatre, the Exit Theatre and the Sisak City Theatre based on motifs from the novel of the same name by Rosie Kugli. The project partners are the Parents’ Association “Step by Step”, the Croatian Society of Writers for Children and Youth and Lelo Hex, and it is co-financed by the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Croatia, the City Office for Culture of the City of Zagreb, and the City of Sisak. 

After each performance, a conversation is organized with the audience on the topic of responsible sexual behaviour and experiences from one’s own life or environment. The conversation is led by psychologists Silvija Stanić and Iva Buconjić, members of “Step by Step” association with many years of experience working on the prevention of risky sexual behaviour of young people and providing assistance to minors and young parents. 

The play is primarily intended for performance in front of students, and we invite you to share this information with your teachers, professional associates and colleagues and visit the EXIT THEATRE!