Every parent’s nightmare is to share the same space with a child who does not tell them anything that goes on in their lives. Watching your child grow into a teenager with sexual needs can be both rewarding and disturbing as a parent.

Knowing whether or not your ‘child’ has become sexually active can be a fine way to know how to relay sexual topics to them, what kinds of things you say around them, how you act around them, and the kind of environment you foster so they are not stifled to share with you their sexual needs.

Being sexually active typically means that a person engages in sexual behaviours, such as intercourse, oral sex, or other intimate activities involving physical contact with a partner.

Although sex should be between two consenting adults, more often than not, there have been situations where minors engage in sexual activities, either with other minors or with adults who should know better.

A behavioural psychologist, Dr James Robson, said sex and sexual activities happened between children and even teenagers, adding that there were signs parents would see that would be indicators that their ‘once innocent babies’ had become fully or partially sexually active.

He said that sex, originally, was for capable and consensual adults, while being sexually active implied that one had reached a level of physical and emotional maturity where they are comfortable and willing to engage in sexual experiences.

“However, it’s important to note that sexual activity should always be consensual, safe, and respectful of both partners’ boundaries and desires, which is why parents must watch out for some signs in their kids that may show they are already eating the forbidden fruit,” he said.

According to a women and child rights advocate, Mercy Chepaka, as children grow into adults, their hormones begin to change.

Chepaka said parents needed to be closer to their kids at this point to inculcate the right values to them, especially when it comes to sexual activities.

Here are six signs to look out for as a parent to show your child may be having sex.

A child who was outgoing and extroverted may become an introvert who loves to be alone when they begin to engage in sexual activities, said Robson.

Although he stressed that these might also be signs of depression or abuse, children, he added, often changed almost too swiftly when they began to enjoy adult pleasure.

“You find your timid child coming out of his shell and asking really suggestive questions. You’d find your daughter who would ordinarily want to go out with you to shop for groceries say she wants to be on her own.

“At this point, you may want to begin to observe what is going on. It may be they are about to, or have already started to engage in these adult activities,” he added.

Chepaka said the minds of children were very difficult to decipher. However, she added that when parents were close to their children, they could notice a slight change in tone, responses, questions, attitudes, and reactions.

“It may not be a direct indicator, but when things like this happen, it can foretell a more serious problem, which may not be far from sex,” she added.

When a child who used to be open with everything, including their phone passwords, becomes excessively secretive and seeks privacy and more time alone, they may have begun engaging in sexual activities, said Chepaka.

She said children were not wired to be alone, adding that it was true that teenagers might want to seek some sense of privacy and control of their time and life generally.

However, she noted that when children spend all their time in locked up spaces, on their phones, and never talk to anyone except if they want to eat, then parents should watch it.

Robson, corroborating Chepaka, said being excessively secretive only showed the child had something to hide.

“When they get touchy if someone tries to touch their phones, enter their rooms without knocking, or play with their stuff, then it may be an indicator that they are already engaging in adult pleasures.

Children, as they grow into teenagers are naturally inquisitive, especially about sexual matters. Because of the level of trust they have for their parents, they are often the first port of call when these kids have questions about anything sexual.

However, Robson said when teenagers avoided talking about sex, or the fact that they experienced sexual urges or the feeling of wanting to be with the opposite sex, then they might have gone too far already.

Chepaka said teenagers who felt overly uncomfortable around sexual topics, especially around parents, should not be left alone.

“They may be experiencing abuse or peer pressure. So, it is best you talk to them or seek the help of a professional as a parent to make sure that you do not scare them away entirely to a point where they will never open up to you again,”  she said.

Your once ‘throw-anything-on’ kid, who could go out with just a pair of shorts and bathroom slippers now wants to wear designer sneakers for jogging and combing their hair before getting meds at the junction five minutes away. This can indicate that they have a crush on another minor or adult down that street.

Chepaka said when kids begin to pay attention to how they look and begin to reject outfit choices made by parents or guardians, it could be an indicator that they have become sexually active and may be trying out sex.

According to Robson, teenagers grow into becoming more aware of their appearance, and that is basically because they are now aware of the sexual appeal they exude or would love to exude.

Both experts advocated a genuine conversation with the kids to understand how far they know about sex and why they have to wait till they are adults to enjoy all of its pleasures.

It is not uncommon to find a teenager whispering in the middle of the night over the phone, talking to a love interest.

Chepaka asked parents to try to have regulated phone time for their kids as they may engage in sexting, pornography, and masturbation if they had so much uncontrolled access to the internet.

“That person that only calls your child at night and makes them whisper is not talking about school assignments or road trips; they are talking about something that is best soothed for the night when the world has gone to sleep.

“Parents must learn to monitor their children to make sure they are not engaging in unhealthy sexual behaviours right under their roof,” she said.

“That young lady that always comes to the house to see your son only when you are away and leaves once you get back might be engaging in sexual activities with your son,” said Chepaka.

She, therefore, advised parents to install CCTV cameras at home in strategic locations and watch out for unscheduled visits from the opposite sex.

“These days, even that same-sex best friend that always locks the door to play video games with your son may not be as innocent. It is a lot of hard work being a parent in this time and age, but it is not undoable.

“With a lot of commitment and diligence, you will raise godly, morally upright, and sexually healthy children,” she added.

Ask them! The most effective way to find out if your child is having sex is to have a genuine conversation with them.

“Don’t judge them. Don’t spring it up on them. Lead them. You can tell them about yours. Tell them about what you read online.

“You can even seek the help of a professional or another adult friend or aunt whom your child is freer with to help you. But, asking your child whether or not they are having sex, or having them tell you before they even do it, is one big ‘flex’ every parent must learn to command,”  Robson stated.