Sammy The Caterpillar Guide for Parents/Guardians

Information to support healthy conversations with children and teenagers about bodies, sexuality and relationships

Sammy the Caterpillar Guide is an exciting, innovative project developed by Donegal Youth Service and the Donegal Library Service, and supported by HSE Health Promotion & Improvement was launched on Thursday the 15th of March 2018 at the Moyle National School in Newtowncunningham.  You can read more about the official launch here.

You can read the full contents of the booklet below.

All Donegal Primary Schools have received information about the project and can order ‘Sammy’s Guide’ to give to parents when they are linking in with them as part of the School’s RSE (Relationships and Sexuality Education) programme. Copies of the guide are also available at each of the Donegal Libraries and Taobh Tíre points. 

This project was funded by a National Lottery grant administered by the HSE, and Donegal Library Service.


The Booklet

Plain text version below.  Best for mobile users.


What is this booklet about and why is it important?

This booklet is to support you to have healthy conversations with your child or teenager about their bodies, sexuality and relationships.  It will also signpost you to books in your local library that have been specially selected to help you begin this journey with your child.

Learning about bodies, sexuality and relationships is an important part of growing up.  One of the main ways that children and young people learn about these important subjects is through their parents or guardians.

Traditionally, education in this area was only considered necessary from puberty to the end of adolescence and often consisted of a single ‘big talk’ during the teenage years.  There is a growing acceptance that these conversations need to start at a much earlier age and be on-going, so that children and young people develop a healthy attitude to their bodies, sexuality and relationships as they grow.

These conversations may be challenging for you for many different reasons!  Perhaps you want to talk to your child but you are not sure when or where to begin or the correct words to use.  Perhaps you didn’t receive open and accurate information yourself when you were growing up.  Or perhaps the subjects were not mentioned at all when you were young and you learned what you know from friends, TV or magazines.  You can probably remember being confused, worried and possibly embarrassed to ask for more information.

By talking to your child or teenager you can help them to have a more positive experience. 
You can also better ensure that your child or young person learns about their bodies, sexuality
and relationships in a way that reflects your values and beliefs, and in a way that includes
emotions and feelings, not just the biological aspects of sex.

What does the research show?

As challenging as these conversations may seem, research shows that ‘young people would like their mum, dad or guardians to be the first person to talk to them about body changes, feelings, sex and relationships.’

Research also shows that ‘good sex education at home and in school can increase the likelihood that teenagers will wait until they are 17 or older (the legal age of consent) before they have sex and that they will use contraception when they do.’

Having open, honest and supportive conversations with your child, in an age appropriate way, therefore can help them make wiser choices.  Research also shows that parents who discussed relationships and sex openly with their pre-teen children found it easier to communicate with them as they grow up.

Being open when children are young can lay the foundation for good communication and help ensure young people get the information they need before becoming sexually active.

You can use the books in the library to support you and your child.  Keep your messages simple when your child is younger and build on this information as they grow.

0-5 years children need to:

Know that it’s okay to ask questions and expect a reasonable response

Learn the correct names of their body parts

Know that touching their own bodies is okay but should be done privately

Learn about appropriate touching and hugging of others and by others

Begin to understand feelings and emotions

Library books for 0-5 years: 

Let’s Talk About: Girls, Boys, Babies, Bodies, Families and Friends – Robie H. Harris The Great Big Body Book – Mary Hoffman  |  About Chris – Nina Benedetto My Favourite Color is PinkNina Benedetto  |  How Did I Begin?Mick Manning

5-8 years children need to:

Learn about their bodies in a positive, healthy and respectful way

Develop their self-esteem and a sense of self-worth

Be aware of gender stereotypes about what boys ‘should’ do and what girls ‘should’ do

Have age-appropriate discussions with you about their bodies, their emotions, sex and sexuality

Know that there are different family structures (e.g. single-parent, two-parent, same-sex)

Library books for 5-8 years:

Amazing You: Getting Smart About Your Private PartsDr Gail Saltz Let’s Talk About: Where Babies Come FromRobie H. Harris  |  What’s The Big Secret? Talking About Sex With Girls and BoysLaurie Krasny Brown and Mark Brown

8-12 years children need to:

Be prepared for the onset of puberty (including periods and wet dreams)

Be aware of hygiene and how to look after their bodies

Be educated on safe and appropriate internet use

Be aware of gender stereotypes in the media

Have age-appropriate discussions with you about their bodies, their emotions, sex and sexuality


Library books for 8-12 years: 

Asking About Sex & Growing Up: A Question and Answer Book for KidsJoanna Cole What’s happening to me? (boy) Alex Frith What’s happening to me? (girl)Susan Meredith  Totally Pants: A Brilliant Guide to Boys’ BitsTricia Kreitman et al  |  The Boy in The Dress David Walliams 

13-19 years adolescents need to:

Be aware of media and peer influence on body image and sexuality

Develop a clear concept of healthy relationships

Establish personal values about sexuality

Learn about safer sex including contraception, STIs and sexual consent

Be educated on safe and appropriate internet use

Know where to access information on sexuality/sexual health services

Library books for 13-19 years:

Let’s Talk About Changing Bodies, Growing Up, Sex and Sexual Health Robie H. Harris  |  The Care and Keeping of You 1: The Body Book for Younger GirlsValorie Lee Schaefer  |  The Care and Keeping of You 2: The Body Book For Older Girls Dr Cara Natterson  Chicken Soup for the Preteen Soul: Stories of Changes, Choices and Growing Up For Kids Ages 9-13Jack Canfield et al Growing Up For BoysAlex Frith and Felicity Brooks  |  The ‘S’ Word: A Boy’s Guide to Sex, Puberty and Growing Up James Roy

TIPS for talking to your child or teenager about their bodies, sexuality and relationships

Be open – tell them that you are happy for them to ask you questions or come to you with any worries or concerns 

Respect their questions and don’t laugh at the or be angry – it has probably taken a lot of courage to come for you for advice

Be honest and give information based on their age/stage and needs – children will need more information as they grow

Be proactive – don’t wait for your child to ask you questions – use opportunities such as the TV/media to help begin conversations

Be open – try not to shut down any question – your reaction will affect their comfort levels in future conversations

If you are embarrassed then say so! They will know anyway.  Explain why you might feel that way but emphasise your willingness to support them.

Contact your local library…

It is free to join and to borrow items from your local library.  For information on all library services, including opening hours and contact details see library website 

Central 074 91 24950  |  Lifford 074 91 72726  |  Na Rosa 074 95 22500

Buncrana 074 93 61941  |  Milford 074 91 53927  |  Raphoe 074 91 44115

Carndonagh 074 93 73701  |  Moville 074 93 85110  |  Twin Towns 074 91 75384

Donegal Town 074 9725329  |  Bundoran 071 98 29665  |  Gaoith Dobhair 074 95 60862  |  Ballyshannon 071 98 58824

You can also find Donegal Library on Facebook and Twitter