Wednesday, November 7, 2012

"We're all in this together" - President Obama

We are doing/plan to do our very best as sex educators, but educators are restricted by educational guidelines and  institutional bureaucracy and children are aggressively confronted with conflicting messages about sexuality every day through the media. What can we do to make sure that children get access to comprehensive, factual information about sexuality? I say we sneak in through the parents and guardians. I’m not trying to put any of us out of a job… I’m just suggesting we get some other adults with authority to join our cause.

Children will likely go to their parents or guardians with questions about sexuality at some point in their lives and the reactions they get can impact their view of the topic overall.  Discomfort begets  discomfort.

Why aren’t parents and guardians talking to their children about sex? It’s possible that they believe that the burden falls to us as professional educator, but that puts us in a terrible position because we are likely to impart our personal values in some way in classroom. It’s also possible that parents and guardians don’t have the time to prioritize educating their children around sexuality issues. Could it be that they simply don’t have the information they need? Maybe a basic set of guidelines would be helpful for parents.

There have been efforts  the past to encourage parents and guardians to get involved, but they have not been very effective. I can’t help but feel that it is partially our responsibly to try to teach parents and guardians how to talk to children about sexuality. It can create more spaces where healthy discussions about sexuality are possible.

How can we realistically make this happen?

Should we make this happen?

What snags might we hit in our quest combine our efforts with parenting at home?


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. "efforts" link should take you here...

    Sorry, I thought I fixed it before posting.

  3. I think you bring about some interesting points, Jessica! I really enjoyed the Salt Lake Tribune article about implementing a sex education program for parents. One question I have though...

    "Karrie Galloway, CEO of the Planned Parenthood Association of Utah, which opposed HB363, said "We are supportive of any and all attempts to encourage parents and their children to discuss sexuality issues." I don't understand WHY should would oppose this bill. Planned Parenthood could assist with curriculum needs and it doesn't seem like it would take away from sex education in schools. If anything, a program like this may make many parents feel more comfortable in discussing sexuality that they may be more for comprehensive sexuality education in school. I also believe that parents should partake in value clarification to really examine their beliefs so they can have honest conversations with their child.

    The website above shares different newsletters about sexuality education at home starting from age 3 up to 12th grade. It seems to be a very sex positive outline and a great stepping stone for parents!

  4. Is the title of this post a reference to "High School Musical?" Please say yes.

    I think that ABSOLUTELY parents should be involved. I don't think that they believe it's up to professionals to teach them; rather, I think that a lot of the time, parents just assume that they know what they're talking about OR that their children don't need to be talked to about sex. I just don't think it's a high-priority and/or parents themselves are uneducated. I think that's what causes the problem, more than anything.

    I think what would be awesome is if more organizations offered classes for parents on how to talk to their children about sex. It could involve workshops on understanding sex and sexuality AND workshops on how to approach conversations about these sensitive topics with kids. The issue would be getting parents to sign up to do such a thing. But I think that in more hippy-dippy (that's the academic term, right?) places, this could totally work.

    But then the question is: FUNDING.

    How about when we graduate, we all just stick together and create an awesome super-organization that deals with this exact topic? We can travel the country in a sex-mobile, spreading the gospel of comprehensive sex education for ALL.


  5. I think educating parents about how to educate their children is extremely important, and in fact that's been one of my career goals since I first decided to start this program. I don't think it would be such a hard sell, either... dealing with their children's developing sexuality is something most parents are pretty anxious about, and as long as the organization offering it is one they trust I think a lot would be willing to sign up. DEFINITELY among white suburban parents, which are the ones I have the most experience with, the availability of a program like that from a trusted organization would be met with a huge sigh of relief.

    I've also thought that such a class could be helpful to the parents themselves, in navigating their own sexuality. Without directly addressing it, we could teach a lot of basic facts, things like what is "normal", and considering their attitudes and values around sex. A well-designed program would have a double benefit in improving the lives of students and their parents.

  6. I love this topic and parents are my favorite population to work with, so yay! In my experience with parents they overwhelming want to have these discussions about sexuality with their children, but are afraid that they either do not have the right information or that their children won't want to talk to them about it. That's why I am so happy to be a part of an organization that offers parent workshops where parents in the community can get all the resources they need (and keep coming back for more) and some "make-up" education to fill in the gaps that they might still have from their own experiences with their parents and lack of sex ed in school.

    The parent workshops that we have done at Planned Parenthood have always had a huge turn out, which continues to prove to me that parents want help and resources for how to talk to their children/teens about sexuality. There has also been a pretty good diversity of parents at these events in terms of ethnicity, age, and parenting styles. We have also had a good amount of grandparents come to the workshops, which always enriches the discussions!

    A big take home message for parents is that sexuality is from birth to death so these conversations with their children need to happen early and often. The "sex talk" really doesn't need to be this formal sit down conversation that makes the child feel uncomfortable and the parent feel like they just need to get out all the important information in one sitting. If sexuality is incorporated into everyday conversations using teachable moments from TV shows, music, movies, etc. then the lines of communication between parents and children will already be open for the parents to instill values and educate their offspring about any and all topics.

    While I love being able to provide the information and resource foundation for parents, we always make the point that they are the primary sexuality educators of their children, and get the unique privilege to impart family values and morals while also providing education to their kids - which we as sexuality educators are not at liberty to do (even though as we have debated there is no value-free education).

    One last thing I want to touch on is the funding issue that Melissa brought up because it is extremely important! Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA) has made the effort to make October "Let's Talk!" month and has created numerous videos and helpful online resources for parents that we love to pass along to parents, but the workshops themselves aren't necessarily covered under my Planned Parenthood's funding. We think the workshops are so valuable that we have tried to keep them going (and hopefully will continue to), but depending on the funding streams that might not always be the case. We need to have some people in our field become policy-makers (or at least people who like to encourage policy-makers) that can use all the research and evidence present to make sure that there is funding set aside for parent education programs!

    Here's a link to some of the PPFA videos if anyone is interested in watching or sharing them with parents :)

    Also this one is my favorite one that we use as an icebreaker with parents because it gets them laughing, but also gives some great advice:

  7. Getting parents involved is something that is discussed at least once a week with fellow teachers at the school I work at. It is usually in the context that students are being threatened to have their parents called for disciplinary reasons, but the response of the students just to the threat of having a parent notified says a lot about how effective parent outreach for sex ed would be depending on the neighborhood. Certain areas have far larger proportions of absentee parents or parents who are unwilling to communicate with teachers. I know teachers who have been cursed out by parents for calling them with anything related to school. In other areas the family is the core to each household and contacting a parent is the most fear inducing threat to a student. I think that recognizing where parental involvement would be a viable option and then reaching out to them would be the best place to start as opposed to trying to get more difficult parents to be involved, which can be very frustrating and draining.

  8. Regarding your first question of "how" we can make this happen...

    While at the SSSS conference this weekend, I found a new app that is releasing. It is called Birdees, and it allows you to create a little bird. You give the bird a name, sex, and age. It then flies to a little ruler that measures where the bird should be on their path to learning about sexuality. Parents use this app and name birds after their children. It gives parents an idea of age appropriate issues and stresses that sexuality conversations need to happen throughout the lifespan. I think it is really neat!

  9. While reading through all the comments, it seems we all share a common theme of wanting parents to have access and knowledge of how to talk with and teach their children. How lucky are the parents that are going to have us supporting them through teaching their children all the healthy attributes of sexuality.

    The resources listed were great! I found another one on SIECUS and it includes resource in both English and Spanish. It lists publications, webpages, and bibliographies. There are talking points for points and tips on "teachable moments" for parents to begin and continue sexuality conversations.

    In regards to where do we start - I think our friends provide access to providing this information. Some of us are starting to have friends with children and we can use our own "teachable moments" to provide resources for our parents. We can also let our friends know that if they know other parents who have questions of our availability to answer these questions. I truly believe this grass roots approach as amazing possibilities with our generation of sexuality educators!! Shanna

  10. Well isn't this post extremely timely considering this exact topic is the focus of the curriculum I'm developing for my community partner! I can literally talk about the importance and need to get parents involved in sex education for days, weeks, months...who knows. My passion for this particular aspect of sex ed has creeped up on me during my time at Widener, and I just embrace it with open arms.

    In response to your question about why they aren't talking about sex with their children - I've found multiple reasons in the literature ranging from: their own experiences with sex ed growing up, the attitudes surrounding discussing sex with their own parents, not knowing the correct information to provide their children sine most of them never got proper sex ed either, lacking a relationship or connection with their child allowing communication to openly and naturally occur in the first place...the list goes on and on.

    We can realistically make this happen by providing our services to non-profit organizations in our communities, through after school programs already focusing on the youth, public health departments, neighborhood community centers, etc. Reaching out the leaders amongst these places, and offering our knowledge regarding effective parent-child communication is a great starting point in my opinion. Trust me, the need and desire is out there, and coming from both the parents and the children.

    Snags we can potentially hit are parents busy work schedules, creating interest in the particular community when the idea of sex makes your target audience uncomfortable, and locating facilitators capable of providing sex ed to the parents effectively. It's important to give parents time to role-play and actually try out the communication techniques you provide them with their children. The more self-efficacy you can build within them, the faster all the barriers originally stopping this communication from happening will start to fall.

    Witnessing this is such an amazing feeling, and seeing the relief on parents faces when they realize how important their voices and conversations really are to their children - PRICELESS. :)

    p.s. I'm also in love with all your sources, and the sources provided in these comments. I'm in sex educator heaven right now with all these goodies! :) Thanks you all!