By Jennifer Rogers, Health Connected communications manager and senior health educator
In the wake of ongoing sexual misconduct headlines during the past year, a Redwood City-based sexual health education organization has unveiled a new workshop series to open up dialogue about sexuality and personal boundaries.
Health Connected, a nonprofit organization that provides puberty and sexual health education to more than 20,000 youth, teachers and parents in the San Francisco Bay Area annually, is doubling down on its commitment to families. In May the organization launched its "Family Talk: Puberty" series, workshops designed to educate families about the physical changes youth encounter between 10 and 12 years old.
Health Connected is one of the few local organizations with a mixed-gender, interactive approach to family education about puberty. Its Family Talk workshops welcome youth, parents, grandparents and other trusted adults to participate.
At the workshops, attendees act out scenarios, engage in activities and start one-on-one conversations about puberty-related topics. One of the workshops' goals, says parent engagement coordinator Vanessa Kellam, is to underscore how influential adults are when it comes to their kids' sexual health.
Studies show that while teens want to discuss sexual health topics with an adult, parents aren't always comfortable having those conversations. A 2014 study from Planned Parenthood reveals only 43 percent of parents feel comfortable talking to their kids about sex and relationships, yet in a 2012 report from Power to Decide, 87 percent of teens said it would be easier to delay sex and avoid teen pregnancy if they could talk openly with their parents.
"We know parents want to have these conversations with their kids, but don't always feel equipped to do it," says Abi Karlin-Resnick, Health Connected's executive director. "We want to support them in that. When adults can talk to their kids in age-appropriate ways about challenging topics, we can help young people lay a strong foundation to care for their bodies and to navigate relationships. We can set expectations for what respectful, ethical and caring relationships look like and chip away at issues like sexual violence."
To date, Health Connected has held two Family Talk workshops, both geared toward pre-teens. The workshops have been well-received.
Melissa Urbano, who attended a workshop with her son, commented via Facebook that while she and her son had already openly discussed puberty, "[This was his first workshop and I couldn't have asked for better. It helped affirm what he already knew and empowered him with new information and tools in an easy, fun, and interactive way."
Health Connected plans to expand its Family Talk series to support youth in early elementary, middle and high school and their families. To learn more or to register for a Family Talk event, visit health-connected.org/family-talk.
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