Start with a Leadership Team to:
- Achieve diversity of ideas and increased communication among parents
- Ensure continuation of programs by not depending on only one or two people
- Involve more people who are committed to make things happen
- Share the work - from preparing announcements, letters and handouts to room set-up, hosting and evaluating
How to Build a Great Leadership Team
Faith-based - Meet with clergy, school principal, religious education director, guidance counselor, and one or two teachers (religion, science and health teacher).
Public School Setting - Meet with the school principal, guidance counselor, and one or two teachers (science and health teacher).
- Ask for a list of three qualified people to join the leadership team:
- Members who reflect each family of origin.
- People who share the same values and teachings.
- Professionals to enlist - doctor, nurse, social worker, teacher
- PTA officers and Parents -who know the best times for programs, have great communication networks, and can address other parents' concerns
- Grandparents - who often share child care and may have fund-raising contacts
- Communicate early and often. No one regretted notifying parents too soon but many said they waited too long. Those who had a meeting early in the process prevented misinformation from growing and spreading.
- Communicate with catechists/teachers. The easiest beginnings occurred when the leader/principal had the catechists/teachers and school counselors lined up and fully informed.
- Evaluate all programs. Include summaries of the evaluations in the bulletin/newsletter and keep copies in the church/school library. This encourages attendance when programs are offered again.
- Decide to use an all-purpose fund or one with a line item for parent programs. Most prefer the line item as it provided more of a guarantee for the program's existence.
- Ask the parents' association to purchase library resources and sponsor speakers.
- Request a fee to cover child care, refreshments/dinner and/or handouts. Child care increases attendance. If you feed them, they will come.
- Purchase parent sexuality education books in bulk and sell at full price. #1 parent request is to have books available for purchase at meetings.
- Share the speaker's fee with a neighboring parish/school by co-sponsoring some programs.
Addressing Concerns and Objections
- Listen to concerns. Always be polite. Listen carefully when others take the time to voice concerns and address their concerns without being drawn into emotional or harangue-type discussions.
- Objections may be voiced by a few vocal parents - Often the difficult people you deal with have the greatest need for healing.
- Continue to Keep the Door Open - even if you do not agree, learn to disagree without being disagreeable. Bring them in to share the books and evaluations.
- Publicity is the best proactive defense. Hold open meetings that are advertised in bulletins/newsletters and keep copies of the minutes available in the church or school
The Introductory Meeting
Things to Remember
- A general meeting early in the process lets people meet
the leadership team and learn how the guidelines/programs
- Emphasize the rights and responsibilities of parents as
the primary educators of their children.
- Clarify programs' four purposes to help parents to:
- communicate their values and beliefs about the gift
of sexuality with their children
- prepare for what to say by learning kids' most frequently
- plan the content to include first puberty and later
sex education talks with their children
- develop a parent support network to help parents help
- Have outlines of the programs and books available for
What You Should Include
- Pray. Sometimes it is hard not to be discouraged or take opposition and criticism personally.
- Ask other churches/synagogues and schools to share their experience with you.
- Realize that parents will "parent" the same way they were raised. Many weren't taught themselves.
- Accept that some parents need help to learn how to effectively communicate their values and beliefs.
- Understand that a parent's sexual history, how they view their church teachings, from acceptance to anger, and their lifestyle, e.g.; a mom with a live-in boyfriend, can block parents from effectively helping their children.
- Don't rush into implementing a program. Go slowly.
- When and What kids are asking - Parents
who know the answers to the most frequently asked questions
will be less uncomfortable, better prepared and more willing
to talk with their children.
- When and What happens during puberty
- especially for boys
- What are the Church's/Synagogue's teachings
and What parents should say about:
- Abstinence/Chastity - kids want reasons. They say
- Condoms - kids see condom use as "responsible" sex
- Dating - priority to delay couple dating and establish
- God and Sex - Is sex good or bad? What and Why do
- Homosexuality - confused by the media, parents MUST
- Inappropriate Touch - knowing safety rules lessens
the risk and the child's fear
- Masturbation - frequent question from both parents
- Modesty - parents need suggestions as many feel it
is a "losing battle"
- Oral sex - kids need answers but parents don't know
what to say
- Peer Pressure - informed parents can be their child's
- Pornography - kids argue "light porn" is OK. Also
need to discuss the internet.
- STDs/AIDS - young kids are afraid but older kids believe
the "safe sex" messages
- What are the Stages of Intimacy; what is a good
relationship and most importantly, how do we learn to love?
How do we develop the virtues/character traits needed to
love others as we wish we would be loved? These topics are
often forgotten in the discussions.
Mary Lee O'Connell, CRNP - 8/04