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Bullet Developing Parent Programs: Challenges & Solutions .pdf >>

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.

Funding Programs

  • 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

  • A general meeting early in the process lets people meet the leadership team and learn how the guidelines/programs were developed.

  • 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 asked questions

    • plan the content to include first puberty and later sex education talks with their children

    • develop a parent support network to help parents help each other

  • Have outlines of the programs and books available for review
Things to Remember
  • 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.
What You Should Include
  • 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 "convince us."
    • Condoms - kids see condom use as "responsible" sex
    • Dating - priority to delay couple dating and establish family rules
    • God and Sex - Is sex good or bad? What and Why do we believe
    • Homosexuality - confused by the media, parents MUST discuss
    • Inappropriate Touch - knowing safety rules lessens the risk and the child's fear
    • Masturbation - frequent question from both parents and children
    • 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 greatest protection
    • 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