About a dozen parents met in the Gastineau Elementary School library Tuesday night to talk about “the talk” with a representative from Planned Parenthood. The goal of the event, a sex-ed-ed course of sorts, was to help prepare parents for the inevitable “birds and bees” conversations that go hand-in-hand with rearing kids.
During the event, Cori Stennett, a community outreach educator with Planned Parenthood, debunked several popular myths that often complicate “the talk.” One of these myths, surprisingly enough, had to do with “the talk” itself.
“One of the biggest misnomers is ‘the talk,’” Stennett said. “It is not just ‘the talk,’ it is making this conversation happen over and over. It’s about trying to help them figure out who they want to be as people. It’s precious, and its so much more than just a talk.”
This notion of repetition, of parents keeping an open dialogue about sexuality with their children, was at the heart of Stennett’s presentation. So was the concept of educating children about sexuality in the digital age.
Several parents in attendance expressed their concerns about Internet pornography and the seemingly increasing prevalence of casual sex in society today, both of which are complicated issues, Stennett said.
“We’re hearing a lot of young people saying they got their sex-ed from Google, that they got their sex-ed from porn,” she said.
But in this case, the same technology that may be complicating things for parents who are trying to educate their children about sexuality may be a part the solution, according to Stennett.
She encouraged parents to familiarize themselves with the technology at their children’s disposal and to explore the web as a teen or pre-teen might, so that they know what their kids may be seeing. It is important, Stennett said, for parents to be able to correct the misconceptions their kids may have about sexuality, but to do so in a manner that doesn’t discourage conversation.
“We live in this world of high sexual stakes and we can’t protect them from all the input we like to, especially now with personal pocket computers,” Stennett said. “For our children to get our values we need to share them.”
Deb Spencer, a school counselor at Gastineau Elementary, helped organize the event at the request of the school’s site council, which came up with the idea last spring. Spencer said she was pleased with the turnout and thought the event was “super helpful.” Spencer was not alone.
Lisa EaganLagerquist, a parent and member of the school’s site council, attended the event and said that she also thought it was helpful, even though this was her second time hearing Stenett speak.
“It reminded me of different ways to talk to my kids and to keep talking and to keep listening,” EaganLagerquist said. “I think that was the takeaway to keep these conversations open.”
October is Let’s Talk Month, part of a national public education campaign coordinated by Advocates for Youth with the goal of facilitating healthy discussion about sexuality.