Parent-Guardian Workshop Opens Avenues of Communication
Reaching out to teenagers with a life-changing message of abstinence
from premarital sex and drugs is only one part of the comprehensive
Healthy Respect program. Another key component is opening a dialogue
with parents and guardians on the difficult choices and situations teens
face, and how they can help guide the young people in their lives to
do the right thing.
The Healthy Respect teaching team met with a group of adults to discuss
these issues in an innovative workshop called “Got Teens? Get
Help.” Most of those who attended the four-hour workshop were
surprised to learn that while teens may appear to be autonomous and
self-motivated, research shows that they are heavily influenced by the
views and attitudes of parents and other adults in their lives. The
influence can be for the better or for the worse, depending on how responsible
the adults are and how seriously they take their role.
“Parents or guardians are the number one influence on teens and
they can be the most effective persons in helping teens make good decisions
in their lives,” said Dolly McLemore, who developed the Healthy
Respect curriculum and spoke at the workshop. The workshop took place
Jan. 17 in Harlem at the Bethel Gospel Assembly Church.
The four-hour program focused on the physical and emotional dangers
young people face when they become sexually active before marriage,
and suggested ways for parents to communicate with their teens about
abstinence. Using slide and Power Point presentations, discussion and
interactive periods and planned activities, the Healthy Respect team
kept the workshop participants engaged and in some cases on the edge
of their seats.
“A lot of them had no idea about the variety of sexually transmitted
diseases out there and how they can be spread,” McLemore said.
“They had no idea about the kind of pressures teens are under
today to get involved.”
She said a big thing among teens is oral sex, which many do not think
of as sexual relations. Yet a variety of diseases can be transmitted
through oral sex and even simple skin to skin contact, McLemore told
Luzeta Phillips, another Healthy Respect teacher, said that some of
the adults who attended were “taken aback” by the information
on STDs. “They said that something had to be done to protect kids
from these things,” she said.
“At the end, so many came to us and wondered why they had never
been told these things before,” McLemore added. “Why is
there not some public program of education about STDs and other factors
that can ruin the lives of young people, they wanted to know. They said
they were glad that we were out there trying to spread the news and
teaching people how to avoid these pitfalls and live happy and healthy
The goal of the workshop was not simply to shock and inform. The ultimate
mission of Healthy Respect adult program is to help parents and guardians
open communication with their children on such key issues as sexuality
and drug use.
“We want to empower parents to communicate more effectively with
teenagers, and become familiar with risky behaviors they can fall into,”
McLemore noted. “I think a lot of parents are hesitant to open
such discussions, and we try to give them ways to do this.”
John Margand, executive director of Healthy Respect, said that the program
seeks “to build or in some cases rebuild relationships and dialogue
between adults and their children. We find that many parents do not
know the important role they play in the lives of teens. When they find
out about the research in this area, they tend to become more active
in the lives of their kids. Healthy Respect is here to foster healthy
relationships and support parents in their role as the primary educators
of their children, especially in the area of sexuality.”
In addition to classroom presentations in schools and neighborhood workshops
with parents and guardians, the Healthy Respect curriculum includes
after-school programs to reach teens in a more informal, personal setting.
The three-venue approach makes for a comprehensive curriculum that is
particularly needed and effective in New York City and its environs,