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Learning Activities

All Learning Activities

Talking with Your Child About Sexuality

This month's learning activity includes the following sections:

Objectives

At the completion of this workshop, parent will be able to:

  1. define sexuality,

  2. identify key personal and spiritual values they want to share with their children about sexuality, and

  3. demonstrate the use of teachable moments to share values and information.

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Time

1 hour and 30 minutes

Materials

  • Newsprint or large paper
  • Tape
  • Markers
  • Variety of parent pamphlets on sexuality and related topics
  • Denominational statement on sexuality (if one exists)
  • Teachable Moments handouts
  • Sexuality Interviews handouts

Preparation

  1. Gather the materials needed for this session.

  2. Write learning objectives on newsprint or large paper.

  3. Prepare a "sexuality pizza."

  4. Write communication guidelines on newsprint or large paper.

  5. Make sufficient copies of:
    • Teachable Moments handout
    • Sexuality Interviews handout
    • Denominational Statement on Sexuality

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Procedure

Introduction (10 minutes)

  1. Welcome parents to the session. Introduce yourself and explain how you became involved with tonight's workshop. Allow the clergy/leader to introduce him/herself and talk a bit about the interest in the topic of the workshop. This may be a good point for him/her to review the congregation's denominational statement on sexuality (if one exists) and offer an opening prayer/meditation.

  2. As a quick icebreaker, ask parents to take turns sharing the following information:

    • name
    • ages and genders of their children
    • where they got their first information about sexuality

  3. Acknowledge parents' personal experiences. Tell parents that tonight we are going to talk about sexuality and how our sexuality develops throughout our lives. We will also talk about the key roles parents play in teaching their children about sexuality and sharing their personal and spiritual values about this very important topic.

  4. Review the learning objectives for this session (written on flipchart paper) with parents.

Defining Sexuality (15 minutes)

  1. Tell the group that you are going to write a word on flipchart paper, and you would like them to say whatever comes to mind when they read the word. You will record what they say under the word. The facilitator should then write the word "SEX" on the flipchart paper and encourage the group to share any ideas, thoughts, or feelings that come to mind. Record all responses.

  2. Tell the group that you would like to do this activity again, but this time with a different word. Write the word "SEXUALITY" on flipchart paper, and again encourage the group to share any ideas, thoughts, or feelings that come to mind. Many groups will give less feedback for this word. Some parents may say that they think "sex" and "sexuality" mean the same thing.

  3. After the group has explored the two words, acknowledge the good thoughts everyone shared. Tell the group that you would like to share some definitions for these words.

    SEX refers to whether or not we are male or female. This is largely determined by our genitals — whether or not we have a penis or a vagina. (Remind the group that they have completed forms at their doctor's office or at work that ask for "sex." They are required to check little boxes that indicate whether they are "female" or "male.") Sex has also come to be a common abbreviation for sexual intercourse.

    SEXUALITY is a much "bigger" word. Sexuality is a lifelong process that begins at birth and ends at death. Sexuality is more than our genitals and what we do with our genitals. Sexuality also describes how we think, act and feel about being a male or a female. This is called our gender. Sexuality also has to do with how we act in relationships, how we show love and affection, how we feel about our bodies, and who we are attracted to.

  1. Sexuality can sometimes be a difficult concept to grasp. The facilitator may want to use an analogy to make sexuality more concrete for parents. One such analogy is drawing a "sexuality pizza" on flipchart paper. Draw six slices of pizza in the pie. On each slice, write one of the following words or phrases:

    • Reproductive Health and Genitals. This slice represents ideas like puberty, menopause, sexually transmitted infections (STIs), HIV, pregnancy, family planning, hygiene and health care.

    • Gender Role and Identity. This slice represents how we feel about our maleness or femaleness. How do we express our maleness or femaleness? Do we feel discriminated against because of our gender?

    • Relationships. This slice represents behaviors, expectations, satisfaction and abuse in relationships.

    • Love and Affection. This slice represents how we express love and affection to friends, family, and romantic partners.

    • Body Image. This slice represents how we feel about our body, how we treat our body, and how attractive we feel.

    • Sexual Orientation. This slice represents who we are romantically attracted to.

  1. Tell parents that our sexuality is made up of a variety of slices, and all the slices make up our sexuality — just like all the slices make up the pizza.

  2. The facilitator may want to give some illustrative examples of how we express our sexuality and ask some critical questions. Below are some suggestions. Encourage the group to think about how the teachings of their community of faith relate to each example.

    • Traditionally, depending on their sex, babies are assigned pink or blue clothing. Who made this rule?

    • Traditionally, boys play with cars and balls, while girls play with dolls. What would be wrong with a girl learning to play sports, and with a boy learning what it means to nurture or care for a pretend baby?

    • Traditionally, boys are taught not to cry, while girls are permitted to cry. Does the pain a boy experiences differ from a girl’s pain? Is crying an acceptable way of releasing emotion for human beings in general?

    • Traditionally, boys or men are taught to be ready for sexual intercourse and that having sexual intercourse proves you are more of a man. Girls are taught the opposite. How can these double standards create problems in relationships?

    • Traditionally, women will greet other women with a kiss on the cheek or a hug. Men will often greet other men with a handshake. Why is touch so much more limited for men?
  1. Tell parents that our understanding of sexuality is largely influenced by the culture in which we live. Family, friends, religion, the laws of our society, and the media are some of the influences that help us form values about our sexuality. Our values help guide the decisions we make about our sexuality.

    It is important for parents to think about their values and have a sense of clarity about them. As the primary sexuality educators of their children, parents will find themselves talking about values as much, or more, than the facts about puberty, reproduction or AIDS.

  2. Invite the clergy/leader to review the congregation's values about sexuality.

Exploring Values about Sexuality (30 minutes)

  1. Tell parents that you would like them to think about their values regarding sexuality. Remind the group that values are shaped from a variety of sources, as we mentioned earlier. Different experiences help to define and also redefine our values. Values are unlike facts — there are no "right" or "wrong" values.

  2. Ask parents to divide into pairs. Ask each parent to take turns interviewing his/her partner with the questions listed in the "Sexuality Interviews" handout. Give parents about 10 minutes to complete this activity (about five minutes for each interview).

  3. After 10 minutes, facilitate a discussion about the interviews with the following questions:

    • What did you learn from conducting these interviews?

    • Was there something in the interviews that surprised you?

    • What were your thoughts for Question #3?

    • What makes it difficult to talk with your children about sexuality? Record parent responses on the left-hand side of a piece of flipchart paper.

    • What are some ways to overcome these barriers? Record these corresponding solutions on the right-hand side of the flipchart paper. For example, if a parent feels too embarrassed to talk with her child, she could tell her child from the beginning that this conversation is difficult, but she believes it is important to have. Or, she could leave written material on her child's bed and later ask her child what she thought of the material.

Using Teachable Moments (30 minutes)

  1. Tell parents that they do not have to give all the information and values about sexuality to their children at one time! Sexuality is a lifelong process. Therefore, learning about sexuality takes place throughout a lifetime.

  2. Tell parents that they can use teachable moments to share information and values with their children. Ask parents what they think a teachable moment is.
TEACHABLE MOMENT
A teachable moment is an everyday opportunity that can help open discussion with your child about sexuality or any other topic.
  1. Ask the group to take a look at the "Teachable Moments" handout. Ask parents to divide into groups of three. Assign each group two teachable moments and ask them to answer the questions listed at the bottom of the sheet. Allow parents about 10 minutes to complete this activity.

  2. After 10 minutes, ask for a few volunteers (depending on time) to read their teachable moment to the group and discuss how they would use the situation to teach information and values to their child.

  3. After the several groups have shared how they would use the teachable moment to teach information or share values about sexuality, ask for a few volunteers to come to the front of the room and act out a conversation. Provide the group with some communication guidelines. The facilitator should review these guidelines written on flipchart paper.

    • Stay calm.

    • LISTEN to your child first. Do not interrupt.

    • First, find out what your child might already know about the issue.

    • Give factual information.

    • Keep your answers brief.

    • If you share your values, explain why you have your values.

    • It's okay to say "I don't know," but follow up as soon as possible.

Summary

  1. Ask parents to share one thing they learned in tonight's workshop and how they might use what they learned at home.

  2. Summarize by saying that sexuality is a broad term that includes much more than what one does with his or her genitals. Parents are the primary sexuality educators of their children and have the responsibility to share their personal and spiritual values about sexuality with their children. Teachable moments are all around us and allow us the opportunity to share information and values with our children.

  3. Thank parents for their participation and their time.

  4. Invite the clergy/leader to make some summarizing comments and/or closing prayer/meditation.

This learning activity has been adapted from the Wait for Sex parent workshop curriculum developed by ETR Associates and funded by the Federal Office of Adolescent Pregnancy Programs.

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