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Skills for Educators

All Skills for Educators

Sharing Values about Sexuality

Parents who discuss values and attitudes about sexuality with their children are likely to increase a sense of family connectedness — a protective factor for adolescent sexual risk-taking behavior.

This month's educator skill shows educators how to conduct a values clarification workshop for parents, which can easily be adapted for training of staff or educators. This workshop not only helps parents identify and clarify their values but also gives them an opportunity to practice communicating ethos's values to their children. The educator skill includes the following:

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Learning Objectives

At the completion of this workshop, parents will be able to:
  1. Define sex and sexuality,
  2. Explore and clarify personal and societal values around sexuality and adolescence,
  3. Identify sources that influence the development of values around sexuality,
  4. Practice expressing and listening to diverse values about sexuality, and
  5. Practice using teachable moments to communicate values to children.



Two hours


  • Flipchart paper
  • Markers
  • Tape
  • "Values Statements" Survey
  • "Sexuality Interview" Worksheet
  • Strongly Agree, Agree, Disagree and Strongly Disagree Signs
  • "Teachable Moments" Worksheet
  • Pencils



Introduction (10 minutes)

  1. Welcome parents to the workshop. Conduct appropriate introductions and housekeeping. If you have not already set group agreements, you may want to do so before starting this workshop.

  2. Tell parents that during today's workshop, they will be exploring their values about sexuality and adolescence. Ask the group to think about why this is an important topic for parents. Take a few responses. Possible responses might be:

    • To become more aware of our own values.
    • To better understand why we believe the way we do.
    • To better understand the diversity of values that exist.
    • To learn why others may have values different from ours.
    • To explore how our values may affect/influence what we teach our children.
    • To explore ways to teach our values to our children.
    • To become better aware of issues that may "push our buttons" and discover ways to cope with these issues.

  3. Emphasize that the goal of this workshop is not to convert anyone to a different set of values or teach the "right" values. The goal is to better understand our own values, and why we have them, and to learn ways to communicate these values to our children. Parents who discuss values and attitudes about sexuality with their children are likely to increase a sense of family connectedness. Research tells us that family connectedness is a protective factor for adolescent sexual risk-taking behavior.

  4. Review the learning objectives for this workshop (learning objectives should be written on flipchart paper and posted in front of the room) with the group.

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. You should then write the word "SEX" on the flipchart paper and encourage the group to share any ideas, thoughts, images or feelings that come to mind. Record 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, images or feelings that come to mind. Many groups will give less feedback for this word. Some parents may say that they think the words mean the same thing.

  3. After the two words have been explored by the group, tell the group that you would like to share some definitions that the field of adolescent sexual health uses for these words.

    SEX refers to whether or not we are male of 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 is also an 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. Sexuality has to with how we act in relationships, how we show love and affection, how we feel about our bodies, and who we are attracted to.

    Sexuality can sometimes be a difficult concept to grasp. You may want to use an analogy to make sexuality more concrete for parents. One such analogy is drawing a pizza on flipchart paper. Draw six slices of pizza in the pie. On each slice write one of the concepts listed below and explain the concept briefly. Tell parents that our sexuality is made up of a variety of slices and all slices make up our sexuality, just like all the slices make up a whole pizza pie.

    • Reproductive Health and Genitals. This slice represents puberty, menopause, STIs, HIV, pregnancy, family planning, hygiene, and health care.
    • Gender Role and Identity. This slice represents how a person feels about his or her "maleness" and "femaleness." How does the person express his or her maleness and femaleness (e.g. clothing, career choice, body language, hobbies, etc.)? Does the person feel discriminated against because of his or her 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 (e.g. trust, touch, communication, etc.)
    • 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 (gay, lesbian, bisexual, questioning).
  1. Tell parents that our understanding of sexuality is largely influenced by the culture in which we live. Family, friends, religion, laws, 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. Tell parents that they are now going to do some thinking and clarifying of their values around human sexuality and hear different points of view on issues related to sexual health.

Values Statements (25 minutes)

  1. Give each participant a copy of the Values Statement Survey. Tell the group to take about three minutes to answer all the questions on the survey. Tell participants NOT to write their names on the survey. To further preserve anonymity, ask all participants to use a pencil to answer the questions. Ask them to turn their papers face down when they have completed the survey. When everyone is finished, collect the surveys.

  2. Shuffle and redistribute the surveys to participants. Tell them that it is OK if they receive their own survey, but they should not let anyone else know. Then tell the participants that in a minute you will ask them to stand. You will read several of the questions on the survey — one at a time. After you read a question, they should walk over and stand near the sign that represents the answer on the survey they are currently holding — which may or may not be the answers they gave on their own survey.

  3. Once the group has moved to the different signs, ask a few representatives to offer opinions about why the person who completed the survey may have chosen that particular answer. Each person should actually act as if he/she is the person who answered the survey in his/her hand, and use "I statements" rather than say things like, "I think this person was probably thinking that ..." Remind participants to voice these opinions in a respectful, thoughtful and realistic manner.

    Facilitator Note: Asking parents to represent another person's survey answers serves two purposes. First, it helps to diffuse some of the emotion that might surface if parents talked for themselves. Some parents may not feel comfortable expressing their own opinions, especially if their opinions are not popular. Second, for some parents, representing another's survey will give them an opportunity to empathize with another opinion — an opinion that might help them clarify their own values.

  4. Ask the group if they have any questions about the activity. Distribute the surveys and give participants a minute to review answers before you start reading the statements out loud.

  5. Facilitate this activity for three to five statements, depending on time. At some point, ask participants if there is a particular question they would like to work through — one that brings up particularly strong opinions or emotions. Be sure that you allow equal talking time to "both sides" of the issue.

    Facilitator Note:
    As the facilitator of this learning activity, your job is:
    • not to "correct" values, but rather to make sure both sides are heard
    • correct or clarify misinformation (i.e., "condoms are not very effective")
    • coach the group to respect the right of others to have different opinions
    • discourage the use of derogatory statements (i.e., "faggot")
    • encourage the group to hear different opinions

  6. Once three to five statements are processed, ask participants to return to their seats. Ask participants to write an "I learned" statement at the bottom of the surveys they have in hand. Ask a few people to share these statements out loud.

  7. Conclude by asking the group how this activity may help them in communicating their values to their children. Some responses might be:
    • Importance of thinking about how parents feel/think about sensitive issues. This clarity will make it easier to communicate values.
    • Values are not always "black and white." Sometimes there are two ways to feel about something.
    • Parents can encourage youth to think about and discover their own opinions and values.
    • It may be important to clarify for youth the difference between fact and values. Parents play a role in teaching about facts (e.g., how the menstrual cycle works) and about values (e.g., when is the right time to have sex).
    • It is important to encourage youth to communicate with family or other trusted adults for support in thinking about, defending and living their values.


Sexuality Interviews (30 minutes)

  1. Tell the group that they are going to spend some more time exploring the messages they received about sexuality when they were younger, how they were influenced by these messages, and what messages they would currently like to give their children about sexuality.

  2. Give each participant a copy of the Sexuality Interview Worksheet. Ask participants to divide into groups of two and give them about 10-15 minutes to interview each other with the questions provided on the worksheet.

  3. After 10-15 minutes, ask participants to stop their discussions. Tell the group that you would like to have a larger group discussion for a few minutes about their interviews. However, you want to make sure that people talk only for themselves. Tell the group that you recognize that some personal information might have come out during the interviews (i.e., sexual abuse), and you don't want to put anybody in an uncomfortable situation.

  4. Facilitate a large group discussion using the following questions:

    • What did you learn from this activity?
    • Did anything surprise you from doing this activity?
    • What were your thoughts for Question #4?
    • Why do you think some parents have such a difficult time talking to their kids about sexuality?
    • What are some suggestions for removing these barriers?

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. Share with parents that a teachable moment is an everyday opportunity that can open discussion with your child about sexuality or any other topic for that matter.

  3. Ask the group to take a look at the Teachable Moments Worksheet. Ask parents to divide into groups of three. Assign each group two teachable moments. After reading the teachable moment situation, ask them to answer the questions listed at the bottom of the sheet. Allow parents about 10 minutes to complete this activity.

  4. After 10 minutes, ask for a few volunteers to read their teachable moment to the group and discuss how they would use the situation to teach information and values to their children.

  5. After 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. The facilitator may want to share the communication guidelines listed below with parents.

    • Stay calm.
    • LISTEN to your child first. Do not interrupt.
    • First find out what your child might already knows about the issue.
    • Give factual information.
    • Keep you answers brief.
    • If you share your values, explain why you have your values.
    • It's OK to say"I don't know," but follow-up as soon as possible.


Summary/Wrap Up (10 minutes)

  1. Sexuality is a broad term that includes much more than what one does with his or her genitals. Sexuality has to do with how we think, act and feel about being a man or woman. It has to do with our reproductive health, gender, relationships, how we show love and affection, how we feel about our bodies, and our sexual orientation.

    Parents are the primary sexuality educators of their children and have the responsibility to share their values about sexuality with their children. Some research indicates that parents who communicate clear values to their children about abstinence and/or contraceptive use are more likely to have children who delay the onset of sexual intercourse and/or use contraception effectively.

    Values about sexuality are shaped from a variety of influences. Children will clearly learn values about sexuality from a variety of sources. Parents need to make sure their values are also heard and assist their children in thinking critically about what they learn from the media, friends, etc.

    Teachable moments are all around us and allow us the opportunity to share information and values with our children.

  2. Ask parents to share how they will use what they learned at today's sessions at home. Take as many responses as time allows.

  3. Provide parents with appropriate resources.

  4. Thank parents for their participation and their time.