Each October, TPPP recognizes Let’s Talk Month to emphasize the importance of young people and the adults they trust talking about sex. This October may feel very different than past years. While the seasons are changing and kids are back at school (at least virtually), many of us are spending significantly more time at home to stop the spread of COVID-19. This brings us new opportunities, and challenges, for Let’s Talk Month.
Back in May, Power to Decide found that “a majority of adults (57%) agree that sheltering in place during the COVID-19 pandemic has provided increased opportunities for conversations with the young people in their lives about sex, love, relationships, and ultimately birth control.” Taking advantage of these opportunities can strengthen family relationships and empower teens to make healthy decisions both in the moment and in the future. At the same time, no one wants to start a conversation that ends with a sullen/angry teenager (or parent) who has nowhere to go! What some parents and trusted adults may not know is how many tools there are to prompt and guide these conversations and hopefully keep them productive and positive.
For children and younger teens, Amaze.org has a variety of videos on sexual health topics, from bullying and cyber-safety to consent and healthy relationships. It is simple to pull one up on YouTube and see if your child is interested in the topic. Power to Decide has a #TalkingisPower Toolkit with conversation starters and tips that can be tailored to the interests of your household and TPPP’s website has a virtual scavenger hunt with activities you can pick and choose to engage kids in conversation about sexual health. Plus, the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services has their Connect with Me campaign which provides downloadable conversation cards on a wide variety of health topics. For parents and caregivers who feel strained and less creative after months of family togetherness, these tools can make Let’s Talk Month conversations easier and mix up the regular dinnertime conversations.
However, home is not a safe and supportive environment for all kids. Young people, especially those who identify as LGBTQ+, may not be accepted by their families. This can lead to anxiety, trauma or even physical harm during quarantine periods (NPR, 2020). In addition, Missouri Kids First and other child welfare organizations have raised awareness of the fact that child abuse reports declined significantly during April and May. All of us can take steps to ensure that the young people in our lives have a trusted adult who is available to listen and protect them during Let’s Talk Month. If you are concerned about someone you know, make sure to reach out. You can also gather resources and have them on-hand in case a young person needs help or support you cannot provide. Below are just a few:
The Trevor Project is the leading national organization providing crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer & questioning youth. For links to text or chat, visit https://www.thetrevorproject.org/. There is also the option to call 1-866-488-7386.
Show Me Hope Missouri is a free crisis counseling program providing outreach and education for disaster recovery. This program is made possible by a grant secured through the Federal Emergency Management Agency. If you or someone you know need assistance, please reach out to our Disaster Distress line at 1-800-985-5990, or text “TalkWithUs” to 66768”, or connect through our social media platforms on Facebook or Twitter by searching “Missouri Show Me Hope Crisis Counseling Program
#Essential4Kids is a campaign designed to educate adults on what to do if they suspect a child has been abused or neglected. Go to www.essential4kids.org for resources, including specialized one-page flyers for schools, youth serving organizations, faith communities, law enforcement, and childcare providers are available. If something does not look safe, sound safe, or feel safe – report by calling 1-800-392-3738.
This October, let’s talk! Talk with the kids and teens in your life about how they are feeling and about their hopes for the future. It really is the perfect time to build them up, listen to their concerns and help them think about how they can make informed decisions around relationships and sexual health.