Lansing workshop aims to take the sting out of the birds and the bees

How many sitcoms have we seen depicting bumbling parents and terrified children sitting down to have the dreaded “talk?” Pop culture really hasn’t helped make that inevitable and necessary conversation any easier. That’s where Talk Early, Talk Often℠ comes in. The Michigan- based workshop’s mission is to give parents the skills they need to effectively talk to their kids about sexuality and abstinence. Lansing parents will be able to attend a free, two- hour workshop on Saturday at the Letts Community Center for all their sex talk needs. And according to some statistics from host Planned Parenthood, Lansing might need it.

“Our goal is that we recognize that parents are the primary educators and we want to support them,” said Amber Arb, Planned Parenthood’s community outreach educator. “And it should be an ongoing conversation, not just a one- time deal.”

Lansing’s teen pregnancy rate stands at nearly double the state average, with 65 out of 1,000 teens becoming pregnant. In fact, Arb said that Saturday’s workshop has been specifically funded through Michigan’s Department of Community Health to help reduce the teen pregnancy rate in Lansing. And while those are the long- term objectives of the initiative, the first step is getting parents to talk.

Talk Early, Talk Often℠ helps parents identify opportunities to talk and finding teachable moments in everyday situations. These have been the goals of the workshop’s organizer, Barb Flis, since Talk Early’s beginning in 2005. Flis’ workshop focuses on creating a relaxed environment based on parent- to- parent conversation. The meetings start with a quiz, followed by a discussion of the questions and how they relate to talking to kids about sexuality. This transitions into a role play and group discussion, where Flis says that parents can learn the most from each other.

“Parents realize, ‘I’m not the only one who struggles with this’,” Flis said. “For many parents, the practice sessions are the very first conversations they have
ever had about sex.”

Charmagne Johnson, a mother of two and a facilitator since the project’s inception, will lead the discussion at Letts Community Center. Johnson says that while she might not be an “expert,” she’s offering her services because she’s been through the same things and wants to help any way she can.

“This is not work for me, it’s a mission,” Johnson said. “Because we all want the same thing, and that’s for our kids to make good decisions.”

Positive reviews of the workshop have shown that parents are indeed learning skills from the workshop and putting them to use. Johnson said that is the most important thing parents can do.

“The discussion doesn’t stop here,” says Johnson. “If the parents aren’t talking to their kids, then who is — and what are they saying?”


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