Friday, May 23, 2008

MSSR... Student Feedback

During the MSSR retreat I gave students a chance to express to me the things they would want me to tell thier parents concerning the issue of sexuality. The feedback that I got was very intersting and as promised I'm putting together a two part blog about the issues they bring up. This is an effort for you to continue the conversations that were started at the MSSR and help you, as parents get a clearer picture of what middle school students are thinking.

In quotes below are some of the things students wrote:

"They don't think we know anything, but we really know too much."

"I would much rather hear good information from my parents about sex than the distorted information I get from my friends"
"I don't want to talk about sex withe them because it makes me feel weird (and uncomfortable)."

"Don't force communication, don't make me talk about it."

"I know WAY more than you realize."

"Communication is great, but not right after school, more towards bed time is better."

"Don't ask specifics. I will tell you what I want to. Don't ruin it. I am being vulnerable and open with you."

"We know a lot more than you think we do."

"You don't need to be careful when talking about sex, just be honest and open."

"I wish you would have told me about sex before my friend did."

"Don't treat me like a kid when you talk about it... talk like an adult."

I was totally suprised by the responses that this exercise generated. A big fact that comes up every year is the tension that students feel when It comes to talking to thier parents about sex.

Let's face it... it's uncomfortable for each party involved. But, we talk to our kids about the pressures to lie, steal and how to behave in general. We must also be willing to have conversations about sex so that they can understand our expectations for them.

Think about this... you can discipline your students for lying, stealing, cheating or most other misbehaviors. Most times we teach our kids what is acceptable by punishing unacceptable behaviors. If you are punishing your student for unacceptable sexual behaviors it's too late!

Middle school students are smarter than any other generation that came in front of them. They know more than ever before... and they know that they are smarter. Because of the internet they have access to more information than you and I had at thier age. But, just because they know information doesn't mean they know how to process it or put it in context.  

From my experience students respond far better to conversations about sex when I talk to them in an adult way.  This doesn't mean that I am crude in the terms I use or assume that they already know everything.  But rather, with an attitude that understands that they already have opinions about sex.  You may find much more success in communicating with your child about sex if you approach it from a conversational perspective and not a lecture.

Many times this conversation can be helped by asking questions that take a third person perspective instead of a first person perspective.  For instance, what do your friends think of a particular issue?  What seems to be the overall opinion at your school?  Do you tend to agree or disagree with your friends about this particular issue?

The "sex talk" is not just a one time thing.  What is appropriate to tell a fifth grader is very different than the conversation that happens with an eighth grader. As your student matures they will need to get more and different questions answered.

Let's get the conversation going... feel free to comment on this posting and I'll keep checking back to see what you say.  Also, helpful and practical suggestions for getting conversations going with your kids are welcome.


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