“Love for Children”-Traditional Iñupiaq Value
Talking to your child about sexual health, healthy relationships, and related topics can be daunting! We are here to help you take the first steps toward talking with your child about these topics. We know through research that children and youth who have open conversations with their parents about relationships and sex are less likely to take risks regarding sexual health. Talking with your child can make a huge difference in their life. Some important information you can talk with your youth include:
- healthy relationships
- how to prevent HIV and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs)
Communicate your values
Talking with your child openly about sexual health means that you can communicate your values with your child. Many of us may feel overwhelmed with media–songs, TV shows, and social media messages–and how it might impact your child’s development and their thoughts on these topics. The best thing is that you can help inform your child on accurate information on these topics rather than them getting information from other questionable sources. The important thing is communicating the values you’d like to pass onto your child while also informing them about how to take care of themselves. For example, can you think of any cultural values you want to share with your child in framing your discussions?
Create an open and safe environment
It’s okay to not to have all the answers right now. Whether your child is 6 or 16, if they ask you a question like “where do babies come from?” or “how do you get HIV?” it’s okay to respond with, “I don’t know.” Either way, you should thank them for the question and say something like, “I’m glad you can talk to me about this. I don’t know the answer right now, but I will look into this and we can talk about it sometime soon.” If they ask you a question that surprises you, try to stay calm. A bad reaction to a child, scolding them for their curiosity or not wanting to talk about sexual health with them will likely make them feel that they shouldn’t talk about those topics. It may also make them feel shame.
Rather than having “the talk” for the first time when you feel your child is “old enough,” you should start small. Have casual conversations with your child little by little. By valuing your child’s time and interest in health topics, they will know that they can come to you for big questions in the future. Think suicide prevention, alcohol use, bullying, and more. The Talk Now Talk Often card is a wonderful free tool to use to start those conversations. Order the card now. The “No Place Like Home” book from IKM also has age and grade specific sexual health information for every stage of development. If you are still looking for inspiration check out Auntie Amanda from wernative.org on youtube. You can also share these videos with your youth!
Prepare and practice
Not sure where to start? Start by practicing! Practice what you want to say to your child in front of a mirror, with your spouse or partner, or with friends. Your ability to speak comfortably about sexual health will make your child more comfortable asking questions and discussing sensitive issues.
Trusted adults play a very important role in the life a young person, especially parents! You probably have already passed on lots of knowledge to your child, and chances are they have asked you for advise in the past. One of the most important things a parent can do for a child is to listen to their child. Often, in indigenous cultures we are taught to respect our elders. This is an important tradition since we know that we learn a lot from our elders. However, this does not mean that we shouldn’t take the time to listen to youth. That means that we can listen without interrupting or without quickly jumping in to offer our two cents. If youth feel heard, they will feel like they matter and chances are they are more likely going to take your advise into consideration when it’s your time to speak.