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The Parent Buzz
A Newsletter for Parents from Let's Be Honest!
March 2007 - Vol 1, Issue 5
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Welcome to The Parent Buzz, an e-newsletter designed especially for parents and caregivers of middle school-aged children by Let's Be Honest! , the Parent Education program of Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts.

Father and Daughter
Adapted from Dads and Daughters: How to Inspire, Understand, and Support Your Daughter by Joe Kelly and used by permission

The incidence of sexual abuse and the objectification of girls generates strong anger, revulsion and fear in a responsible father. It is foolish and unproductive to ignore that fear and anger. However, we do great harm if, for example, we let the prevalence of sexual abuse make us afraid to touch our daughters, or afraid of how our healthy physical affection will be interpreted. If good touch is absent from our relationships with our daughters, we cut off part of our humanity and our daughters' humanity. We are tactile beings who need physical expressions of affection, comfort, reassurance and playfulness. Words are not enough to convey the depth and importance of our love for our daughters. Yet fear of being sexual--or perceived as being sexual-can stop a father's hug in its tracks. As a father, I am consistently affectionate, but never sexual, with my daughters. I take great comfort from hugs and enjoy physical play with little kids - a wonderful legacy taught by my father. Not every father relates to his or other children this way; my experience is neither universal nor unique. But no matter what our style of fathering, our kids need physical acknowledgement of our love for them. That's sometimes not simple or easy to do.

What is good touch? Touch is good when it does the following for its recipient:
  • Comforts her
  • Affirms her as a person
  • Supports her
  • Respects and is sensitive to her person and her boundaries
  • Is given with her permission
  • Is given freely, with no quid pro quo
  • Helps her feel strong, lovable and able to delight in herself
  • Is not sexual.

Good touch is not confined to fatherly hugs and kisses. Good touch can happen when, together with our daughters, we garden, play handball, do carpentry, take dance lessons, train the dog, wrestle, shoot baskets, go for a walk, or do any number of things.

Still, it's not easy for fathers (or anyone else) to talk about good touch/bad touch issues. The true crime of abusive touch rightly sparks loathing because it is so deeply harmful. But we fathers need the courage to acknowledge that abuse exists and that its existence can get in the way of fathering a daughter in healthy, non-abusive ways. We need to talk with each other and with our parenting partners about how to provide our daughters with good fatherly touch.

Dads and Daughters is an organization that promotes supportive and healthy father-daughter relationships and provides tools and advocacy to fathers in order to help their daughters have greater opportunities for self- fulfillment. For more information, visit http://www.dadsanddaughters.org
Be prepared to talk. Some parents report that they don't feel prepared to have conversations with their children about sex and sexuality; perhaps because they don't have the "correct" information on hand, they don't know what words to say, or they are surprised that their child is even asking the question! You can feel more prepared to talk with your child in a relaxed manner by identifying resources that are available such as websites, books, workshops, and professionals. Learn more about the sexuality education being taught in your school system, faith communities, and youth groups that your child is exposed to; remember, you can use these as an information source. In addition, you might want to have conversations with other parents to get support and ideas of how to handle experiences the children are facing in your community.
The federal government now spends about $50 million annually on abstinence-only-until-marriage education programs that do not work, according to a recent study by Mathematica Policy Research Inc. The study found that youth in the four evaluated programs were no more likely than youth not in the programs to have abstained from sex in the four to six years after they began participating in the study. Youth in both groups who reported having had sex also had similar numbers of sexual partners and had initiated sex at the same average age. Furthermore, abstinence-only program participants were less likely to know that condoms can lower the risk of sexually transmitted diseases.

This report underlines what Planned Parenthood and supporters of comprehensive sex education have known for a long time. Abstinence-only programs do not work. These programs are dangerously unrealistic, and leave young people at risk by denying them information they need to make safe and healthy decisions. Comprehensive sex education is the only approach that has been proven to work in delaying the onset of sexual activity, and reducing risky sexual behaviors by young people.

It is important to note that there is a profound difference between abstinence as a message and abstinence-only interventions. The American public, both adults and teens, remain deeply committed to encouraging teens to delay sexual activity and to providing young people with information about contraception. The vast majority of the public does not see abstinence and contraception as an either/or proposition-they want teens to be informed of both.

In light of these findings, PPLM commends the Deval Patrick administration for their recent decision to refuse abstinence-only-until-marriage funding from the Bush administration.

Governor Deval Patrick's administration has announced that the Massachusetts Department of Public Health will no longer apply for federal abstinence-only-until-marriage funding. This makes Massachusetts the ninth state to reject the Bush Administration's funding for these ineffective, harmful and misleading programs.

For more information, the entire report can be accessed on the internet at:
http://www.mathematica- mpr.com/publications/PDFs/impactabstinence.pdf
In February, 2007, The National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy issued a new research report, With One Voice 2007, America's Adults and Teens Sound Off about Teen Pregnancy. Some highlights of the study support the Four Themes to Remember of Let's Be Honest! It's a parent's Right and Responsibility to have ongoing conversations with sons and daughters about sex and sexuality; it's important to share family Values about these issues; parents need to validate their kids' questions and help promote positive Self- esteem so that kids can make healthier decisions; and, parents need to stay informed through Facts and Knowledge. According to the study, teens continue to say that parents most influence their decisions about sex. Parents of teens, however, continue to underestimate the influence they have over their children's decisions about sex and overestimate the influence of friends and the media. Most teens (64%) say they share their parents' values about sex. Adults (73%) and teens (56%) also continue to believe that young people need more information about abstinence and contraception, rather than either/or.

CARE for Youth is working hard to make comprehensive health education available to all public school students in Massachusetts! As a parent, we NEED your help in this important effort to keep kids safe and healthy! There are a number of ways you can get involved:
  • Testify at the public hearing - As a parent with children in the public schools, your voice is essential during the hearing on the Health Education Bill. The hearing is taking place on Tuesday, May 29th at 1pm at the Massachusetts State House in Room A- 1.
  • Show your support at the public hearing - If you don't feel comfortable testifying, you can show your support for the Health Education Bill by attending the hearing. To RSVP for the hearing, please click here: www.ppaction.org/pplm/events/healthedbillhearing_ clone_1249001/details.tcl
  • Visit the CARE for Youth website at www.careforyouthma.org - Learn more about health education in Massachusetts and additional ways you can get involved with this initiative!

Don't forget to visit our website at http://www.plannedparenthood.org/ma/for-parents.htm! Our website is updated regularly with helpful tips for talking, information about workshops, and much more. Don't miss an opportunity to be the primary sexuality educator for your children. Need help? Call our Parent Education Team at (617) 616-1658.


Parent Education
Planned Parenthood League of MA

phone: (617) 616-1658
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