A new project from the Alaska Network on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault launched in February is aimed at helping parents talk to their teens about healthy relationships. “Talk Now, Talk Often, Alaska” offers parents and caregivers resources to help them broach the touchy subject of relationships, and try to break through the tough shell teens sometimes have around them when it comes to talking to the older crowd.
Claudia Plesa is a project coordinator with the Alaska Network:
“This is a brand new effort. You know, we do a lot of victim services here at the Alaska Network. We work with a lot of organizations to provide those services. Another piece of our work is to prevent violence before it happens. And part of our work is to work with teens to inform other teens. So peer-to-peer kind of education around what is a healthy relationship. What we have found lately is that parents aren’t part of that conversation, and kids are learning what a relationship is, or what a healthy relationship is from the media or from their friends. So we wanted to provide some resources for parents to really have them start being part of that conversation.”
Trina Bashem of Kodiak is one of the first parents to try out Talk Now Talk Often. She works at the Kodiak Womens Resource and Crisis Center, and felt this program would fit well with her work.
“I have a 16-year-old and a 13-year-old and they are in two different areas of their lives. But it is important for me to talk to them about relationships, and respect. Because that is key part of my raising them, is just learning how to respect themselves. So when it comes to relationships with others, I was hoping to some how teach them that, and the conversation is kind of hard to have – with teens.”
Bashem said that after she came to Kodiak and started her job at WRCC, her personal awareness of the issues teens face grew:
“The thing is, I work for a domestic violence and sexual assault shelter, so my awareness of the issues didn’t really perk until I started work for this agency. And when my girls became teens and started to think about the idea of getting into relationships is when I felt it was important to, definitely start talking to them more once I got into this field when I started seeing the impact in teens in our schools of these issues.”
She said the Talk Now Talk Often program will come in handy in her job, while working with other parents and teens:
“Definitely. That was my kind of my idea with kinda spreading the word around to our community that if par3ents have a hard time with approaching their teens with the concept of healthy teen relationships that they could come to agencies like us. I wouldn’t have known that if I didn’t know our agency until I started working here. An agency like ours can definitely educate parents of what a healthy relationship looks like and what signs to look for in their teens.”
Plesa agreed, saying that the program will be a great help for parents:
“Parents and roll models definitely have some self-reflection that they can do as they try to get teens to think about and reflect on these behaviors and these beliefes around relationships. I think it can be beneficial for parents as well. Sometimes just don’t think about what we do or what we think or what we expose some of out young people to. So I think this could be beneficial to the entire family, parents included.”
“Conversation Cards” are a big part of the Talk Now Talk Often program. They can be downloaded from the Alaska Network at TNTOAK.org, which also has links to many other resources to help parents help their teens develop healthy relationships. We’ve got a link on our website, KMXT.org.