Learning to communicate with children on the personal
In eight weekly sessions that included technical information on adolescent growth and development, along with a good dose of forming new friendships, a dedicated group of parents at Springfield Housing Authority’s Sullivan Apartments discovered new ways to communicate with their children.
Not just small talk. Not just giving instructions or disciplining.
But really communicating – broaching topics that can cause discomfort, incorporating personal and family values, and truly listening to their points of view.
Parents who participated in the ‘Let’s Be Honest’ sessions at Sullivan found new ways to engage in verbal give and take with their young ones, regardless of the topics at hand. The sessions are run by Brenda Reyes, parent educator at Planned Parenthood of
Parents agreed the sessions were informative and useful.
“This really helped me a lot,” said Xiomara Gonzalez, who has seven children and three grandchildren. She found that engaging with her youngest two, who are 12 and 7, was quite different from her dealings with her three older children, who are grown and on their own.
“It came to the point where my 12-year-old was asking questions that I didn’t know how to answer. A lot of years had gone by and I wasn’t sure what to say,” Gonzalez said. “So I asked Zenaida.”
Zenaida Burgos, that is. She is the Talk/Read/Succeed! program coordinator at Sullivan Apartments, and she has been organizing the Let’s Be Honest sessions to help parents improve understanding and communication with their young ones as they grow. The sessions are part of the T/R/S! program aimed at promoting early literacy through parent and family education.
“This is aimed at parents of children of all ages,” Burgos explained. “It helps them learn how to use the correct words when they explain the physical and emotional things that go on with them as they grow up. It’s about educating your child with strategies and getting rid of the myths.”
Reyes said the sessions include information on puberty, male and female reproductive systems, self-esteem, developing healthy relationships, sexually transmitted diseases and prevention and, if necessary, sexual orientation. She said family values, and including them in discussions with children, are an essential part of the training.
The Sullivan group jelled early on, developing trust and sharing information to help each other, Reyes noted.
“This group is definitely one of my favorites,” Reyes said. “They learn a lot from me, and I learn a lot from them.”
A resident of Springfield, Reyes often runs into former participants out the community, and enjoys developing those lasting relationships.
This group included one rarity – a man – who also added much to the group.
Angel Vazquez said he appreciated the group support as well as the information that has already helped him in dealing with his six-year-old daughter.
“The things we talked about in the sessions just made it easier for me to talk to my daughter about all kinds of things,” Vazquez said. “She’s too young for a lot of what we talked about, but just being able to express certain things is helpful.”
Zuleyka Sierra is a parent who participates in as much of the T/R/S! programming as she can. Let’s Be Honest, she said, gave her specific information about growth and puberty, along with discussions on incorporating personal and family values in conversations with children.
“It was great, very educational, really,” said Sierra. “It helped me to talk better to my daughter about all kinds of things. I’m so glad I came to this.”
The sessions ended recently with a lunch and graduation ceremony.