Parents and caregivers have vastly varying degrees of comfort with the concept of discussing SRHR with their adolescent daughters. To some, these conversations are best left in the home and there is very little trust in community providers addressing these issues. Others are uncomfortable discussing SRHR issues with their children and may feel anxious about providing too much information or are embarrassed about not knowing answers to the questions they are asked. One thing can be for sure, it is always sensitive.
Therefore, it is of the utmost importance that parents or caregivers be informed about the information being shared with their children during sport programmes that discuss SRHR. It is recommended to:
- Hold a meeting with parents or caregivers to discuss the programme and some of its more sensitive content. This will be essential for low-literate populations.
- Maintain contact with and respond to any questions or concerns of parents or caregivers throughout the programme. This will contribute to a greater understanding of the topics and the overall success.
- Provide your contact information in case parents or caregivers want to ask you additional questions.
- Prepare other responsible persons, such as teachers and health care providers, to understand adolescent development and be able to provide appropriate information about sexuality and reproduction to adolescents.
- Be aware that parents and caregivers might not have correct factual information about SRHR themselves and might benefit from discussing the facts of the issues during meetings.
Tip: Involving Parents
In some cultural contexts, parents are not a major source of information because they do not normally talk to their children about SRHR issues; this responsibility is left to other relatives, such as aunts, grandparents and other people within the community. If it is viable within the context you are working, sport programmes may wish to recommend parents and caregivers become involved in their child’s learning in the following ways:
- Encourage their child to discuss questions with them.
- Talk to their child about their own feelings and experiences during adolescence.
- Talk to their child about their own values and beliefs regarding sexuality, puberty, health and hygiene.
- Encourage their child to share or discuss what he or she is learning in the programme.
It is important to note that parents and caregivers who may not have done this before may need extra support or training from the programme.
Useful Example – Including Mothers
Many programmes recognise the important role that parents play in their children’s health. An innovative approach to young adolescents’ sexual and reproductive health in Nicaragua demonstrates how including the girls’ mothers is an important element of success.82 Entre Amigas (Between Girlfriends), implemented by PATH and Nicaraguan organisations, focuses on low-income 10- to 14-year-old girls. It reaches out girls’ support networks, including mothers, teachers, and community health care providers and officials, to improve their sexual and reproductive health knowledge and strengthen their sexual negotiation skills. The project identified mothers as having the greatest influence on girls within their social networks. Activities for girls were complemented by learning and support sessions for mothers, teacher training, and entertainment for the community. Entre Amigas also introduced new, young adolescent characters and their support networks into a popular TV soap opera, Sexto Sentido. Research shows that good parenting, strong bonds between parents and children, and positive non-violent discipline have a positive impact on reducing violence and recognising it as unacceptable.