Philippines Toolkit: AYSRH Community Support
Engaging Parents to Ensure Community Support
Parents play a critical role as the first teacher and role model for adolescents and youth, especially in terms of value formation, personal development, and sexual and reproductive health. However, parents are not always knowledgeable and capable of facilitating conversations about sexuality, and the cultural concept of hiya (shame and embarrassment) discourages conversation around taboo topics like sex, inhibiting open and honest communication between parents and their children.
Participative peer-to-peer workshops for parents aim to educate parents on adolescent and youth sexual and reproductive health (AYSRH) and other adolescent development issues. Empowered with accurate information and communication skills through the workshops, parents feel confident, comfortable, and capable to effectively communicate with their adolescents and youth about AYSRH topics and support their children to realize their development goals and aspirations.
What are the benefits of engaging parents?
- In the Philippines, parents are expected to serve as the primary provider of information about sexuality-related issues. However, parents are often uncomfortable or unable to discuss information about sex, sexuality, and romantic relationships with adolescents and youth, driving them to seek information from their friends and other sources. With proper guidance, parents can be equipped to provide their adolescents and youth with accurate, scientific, and age-appropriate AYSRH information. This can promote healthy behaviors among adolescents and youth by countering rumors and misinformation, leading to reduced rates of unintended pregnancy and STI and HIV/AIDS infections among adolescents and youth.
- Parental or guardian permission is required for minors (those under 18-years-old) to access family planning (FP) services. According to the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Law (RPRH Law), “public health facilities can dispense health products and perform procedures for family planning provided that… a) The minor presents a written consent from a parent or guardian; or b) the minor has previous pregnancy or is already a parent except in cases of abused or exploited minors.” Educating parents on AYSRH issues and encouraging them to communicate with their adolescents and youth may increase their access to FP services.
How to implement
Step 1: Identify and train facilitators
With a peer-to-peer approach, facilitators for parent sessions may include parents or local health care providers, barangay health workers (BHWs), population volunteers, teachers, or other adult leaders in the community that are particularly interested in adolescent and youth health and development, specifically AYSRH issues. Spend an adequate amount of time (at least 8 hours) to familiarize facilitators with the training curriculum, making sure that they have had the opportunity to internalize the key messages and have practice techniques to stimulate discussion and facilitate the workshop.
Step 2: Plan the workshop
Identify an appropriate venue. Decide on the length/format of the workshop and adapt the materials. There are a number of great curriculum options:
- POPCOM’s Parent-Teen Talk is a 4-hour interactive learning experience for parents and teens.
- ZFF’s Parents’ Orientation on Adolescent Sexual and Reproductive Health is a 1-day orientation for parents, abridged from the 4-day Learning Package on Parents Education on Adolescent Health and Development (LPEAD) from POPCOM.
However, you may want to deliver a series of shorter and spaced sessions in a low-dose, high-frequency type of training mode, considering the home and work responsibilities of the parents you want to participate. For example, Save the Children Philippines implements HEART to Heart (Healthy, Empowered, Responsible Teen), a six-month curriculum that engages small groups of parents of very young adolescents (age 10-14) in a weekly 1-2 hour long session, which is being scaled by local government units (LGUs) and partner schools in Luzon and Mindanao.
Step 3: Target and invite participants
Target and invite participants. Participants may be prioritized from among families belonging to middle- to low-income groups, parents who are part of the Conditional Cash Transfer Program, parents of out-of-school youth, or other groups of parents of adolescents at highest risk. Aim to invite 10-20 couples, or 20-40 parents, which will be divided into smaller sub-groups at the workshop.
Decide if you want to also invite teens. POPCOM’s Parent-Teen Talk engages both parents and teens in combined plenary sessions at the opening and closing of the workshop, although the majority of the sessions are facilitated separately for parents and adolescents in parallel. However, it is also possible to facilitate the workshop for the parents only.
Step 4: Implement the workshop
Facilitate sessions on the following topics:
- The current situation of AYSRH, particularly related to teen pregnancy, at national, regional, provincial, municipal, and barangay levels, as well as the determinants of adolescent pregnancy, to help parents better understand the current context for adolescents. Parents may base their understanding of their adolescents on their own youth and personal experiences, but they need to make the effort to understand and accept the current context that influences their children’s perspectives, priorities, and behaviors.
- The changing Filipino family. The threats and risks confronting Filipino families which include rapid urbanization, geographic mobility, globalization, increasing number of women employed locally and overseas, and other social, political, economic, and cultural conditions have led to changes in the lifestyle, needs, roles, structures and relationships of Filipino families. These can impact how parents relate to their teens. The cultural context that adolescents are growing up in is different from when their parents were adolescents, and it is important for parents to appreciate and understand these differences.
- Adolescent human development. Discuss the physiological changes of puberty that an adolescent undergoes so parents can confidently and comfortably address and explain these changes with their children and respond to their questions. Review female and male reproductive health systems, fertility processes and its determinants, family planning and maternal health, violence against women and children, and adolescent pregnancy and its consequences. Review the four “I’s” of adolescent development with parents: identity or individuality, independence, intimacy, and intellectual ability.
- Parenting style. Discuss different parenting styles so that parents can a) understand and describe their own parenting style, and b) learn about and be able to apply various other parenting styles in different situations to most effectively guide their adolescent children to grow and develop. Parents need to show they CARE about their adolescent:
CONNECT and communicate with your adolescent children
ADVISE your adolescent that it is natural to feel confused, awkward and strange
REASSURE them that these changes are normal and part of growing up
ENCOURAGE adolescent to talk about their feelings and ask questions about whatever bothers and concerns them.
- Threats and risks facing Filipino adolescents today. Additionally, present effective ways and measures to fulfill the parental role to protect adolescents and support them to face the risks. Identify local agencies and institutions that are working for the protection of adolescents that parents and adolescents can access for assistance. You may invite representatives of local agencies to participate in the workshop as facilitators or guest speakers.
- Communication guidelines for parents. Parents may tend to treat their adolescents like children rather than young adults. Review aspects of good parent-child communication such as finding teachable moments, being ‘ask-able’ or approachable, becoming aware of questions behind the questions, accepting that they may feel uncomfortable at times, and the importance of listening to their children.
- Local cultural and religious beliefs in relation to SRH. Discuss the influence of culture and religion on adolescents’ sexual and reproductive behavior.
Step 5: Evaluate the workshop
Use pre- and post- tests to evaluate the knowledge and skills gained by participants in the workshop and attitude shifts. Use daily evaluations to solicit participant feedback on what went well and what could be improved in future.
Indicators for success
- Number of workshops held
- Number of parents and youth service providers trained, disaggregated by sex
- Number of parents and youth service providers trained whose post-test scores improved compared to pre-test scores
- Number of parents and youth providers trained who reported that they would provide their adolescent or youth with written permission to access FP services
- Venue that is large enough for 60 participants, with space to accommodate parallel parent and teen sessions, if applicable
- Paper and writing utensils
- Printed handouts
- Transportation reimbursement (if applicable/available, consider your audience)
- Equipment to play videos, if desired
What’s the evidence that engaging parents strengthens ASRH programming?
- Research has found that good parent-child communication around sexuality has many positive effects for teens – including helping them protect their own sexual health. Sex education and parent-child communication about sexuality are associated with delayed sexual activity and more consistent contraceptive use (Karofsky et al., 2001; Weinman et al., 2008).
- Teens want their parents’ guidance: research has found that more teens would prefer to get information about contraceptives from their parents than from a health center, class, hospital, media or friends (Advocates for Youth, 2011). This research is confirmed by ReachHealth’s human-centered design activity conducted across three sites (Manila/Cavite City, Iloilo City, and Davao City) in the Philippines in 2019 with 213 participants across 16 audience groups, including in-school teens, out-of-school teens, gang members, cohabitating teens, teens residents of crisis intervention units, teen parents, working teens, indigenous populations, and their allies.
- Parent/child closeness or connectedness, parental supervision or regulation of children’s activities, and parents’ values against teen intercourse (or unprotected intercourse) decrease the risk of adolescent pregnancy (Miller et al, 2001).
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- Invite both parents to the training, whenever possible.
- Keep participant groups small, no more than 40 parents (20 couples) to be divided into smaller groups for activities.
- Consider what times/days the parents you wish to participate are available.
- Consider where they are and what venue would be convenient and accessible for them, and private to facilitate open and honest sharing.
- Consider the parents’ level of literacy when considering content and methodology.
- Enlist effective facilitators who are experienced in adult education, versed in ASYRH and the local context, and parents themselves. Consider including staff of local organizations that assist adolescents and youth and/or implement FP programs, either as facilitators or guest speakers, who parents can contact after the workshop with further questions.
- Integrate effective parenting concepts in the programs of religious and community groups and organizations – you may also collaborate with religious organizations (e.g., Couples for Christ, Parish Renewal Experience, ) and civic groups or associations (e.g., Rotary Club, Parents-Teachers Associations) to conduct sessions for parents. These groups may integrate parenting sessions for responsible parenthood and AYSRH into their activities.
- It takes time to build trust and ensure a safe environment for parents to share openly and without judgement. This is why having good facilitators is really important, setting ground rules, and asking parents to reflect on their own adolescent years.
- Given current gathering constraints as a result of COVID-19 pandemic, these sessions may need to be facilitated virtually. Consider best practices in virtual education to aid in creating a safe space virtually for these discussions.
- It takes time to change negative perceptions about AYSRH and overcome cultural and social norms that blame adolescents and youth for their sexuality. As a result, be mindful of how you might want to deliver the content in small doses over time or ensuring some kind of follow-up after the training.
- Parenting the Adolescent Manual (PAM)
- Youth Development Sessions (YDS)
- Kuwentong Buhay, Kuwentang Buhay: Changing Selves, Changing