American Indian and Alaska Native parents have the power to influence their pre-teens and young teens to delay sexual activity by talking to them early and often. This is the message being communicated in Indian Country by the Native American Outreach Center (NAOC) of the Parents Speak Up National Campaign.
"Don't just tell them what not to do," said hip-hop artist and abstinence advocate Marcus Guinn, known professionally as Emcee One, who is a spokesperson for the Native American center. "Share your vision for their future and show them how delaying sexual activity can help them meet their goals."
The Parents Speak Up campaign includes television, radio, outdoor and print advertising, public service announcements, and a Web site and partnerships with community organizations. It urges parents to talk to their children about delaying sexual activity and provides tools and information to help build confidence about a topic that can sometimes make members of both generations feel uncomfortable.
The national campaign includes special outreach to American Indian and Alaska Native parents. The vast health disparities that have been shaped by historical, socioeconomic, and cultural factors within Native American communities demand an increased presence, said Guinn. For example, American Indian and Alaska Native teens have much higher rates of sexually transmitted diseases than other groups and 46 percent of Native American mothers have their first baby before the age of 20.
Materials and activities for Native American parents are available as free downloads at www.4parents.gov/shareyourvision. They make a connection to historical culture and values.
"It's not foreign for Native peoples to share our vision for the future with the coming generation," said Guinn, who is part Osage, Potawatomie and Delaware as well as Puerto Rican, "We have a long history of oral tradition and passing stories down," as well as tribal coming of age ceremonies.
"Vision is crucial," said Guinn. "If you're not sharing your vision then someone or something else will fill in the blank."
Actor, director, and educator Kimberly Norris-Guerrero, another NAOC spokesperson, said that sexually active teens can be traumatized when relationships end.
"It's not just a physical thing, it's also emotional and spiritual," that can lead to depression and drug and alcohol abuse. Norris-Guerrero, an enrolled member of the Colville Confederated Tribes, has appeared in movies and television shows including "Seinfeld" and frequently leads teen seminars about abstinence.
She said early parent-child communication about delaying sexual activity is "practical, relevant and doable. Younger kids are usually open to what their parents have to say. They still want to talk to you and you still have somewhat of a 'cool factor'. As kids get older, they tend to become more guarded," she said.
Norris-Guerrero advised parents to explore the available resources at www.4parents.gov/shareyourvision, and to look for opportunities to broach the subject and use humor with children. "Don't talk at them," she said. "Listen to where they are coming from."
Among the other American Indian and Alaska Native organizations partnering with Parents Speak Up are the American Indian Science and Engineering Society (AISES), Ateyapi Abstinence Program Rural America Initiative, the Boys and Girls Clubs in Indian Country, IWASIL, Boys and Girls Club Seattle, Washington, National Council of Urban Indian Health, National Indian Education Association (NIEA), National Native American Families Together, Native Youth Magazine, Running Strong for American Indian Youth and Southern California Indian Center, Inc.
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