Fourteen Parents and 15 teens met on January 28th for another successful “Can We Talk?” Parent-Teen communication retreat. The retreat was the culmination of five weeks of Teen-led planning activities designed to help teens develop leadership skills and improve communication between teens and their parents. Despite Arizona’s effort to reduce the number of teen pregnancies, the state’s teen pregnancy rates remain above the national average. Compared to other ethnicities, Hispanics have higher rates of teen pregnancy in Arizona. There is a high teenage pregnancy rate in Nogales Sonora, as well. After a 2011 study conducted by the Adolescent Wellness Network revealed that mixed messages teens received from parents, school and the media stymied efforts to reduce teen pregnancies community partners, led by SEAHEC, formed a cross-border collaboration to support families and local youth serving institutions in improving communication among teens and their families.
Through this collaboration, adolescents incorporated their perspectives on life planning; communication with adults and healthy relationships. Allowing the youth to lead the retreat planning and implementation contributes improving their communication and leadership skills. This project is part of an overall strategy of adolescent wellness for the region. Results provide durable tools for training, dialogue and behavior modification of parents and providers as they address issues together with youth.
The retreat focused on:
1. Life planning and the roles youth see themselves taking on in our community
2. Communicating with adolescents – messages youth would like to share with their parents regarding topics they identify as priorities in their lives/in their community
3. Healthy relationships and accessing health services – messages youth would share with peers on the signs of healthy/unhealthy relationships, depression and teen suicide, and resources available to youth in our community.
In November 2016 a youth led team from Nogales, Arizona, was formed with support from the Santa Cruz County Adolescent Wellness Network (AWN). This includes members from Nogales High School “Future Health Leaders Club.” For the next three months the youth planned and organized activities for the retreat including the agenda for the day.
Youth developed suitable and engaging activities in which parents and teens were allowed to communicate with each other through a speed dating icebreaker and role playing. A community resource table on adolescent services was provided. The committee also planned the retreat venue and food.
Youth practiced their roles and prepared the material for the activities during their weekly meetings. As a group they designed flyers which were distributed to their parents and other adults in their lives. Flyers were also distributed at school campus and many students invited school staff, friends, and older siblings.
The moderators for the retreat were teens from SEAHEC’s Future Health Leaders Club in Nogales High School. Alma Gomez, Ailssa Villa, Ashley Bojorquez, Aileen Villa and Susan Dauz, led the group through an engaging “speed dating” session where teens met with parents they didn’t know to discuss a topic for four minutes before switching partners. Conversation topics included: Curfews, driving, dating, friendships, social pressure, allowance, college and independence. They also led a role play activity where parents and teens switched roles and performed two scenarios. One was focused on poor communication between parents and youth. The second scenario was dedicated to teens demanding their privacy and shutting their parents down. After scenarios were performed the moderator held a “debrief” on how it felt to switch roles and explained how good communication is important to understand each other’s feelings.
Members of the Positive Youth Leadership Team (PYLoT) gave a talk on “Depression and Suicide.” This group consisted of eight participants from Nogales High School, Rio Rico High School, and Lourdes Catholic School. PYLoT participants explained how adolescent depression is increasing at an alarming rate. Parents, youth and other loved ones may not be aware of the symptoms of depression and may not seek for help. With an engaging interactive activity they introduced many signs of depression. A PYLoT student gave his testimony reinforcing how depression impacts teens lives and how it can lead to suicidal behaviors and may end in fatality.
Among the retreat participants were eight social service agency representatives who provided information on a variety of topics.
Barb Iversen, M.C., certified adolescent health trainer, for the Arizona Department of Education gave a talk on physical, social and emotional changes during adolescence and how this phase of life can be addressed in a positive manner both by teens and their parents. One of her topics was brain development and tasks facing adolescents including developing self-worth and belonging. She emphasized the supportive and encouraging role parents can play in making this process a positive one. Many questions and a great discussion followed. Maria Rivas, recovery coach, from Corazon Behavioral Health Center, Bernadette Hernandez, School-Linked Health Care Coordinator at Mariposa Community Health Center and representatives from Pet Partners provided an overview of local resources for teens and their families. They explained how their organizations can offer emotional support. Jorge Ruiz a Youth Development Coordinator at Arizona Youth Partnership shared a personal story in which negative influences impacted his life but a special person was able to change his lifestyle by challenging him to believe in himself. After losing his motivation (his friend) to leukemia he honored him by doing the same for all the youth who crossed his path. Jorge explained the passion he has for helping young people realize their goals and dreams and guiding them towards the right path.
To wrap up the workshop, organizers conducted a survey of participants to discover what they had learned and provide guidance for planning next year’s retreat. Youth learned how their brains develop, to be more open minded and to be more expressive. Top skills gained by teens included communication skills; active listening, being patient, respectful and having empathy.
“…we all need to be open-minded with one another, perhaps the situation we are going through is the same situation our parents faced,” wrote one youth when asked what she had learned.
Parents learned the importance of being honest, direct and patient during teenage years, and how adolescent brain development affects their behavior and interactions. Among the takeaways were the importance of communication. Parents learned about building communication skills and how open and effective communication between parents and teens can help build healthy relationships.
“I loved the program. I thank you for the opportunity you give in order to understand our kids.”
For more information about the content and learning goals of the Can We Talk Retreat Program, visit our presentation on PREZI