Monday, 28 January 2008

Helping parents and carers talk to their children about relationships, emotions and sex

Chris Bryant, Labour MP for Rhondda in Wales, today launched a website that provides the opportunity for visitors to vote on key issues relating to young people, sex and relationships, including whether sex and relationships education should be statutory. I urge you to visit his site and vote.

It is always helpful when there is a fresh voice in the ongoing discussion about youth sexuality and teenage pregnancy - on this occassion there has been a focus on Chris' recommendation that a leaflet should be sent to parents of 11 or 9 year olds depending on what you read. If you are a parent, grandparent, a (real or pretend) aunt or uncle or a sibling there are already booklets available to help you.

Visit the Parentline Plus website at or fpa at

Both have some very useful advice and support.

Sunday, 27 January 2008

Remaining open, humble and connected

Some things can never be said enough and the importance of asking the experts - in Brook's case young people - can never be stressed to often.

Some people and organisations involve their clients better than others. For me it is a matter of principle and professional credibility, and our responsibility to open ourselves and the way we do things for questioning if the existing structures do not enable effective participation. If we do not involve those we seek to serve in all of our work, we potentially get the questions, the answers and the messages wrong. This was demonstrated recently where young people were asked their views about different forms of contraception - one asked, what is contraception. We had taken some knowledge for granted - what does sexual health mean to young people and how important is it?

In the evaluation of a sexual health project several years ago, some recipients of the work were very clear - talk to us about HIV if you like, we might even enjoy it, but unless we get to think about our experiences of racism and other discrimination it is unlikely to impact on our behaviour and our sense of empowerment.

We must be sure that we are open to changing the way we do things so we can truly get expert opinion and be willing to listen to what they say, so what they say influences the things that we say on their behalf.

Sunday, 20 January 2008

The Kiterunner

I went to see the film Kiterunner last night. It raises all sorts of issues relevant to personal, emotional and moral development. If I was still working with young people on a day to day basis I would be getting it on DVD as soon as possible, using it as a stimulus for discussing (boys) friendships, trust, loyalty, power, rape and consent.

Saturday, 12 January 2008

What makes a purse a purse?

Do you know the difference between a purse and a wallet? My five year old nephew is still slightly exasperated and cross with me for saying that his wallet is a purse over the Christmas holidays. It looked like a purse to me. Purses are for girls and boys have wallets. Apparently.

Answers on my blog please so I can either apologise for getting it wrong, or confidently be the annoying (his words)/educative (my preference) uncle who believes it vital to explain that the difference between a purse and a wallet is based on what it is, not on the gender of the person using it.

Regardless of the answer, we had a great debate about what it was ok for boys and girls to do. Our conversation affirmed my belief that primary schools must begin formal sex and relationships education as soon as children start school. They are clearly learning about gender and relationships anyway.

Aged 8 or 9, my friend Tanya and I were asked by our Sunday School teacher what we wanted to be when we grew up. She wanted to be a doctor. I firmly told her that just wasn't possible. She wasn't a man. I was corrected, but I didn't believe it for quite a while. (And no, I didn't say I wanted to be a sex educator - that particular day i wanted to be a radio DJ - a local radio station had just launched)

If the purse conversation was proof my lovely boy was learning the rules of gender early and definitively, i smiled later that day when he shrieked with delight because i could type fast without looking at the keyboard. When I was at primary school that really was proof that you weren't a proper man at all. Two steps forward. One step back.

Friday, 11 January 2008

A pat on the back and fresh inspiration

I was at a seminar just before Christmas - yes everyone was a bit tired from too many parties and self imposed deadlines - however i was struck by a sense of people being 'fed up' and demoralised. There were too many conversations about being 'red lighted', not meeting the 15% target for chlamydia screening, STI rates going up and so on and so forth.

Sometimes it does feel all up hill. Our motivation can dwindle as our efforts do not have the immediate impact we hope for. When this happens stop, turn around and see how far we have come. Think about two or three things that you are proud of; how much we, as a country have learnt since the teenage pregnancy strategy was published in 1999; how many young people have better access to services, to better sex and relationships education and to better one to one support when they need it.

On February 12th, Brook will be celebrating the achievements of young people and professionals working hard to make a difference at an awards event. Hosted by a Brook Ambassador Mica Paris, the awards event and our annual conference the following day have been organised with young people. Both will celebrate our successes, remind us to give ourselves a pat on the back, provide some fresh inspiration, new thinking and practical ideas. As well as that Mica is going to sing a song for us.

Visit to find out more and book online. Come be inspired, give and get some pats on the back.