Parents get tips on dealing with teen sexuality

March 03, 2004

Parents Night at Harper's Choice Middle on Feb. 26 was an adults-only affair. The speaker was Robin Sawyer, who heads the Department of Public and Community Health at University of Maryland, College Park.

His topic was "Teens and Us: We're in This Together."

The two-hour program covered "what puts teens at risk for early onset of sexual activity, how to talk to your kids about sex, how to protect them," said his wife, Anne Anderson Sawyer.

"Sometimes it gets overwhelming until you break it down into manageable pieces and offer some concrete suggestions as to what they can do," Robin Sawyer said.

Anne Sawyer teaches human sexuality at Howard Community College and volunteers with the Coalition for Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention, a local committee of the Governor's Council on Adolescent Pregnancy and co-sponsor of the program. The PTA was also a co-sponsor.

"The PTA ... provided all these great desserts. It was a feast," Anne Sawyer said. About 80 people attended.

As part of his presentation, Robin Sawyer read anonymous letters written by Harper's Choice Middle School pupils to their parents. The letters, an assignment given to pupils in health teacher Jessica Morrison's classes, were to "ask your parents anything you would want to ask them about sexual health, and tell them anything you would want them to know about your sexuality," Anne Sawyer said. There were 129 responses.

The assignment came from Robin Sawyer.

"We asked some of the students to write anonymously -- if they could communicate to their parents about their own sexuality, what would it be?" he said.

The pupils' questions ranged from "What was your first date like?" and "When did you have your first boyfriend?" to "Did you think puberty was weird?" and "Did you choose abstinence when you were dating?"

Some messages were surprisingly reassuring.

"Don't worry, I'm taking care of myself. I'm choosing abstinence," one read.

Parents who attended the event were asked to write messages to their children on index cards. Both sets of answers will be compiled and mailed to parents, to be used as a way of starting a dialogue with their children.

The parents were appreciative.

"One guy said to me that the program made him feel like water was being offered to people in a desert," Anne Sawyer said.

-- Fay Lande

Military

Deployed: Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Carol P. Halstead, daughter of Margaret A. Griffiths of Harper's Choice, and her fellow shipmates recently responded to a distress call from an Italian merchant vessel and dispatched an HH-60H Seahawk helicopter to transport a wounded sailor to the aircraft carrier for medical attention. She is assigned to the aircraft carrier USS George Washington, based in Norfolk, Va.

Birth

Paul Michael Brill: To Clark Brill and Clare Widitz of River Hill on Feb. 2.

Around Town

Candidates sought: Wilde Lake Community Association is seeking candidates for five seats on the Village Board and one seat on the Columbia Council. The positions are for one year, beginning May 1. Nominations will be accepted through March 10. Nomination packets are available at Slayton House in Wilde Lake Village Center. 410- 730-3987.

Crafts, games: Harper's Choice Community Association Inc. will sponsor a jewelry-making class with Harper's Choice resident Abby Futter at Kahler Hall in Harper's Choice Village Center. The four-session class will be held from 10:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. Thursdays, starting tomorrow. The cost is $60 for four classes; $20 a class. Participants may take their own materials or work with Futter's. There is a fee for materials. 410- 730-0770.

Woodworkers guild: Howard County Woodworkers Guild invites homebuilders, hobbyists, professional woodworkers and beginners interested in making furniture, musical instruments, toys or knickknacks to meet from 9 a.m. to noon Saturday at Ellicott City Senior Center, 9401 Frederick Road, Ellicott City. Don Williams will talk about the use of shellac. The group meets on the first Saturday of each month, and it operates a fully equipped woodshop, open from 9 a.m. to noon weekdays, at Florence Bain Senior Center in Harper's Choice. Ed Fischer, 304-258-5580; Celia Cathcart, 410-461-9204, or visit www.hcwg. org.

Art auction: Music Boosters of Atholton and Reservoir high schools will hold an art auction Saturday at Owen Brown Interfaith Center, 7246 Cradlerock Way. Framed original paintings, prints and gift items will be available for bidding. Doors are to open at 6:30 p.m.; the auction is to begin at 7:30 p.m. Admission is $10 or four for $30 in advance. 301-776-2480. Information about the art: www.marlinfundraising.com.

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