One Evening in March | Kathy Barnett Leadership Grant Story
by Carol Coffey
On an evening in March, Mary Saugstad sat in a room in downtown Squamish with a group of 8 women, most of them mothers of young children. With this Approachable Adult Workshop, Mary completed her last 2.5 hours of practicum to become a certified Sexual Health Educator.
With her Kathy Barnett Leadership Grant, Mary was able to fulfill a long-standing vision to create an atmosphere that facilitates healthy curiosity and understanding of our bodies and healthy relationships. She used her grant to take the Options for Sexual Health Sexual Health Educator program.
Why should we talk to our children and youth about sexual health? Some participants at the Approachable Adult Workshop shared that talking about sexuality and sexual health was often taboo in their families when they were growing up. This probably sounds familiar to many. But if you take just one key thing from Mary’s workshop, it’s that silence sends a message too. Avoiding discussion of sexual health can send a message to children that sex should be something to be ashamed of and should not be discussed.
Here is the aha moment in the workshop: understanding that shame is really the fear of disconnection. Children, youth, and event adults, fear talking about sexuality because they fear being disconnected with the people they love.
We all need a sense of belonging.
Mary’s workshop is thorough and hones in on the key themes that matter for parents and adults working with children and youth: be present, listen, and communicate your values.
Build trust through caring behaviors.
Mary takes the anxiety out of facing conversations about sexuality by focusing on these concepts. Parents don’t need to be experts on sexual health to be approachable. The challenging part for some may be to examine the stories that we each tell ourselves that influence how we communicate with children about sexuality.
From the left: Carol Coffey & Mary Saugstead
Mary has been providing sexual health education in the corridor for kindergarten to grade 10 students. Her goal is to be that person that delivers sexual health education consistently to children in Sea to Sky as they grow. Having consistency in a person that local children can talk to about sexuality is important for children and youth so they are less likely to stay silent.
"The impact of this course on my personal and professional life has been profound. On a personal level, as I was learning about how to teach sexuality to all different groups, I learned a lot about myself.
“The program covered everything and I had so many ideas! I connected with a business advisor through the women’s enterprise center who recommended a focus on parents and children. I want to grow my work as my child grows.”
~ Mary Saugstad, Kathy Barnett Leadership Grant Recipient