By Tim McGough, Fleet and Family Support Program
WASHINGTON -- As a parent, having the “sex talk” with your child can seem like climbing a mountain. The Fleet and Family Support Program at Commander, Navy Installations Command (CNIC) wants to help you make it to the summit.
The professionals at FFSP are now offering micro-learning tools to educate Navy families about sexual development.
“The Family Advocacy Program has built micro-learning as a primary prevention strategy aimed at preventing Problematic Sexual Behavior in Children and Youth (PSB-CY),” said Amy Fustino, clinical counseling program analyst at CNIC. “This micro-learning project aligns with the CNIC Prevention Strategy and the Culture of Excellence’s aim to decrease destructive behaviors and target factors that aid in healthier relationships, interactions, and personal choices.”
Problematic sexual behavior in children and youth (PSB-CY) has been identified as an issue on Department of Defense installations and in DoD schools.
“PSBY is an area of concern that not only impacts civilian communities but also across branches of the military service,” said Crystal Griffen, Family Support Program deputy director at CNIC. “The Navy takes a strong stance on countering destructive behaviors and the protection of this vulnerable population remains a priority.”
As an organization, CNIC’s Fleet and Family Support Program supports the Navy’s fleet and families who experience many life challenges some of which precede common problematic behaviors and affect mission readiness. This prevention model seeks to identify positive and proactive approaches to identify and prevent problematic sexual behaviors.
“The military is mandated [through the National Defense Authorization Act] to increase awareness of healthy sexual development in children and youth family members [per Public Law 115-232, Section 1089],” said Fustino. “So to assist parents and care givers with healthy discussions with their children, we came up with using micro-learning videos.”
CNIC’s Counseling, Advocacy, and Prevention Program built the “Parenting Resources for Healthy Sexual Development in Children and Youth” Webpage at the end of last year. The FFSP’s micro-learning videos are an easy informational tool, setting a foundation, targeting families and community caregivers.
“Our videos are designed to help remove the stigma as well as put a proactive voice on the topic of sexual development,” said Fustino. “Our micro-learning utilizes animation software, active learning, as well as example scenarios and quizzes to engage the learner with useful resources.”
These tools fall under the primary prevention lens and provide practice based scenarios related to sexual development and identifying problematic sexual behavior in childhood. The PSB-CY micro-learning series provides education on healthy sexual development and arms parents/caregivers with the information they need to support the healthy sexual development of their children.
This topic is often avoided as too daunting or uncomfortable to discuss and most parents report feeling unprepared to engage in age appropriate discussions with their children or believe that a teacher will or should provide the necessary information.
Parents can be unaware of the difference between healthy behaviors versus those that are cautionary or problematic and struggle with how to address them. This can lead children and youth feeling confused and as a result, they may seek information on sexual development through unhealthy/incorrect sources, such as the internet or from their peers, which may lead to instances of problematic sexual behaviors.
“The videos are designed to reduce the stigma of talking to your kids about sexual development,” said Fustino. “We are increasing the knowledge of sexual development in a way that is evidence based and safe. These micro-learning activities will help parents and care givers to engage in meaningful conversations with their children about sexual development.”
The videos contain practice-based scenarios to help the learner relate to sexual development and identify problematic sexual behavior during childhood. This tool also provides resources, how to ask for help and an idea of what to expect if their child is affected by or exhibits cautionary or problematic behaviors.
“We are assisting parents with the tools to give children accurate and age-appropriate information,” said Fustino. “This is one of the most important things parents can do to make sure their children grow up safe, healthy and secure in their bodies.”
Sexual development begins during infancy and as children age includes body changes, the truth about where babies come from, what ‘consent’ really means, and touching or showing genitalia. Ultimately, the aim is for parents to ensure open communication with their children and to participate in early discussions, beginning as early as two or three years old, and thus decrease rates of problematic sexual behaviors in children and youth.
“Parents often associate sexual development with teenagers, but children develop an emotional and physical foundation for sexual development [which includes relationships, boundaries, sexuality, body changes, etc.] in many subtle ways starting from infancy,” said Fustino.
FFSP understands that this is a difficult topic for many different reasons. Some of the language used in these videos may be sensitive to some viewers. Fustino ensured that the micro-learning videos are designed as parent friendly, welcoming and informative.
“The videos use strength based language,” Fustino said. “We understand that teaching children and youth the anatomically correct names for their private parts, and place an emphasis on privacy rules and what to expect from their development, is difficult for a lot of adults and we hope that this helps to pave the way for open communication and reduced stigma.”
“Stronger Families Mean a Stronger Fleet,” as identified in the CNO’s Design for Maritime Strategy. Navy spouses and family members will serve as a cornerstone to the prevention of destructive behaviors and will serve as a common denominator that supports military readiness.
For more information on Parenting Resources for Healthy Sexual Development in Children and Youth visit https://go.usa.gov/xsnjZ or https://learning.zeiders.refineddata.com/mod/page/view.php?id=37364.