published Sunday, November 15th, 2009

Parents, teens urged to talk

  • photo
    Staff Photo by Allison Kwesell
    From left, Agnes Porter, 14, Tori Bowman, 14, and Bria Montgomery, 15, listen to a variety of discussions at a town hall meeting sponsored by Girls Inc. of Chattanooga and its Infant Mortality Awareness Campaign of Tennessee. The event aimed to educate parents and teens on critical issues of reproductive health, risky behaviors, choices, personal safety and communication.

Kermisha Tate encouraged her peers to open up to their parents about the tough issues in life at a town hall meeting Saturday afternoon.

"I want to encourage (you) to be healthy and to make wise decisions and to initiate conversations with your parents," said Ms. Tate, an IMPACT team member. "I know it may not always be the easiest thing to do or may not be the coolest thing to do, but it really will help."

In response to Tennessee's high rate of infant mortality -- babies who die before their first birthday -- Girl's Inc. of Chattanooga and its Infant Mortality Public Awareness Campaign for Tennessee team of high school students hosted a town hall meeting at the Chattanooga Convention Center on Saturday to encourage parents and teens to communicate.

If teenagers learn about high rate of infant deaths in the state, it could help them make better choices in the future and help decrease infant deaths, said Bea Lurie, president and CEO of Girls Inc.

"They can make choices now to change behaviors or prevent behaviors," Ms. Lurie said.

Education is needed because Tennessee ranks 47th in the nation in infant mortality deaths, and Hamilton County's rate is second highest among the state's 95 counties, she said.

With support from the Governor's Office of Children's Care Coordination, IMPACT is reaching out to schools in Hamilton County and through town hall meetings to talk about infant mortality, she said.

As teenagers themselves, IMPACT members can get more students to listen and have come up with several strategies, including questions for parents and teens to ask each other and public service announcements about unhealthy choices when pregnant, Ms. Tate said.

"It's always good coming from another teen," she said. "We're a little bit more effective in our way of presenting them with information because we are teens and they can relate to us."

About 190 teenagers and parents were at the meeting. About halfway through, attendees were arranged in smaller groups to answer a list of questions about the importance of being open and talking about issues including sex.

While more teenage girls and women attended, several male teens and men were present, including Travis Standridge, a fifth-grader from Chattanooga, who said his mother brought him to the meeting.

"I think it's important to communicate better (with my mom)," Travis said. "I'm hoping to communicate better after this."

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WE HAVE TO TALK

Parents and teens often struggle to have good, meaningful conversations about sensitive subjects. Participants in Saturday's town hall meeting discussed the following questions, among others:

For girls and boys

* Do you have an open line of communication with your parents?

* Do you feel comfortable talking to your parents about sensitive issues?

* Do you talk to your parents about your relationships? Why or why not?

* What things do you keep from your parents?

* What kind of influence do your parents have on how you behave in a relationship?

* What can parents do to help their kids make smart choices?

* What are the biggest issues challenging teenage relationships?

* Explain the phrase, "Parents don't understand."

For parents

* What differences/similarities do you see in this generation compared to your generation?

* How would you describe your relationship with your child?

* What do you think your kids' relationships are like outside of home?

* What do you consider dating?

* How familiar are you with your child's dating history?

* Would you want to know if your child is having sex? Why or why not?

* What factors play a role in teens use (or lack) of contraceptives?

* What things would encourage teens to abstain from sex?

about Joy Lukachick...

Joy Lukachick is the city government reporter for the Chattanooga Times Free Press Since 2009, she's covered breaking news, high-profile trials, stories of lost lives and of regained hope and done investigative work. Raised near the Bayou, Joy’s hometown is along the outskirts of Baton Rouge, La. She has a bachelor’s degree in mass communication from Louisiana State University. While at LSU, Joy was a staff writer for the Daily Reveille. When Joy isn't chasing ...

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tdempsey said...

Second highest infant mortality rate! Disturbing but not surprising considering the stream of other social problems where we top the charts. We need to do a better job investing in the people that struggle in the shadows of our revitalized downtown. Good story and GOOD work on the part of Girls, Inc.

November 15, 2009 at 8:50 a.m.
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