Ways families are working with Grassroots to support growing students
By Alania James
Frances Thomas is the mother of eighth and ninth grade daughters who both have been part of the program for roughly four years now. Frances told us that attending sessions has been helpful for her, explaining that the program has helped her keep a line of communication open with her daughters. It’s really important to her that her daughters understand that, “No topic is too taboo to talk about.”
It is not uncommon to feel uneasy about speaking to teenagers about mental, physical, and most definitely, sexual health. Being a teenager can be difficult as you have to deal with trying to fit in, feeling misunderstood, and bodily changes. To help guide parents through difficult times on how to communicate with their children, Grassroots provides a two-part curriculum on physical, sexual, and mental health, Grassroots Fam and Grassroots Connect. Grassroots Connect educates students at partnering schools, while Grassroots Fam focuses on guiding parents to alleviate the struggles of their students. In the parental aspect, the program includes scenarios that often occur when speaking to children about sexual health, data analysis on STI’s and HIV, while creating a safe learning space for parents.
Prior to COVID-19, Grassroots Fam was in person and very personable, with opportunities to connect more emotionally and physically; as some body language when speaking to one’s child about tense topics can only be demonstrated in-person. Many were unaware of how support structures would work moving forward in schools, programs, and work after the global shutdown. Like others, Frances was unsure about how programs such as Grassroots Fam would continue.
As it turns out, after the pandemic, Grassroots Fam programming adapted and became stronger. Currently, Grassroots Fam meets via zoom and, despite missing some beneficial components, the sessions are more inclusive now because parents no longer have to worry about child care, transportation, or underlying health conditions that may be impacted by COVID-19. The ability to log into a session while cooking, on your lunch break, or going on a walk is a great benefit of the virtual component of Grassroot Fam. As an individual who has witnessed the transition from a traditional Grassroots Fam to a virtual mode, Frances mentioned that although sessions were beneficial prior to COVID-19, virtual sessions continue to be extremely educative and useful. She mentions that she is, “grateful that an alternative form of Grassroots Fam is still available.”
The program also strives to accommodate to D.C.’s diverse community. The inclusion of the Latinx community that has a great presence in the area as they offer separate, Spanish-speaking sessions. In response to all virtual sessions, 100 percent of attendees would recommend the program to other parents as useful, informational, and easy to understand. Grassroots Fam strives to build community and reach people and are doing great doing so according to feedback presented by parents.
Mothers who attend these sessions continue to show their devotion to understanding and helping their children throughout the difficult times that may come with adolescence. As we work together to uplift students, we know we are most successful when we prioritize open communication and value everyone’s input: especially families. We as an organization deeply value all the mothers, fathers, and all family members who work with us. If you are interested in attending a Grassroots Fam event, or supporting our work with families, please reach out to email@example.com.