Parents and children are engaged in a fairly complex relationship. The dynamics keep changing as the children go through various phases of development. The adolescence stage is one of the most complicated phases; a lot of changes happen to children during this stage, while their parents keep them company. .
Because of that, according to Nila, a mother from Lampung, learning to build a parent-child relationship that is based on trust and openness is important. One of the goals is to make the child feel comfortable and safe enough to talk about challenges that they are facing during puberty.
“There should be no boundaries between parents and children when it comes to telling stories, no need to be afraid to tell stories.” Nila Explained.
There are several tricks or efforts done by Nila to build a positive relationship with her children. One of which is to show that she cares about their life. Every time her children arrived at home from school, Nila would ask about their general condition and how they were doing at school.
“I taught them to tell stories […] I’m their parent, [as well as] their friend, they always told me their stories, so I know what they were doing out there. I also asked about their friends, sometimes I’m also curious, I want to know who they befriended,” Nila told us.
By building conversations and sharing with one another, Nila feels that the bonds between her and her children are getting stronger.
By building conversations and sharing with one another, Nila feels that the bonds between her and her children are getting stronger. One of her children, Donna, was enrolled in an intermediate school; and Nila found out that Donna’s school is currently implementing a reproductive health (kespro) education module called SETARA. Nila then read the module, and found out that the information contained within the module is very important for her children’s journey through their teenage years.
At the same time, Nila tried to strike a conversation regarding reproductive health with Donna. The initial conversation that they already had was about menstruation. Donna still remember how that initial conversation went:
“When I was having my first period, mom explained that to me and taught me how to clean it, and many other things,” Donna said.
On the other hand, Donna was also receiving a lot of new information from the SETARA module, and Nila acknowledged this information as something new for her too. At the end of the day, as Donna learned through the module, Nila too, was learning alongside her daughter about youth’s reproductive health.
Not only that, Nila decided to be actively involved in learning more about youth’s reproductive health; be it through activities conducted by the school or external parties.
Donna and Nila learned a lot from each other, since their relationship is based on trust and respect. One of the new knowledge that Donna learned from the SETARA module is the stereotype attached to men and women.
“To be honest there are a lot, like ‘you are a guy, so you should be the one carrying this’ and then for men, when they are at home, just like my older brother, they are treated like kings, there will be no one giving them commands, girls are the one that will be commanded to carry out various tasks. But since SETARA taught us about gender equality, I know that we are equal, boys or girls, we shouldn’t be treated differently,” Donna explained.
She discussed the topic with her mother, Nila; and her mother responded well. “The response from my mother was normal, she didn’t argue it,” remembers Donna.
For Nila, the opportunity to learn more through the SETARA program is an important step that helps her in raising her teenage children.
Although, on the other hand, Nila hopes that the SETARA program could reach those who are younger. At least, the program should be implemented to elementary school students (SD) who are in their final years.
“I hope that it’s not only for intermediate school students, (but) starting from the fifth or the sixth grade of elementary school, because children started to show their curiosity (during that period),” Nila explained.
Nila’s children began asking a couple of questions regarding reproductive health when they were in the final years of elementary school; such as “Mom, where did I come from?” And many more.
Experience and the dynamic of parent-child relationship differs from one parent to another. But they all experience a series of challenges in taking care of their children as they grow up. Just like what Nila does, Manda, a mother from Denpasar, makes similar efforts to build harmonious relationships with her children so that they are able to be more honest towards her. Manda has two boys, who are currently in highschool, and one daughter who’s still in intermediate school.
In addition, Manda also makes a routine to travel with her children to the beach nearby her house; and deeper conversations with her children usually take place during these visits.
“We love to visit the beach, usually the talks happen during these visits. There, we discussed our views [on reproductive health]. We made it a routine, since their childhood until now. That’s what we’ve been doing,” according to Manda.
“In the beginning, maybe they were reluctant to. But over time, they get used to it, so without being asked, now they’ll tell their stories,” she continued.
Similar to Manda’s and Nila’s stories, Mariani, a mother from Lombok shared her stories about building a good relationship with her daughter, Fadiya, who is now in the second grade of intermediate school. Mariani and her daughter are used to building an open communication between them, starting from discussing Fadiya’s school activities, her interaction with fellow students, to discussing menstruation.
“We are always communicating, I let her know. My daughter loves to play Tik-Tok with her friends. Well, she’s a teenager. Oftentimes she showed me (contents) and said ‘Mom, take a look at this’ or asked ‘Mom, can I do this?’ as long as it’s still normal, I’ll let her,” she said.
“For example when she was having her period, ‘Mom, how long does a period last? Why does my stomach still hurt?Sometimes she asks me these kinds of questions,” she added.
But as a parent, she admitted that her biggest fear is the things that her daughter consumed in social media, especially when she was alone looking for information.
“When she opens her social media, when she’s doing her homework and uses Google when having a hard time, I’m afraid that she ends up exposed to a lot of information,” Mariani expressed.
Efforts to build a positive relationship need to be done from several directions. In Manda’s experience, she wouldn’t be able to build a relationship that is based on trust if she’s the only one working for it. Manda invited her children to be open to her too. Not only that, Manda’s partner, namely her husband, and the school also support the whole effort.
Manda sometimes feels that there’s a barrier when it comes to discussing matters related to reproductive health with her sons. One of which is due to her limited experience. Thus, her husband carried out the task to open up conversations with their sons.
“The boys will be with papa [their father], while the girls will be asked by me, it’s more like I gave them questions. So both me and papa are the same, we discuss, and we are being open,” according to Manda.
Meanwhile, there are some sexual and reproductive health topics that Manda and her husband are unable to teach. Manda hopes that these gaps of knowledge could be filled by the school, through the reproductive health education materials from SETARA.
“We as parents, we can only rely on our experiences,” Manda stated.
With that, Manda hopes that more detailed information could be provided to her children by the school, through the SETARA module. “Perhaps, information related to the anatomy, that’s what I hope the SETARA module could clarify, […] and we will be supporting them from home,” she said.
Just like Manda, Mariani also felt helped by the SETARA module in teaching her children about reproductive health. So far she has only provided information to her children from the extent of her experience.
“My children have been very open to me, but after reading this book (SETARA module), they are more aware of their limits now, […] they know that they need to protect this, and that, they understand it without me having to teach them,”
“Before, my children used to ask me, ‘how to clean my genitals during menstruation?’ when it comes to reproductive health, most of their knowledge came from SETARA […] usually I gave them the answers based on my experience only,” she continued.
Mariani also feels that there has been a very drastic change in her children after learning from the SETARA module, especially regarding their discipline and independence.
“The changes are really drastic, yes, they are more disciplined, more active in school, and now they are more independent,” said Mariani enthusiastically.
Suyono, a father from Semarang, has a similar experience. Suyono has a daughter that is now enrolled in intermediate school. Her name is Hetty. Most of the time Suyono positioned himself as a listener; he listened to his daughter’s stories when she discussed it with her mother – Suyono’s wife.
“Basically it’s like that, because at first, it was a conversation between my daughter and her mother, and I, sometimes when I listened to her dialogues with her mother, I just underlined a few things. She’s a girl, most of the time she talks to her mother,” Suyono explained.
However, Suyono said that there might still be things that he and his wife missed discussing with their children. There are also topics that Suyono still feels reluctant to talk about. With that, Suyono hopes that the SETARA program will be able to provide more detailed and in-depth information about reproductive health to teenagers, including their children.
“We as parents, sometimes feel reluctant to talk about it, with SETARA [it can help],” Suyono told us.
Hetty, Suyono’s daughter, said that she obtained a lot of information from the SETARA program. She’s not only on the receiving end though, Hetty is one of the students who distributes reproductive health-related information from the SETARA module to her peers.
“We have more knowledge on how we, as teenagers, should move on with our life, to control our emotions, and how to go to the next phase,” Hetty expressed.
Suyono saw the change in Hetty’s understanding; thus, he puts a lot of hope in the program.
“It’s been only two years (learning from SETARA). Regarding that, it’s very positive (the impacts),” said Suyono.
One of the other changes that Suyono observed was Hetty’s ability to organize herself. Hetty has become more independent after her involvement in the SETARA program as a peer educator (PE). Peer educators are students who are responsible for teaching fellow students about reproductive health in schools.
“All three of us, with my daughter [Hetty], and my wife. The things discussed at her school, sometimes we discuss it at home. The changes that have happened to my daughter are very positive, she is now more independent,” Suyono told us