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Sexuality Education at Retreats
NEYM Youth Programs Sexuality Education Statement
We know that nurturing the spiritual development of young people includes developmentally-appropriate information about bodies, sexuality, and healthy relationships. We lovingly affirm the diversity of humanity and our Quaker community through programming that provides youth with accurate information and encourages conversation about values based on Friends testimonies. Our national culture and media offer many negative and damaging messages about bodies, sexuality, and relationships. We seek to counter those messages and provide youth with a safe, respectful space in which to learn about themselves and consider safe and healthy choices to the many opportunities they are presented with.
Each of our youth programs – Junior Yearly Meeting (grades 2-6), Junior High Yearly Meeting (grades 6-8), and Young Friends (grades 9-12) – offers annual programming and resources on human anatomy, safety, and relationships. This programming has been developed over many years in consultation with Friends who are certified Sexuality Educators and in response to the issues and concerns that youth and families have brought to us. We encourage and affirm that youth and their parents talk about these issues openly and regularly. Our programming exists to support and supplement families as the primary source of sexuality education for their young people. All of our programming is grounded in helping youth make informed choices that prioritize safety, health, integrity, and equality.
We understand that youth of the same age often have very different needs and levels of readiness for material. Youth are always welcome to opt-out of sexuality education programs at any point and we offer different workshops and interest groups for youth to choose from. Much of our programming is centered around the questions and concerns that youth bring so that we are addressing their needs as best we can. The programming at each age level is geared towards the developmental needs of that age group. We do training with our staff to make sure that staff are well and appropriately prepared to respond to youth questions. Parents and guardians are always welcome to talk to the program coordinator prior to retreats to learn more about the material that will be presented. We encourage parents and guardians to talk with their youth about both the facts of human development and sexuality and their values around the choices youth can make.
Our youth programs libraries, tubs of books that travel to most retreats, include age-appropriate books consistent with Friend testimonies about human development, sexuality, and relationships. National studies have shown that the two most common sources for youth with regards to information about sexuality are peers and the internet. Both of these sources are incredibly unreliable and can often include messages in conflict with Friends testimonies. We offer these books as resources that provide accurate information within a context of respect, safety, and health. The youth who are not interested in human development and sexuality never look at these books. Youth who have questions or want to learn more, find them to be a useful resource. We are happy to share a list these resources with families.
Many youth who have gone through our programs have come back to us as adults to let us know that our programming helped them navigate their physical and sexual development and first romantic relationships with integrity, health, and in ways that they feel good about. We know our programming made a positive difference in their lives.
Approved by NEYM Youth Ministries Committee, 2016