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Health education varies greatly from place to place.
Some boys receive great, age-appropriate, inclusive health education at school. Others do not. “It’s pretty inconsistent,” says Christopher Pepper, a health educator who currently teaches in the San Francisco Unified School District & is working on a book called TALK TO YOUR BOYS: 27 Crucial Conversations Parents Need to Have with Boys Today – and How to Start Having Them. “What’s covered is pretty different and how the subject is approached is handled very differently.”
Young men’s health groups can be particularly helpful, as they give boys a chance to discuss masculinity and relationships as well as health topics. “There’s a real hunger among boys to talk about the real issues in their lives,” Christopher says. “Teenage boys are figuring out their attitudes about sexuality and gender, so having a place to talk about the celebrity that just came out as nonbinary” is helpful, he says.
Adults who work with teenage boys should lead with curiosity and give boys space to express their thoughts and opinions. “Coming at someone with criticism, even if they’ve said something offensive” is not as helpful as asking questions, such as What do you mean by that? Adults who listen with genuine curiosity are better positioned to then provide additional context and feedback.
Contrary to popular belief, “Boys have a lot of capacity and interest in talking about emotions and relationships,” Christopher says. “Boys are really hungry for those kinds of conversations and interested in exploring their values and ideas.” Unfortunately, many boys don’t get the opportunity to discuss those topics in a deep and rich way with their peers or caring adults. Prioritizing those conversations is one important thing adults can do to support boys’ health and development.
In this episode, Jen, Janet, & Christopher discuss:
- The current state of health education
- Creating safe spaces for boys to talk and learn
- Modeling healthy communication skills
- Getting boys to talk to you
- Talking to boys about racist or homophobic slurs
- The need for more males in education & caring careers
Links we mentioned (or should have) in this episode:
Teen Health Today — Christopher’s Substack newsletter
mrhealthteacher.com — Christopher’s website
Teacher Tom Talks About Boys, Emotions, & Play — ON BOYS episode
cdc.gov/healthyyouth/index.htm — CDC site with links to adolescent and school health resources (including the Health Education Curriculum Analysis Tool (HECAT)
amaze.org — health, relationship, and sex education material (great to share w your kids!)
The New Drug Talk — website w resources to talk about fentanyl
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