For many parents, having “The Talk” is fraught with emotion.
What will I say?
When do I start?
What if my child asks a question I can’t answer or don’t want to answer?
The National Campaign has compiled a host of resources designed to help parents through this communications journey with your child or children. However, in many of the communities I work with, when you say “The Talk,” it doesn’t refer to sex and relationships. For African American and Latino men and women and boys and girls, “The Talk” can also refer to dealing with stressful situations and trauma, including how to interact with law enforcement officers (if you want to learn more about this, check out this great video). You might be asking yourself “why would a blog post from The National Campaign focus on this?” My response is simple: why not?
You see, both of these talks are connected. Recent research (here and here) shows that experiencing or witnessing violence regularly, living under stress, and not having a stable environment in which to grow up, can lead to engaging in risky behaviors for both teens and young adults. If as a youth or young adult you feel forgotten or you feel that the people that are supposed to protect you may end up killing you, then why would you think about your future?
As teen pregnancy prevention advocates, we must look at our communities as a microcosm of what is happening around the country. Many of the youth we work with live, work, and play in environments where thinking about the future is a luxury. Survival is the name of the daily game they play. Many think not about what they are going to eat today, but if they will eat at all. They struggle with helping their parents make ends meet. They make daily decisions about which route they are going to take to school, home, or to the bus stop.
We must acknowledge those realities while continuing our work by partnering with agencies that can help address the whole child. We are certainly moving in that direction as evidenced by the recent funding opportunity announcements by the Department of Health and Human Services which recognize the role of trauma in teen pregnancy prevention work.
At The National Campaign, we believe that it is important to meet your audience where they are so we work to develop partnerships with organizations that serve youth in these communities. These organizations are from different sectors that might not have addressed the issue of teen or unplanned pregnancy in the past. The organizations gain capacity to engage in this work and we gain insight and deeper knowledge about communities across the nation.
So back to how “The Talks” are related. You see if young African American and Latino men live in fear of those who protect them and their neighborhoods, it is infinitely harder for them to listen, learn, and act upon the messages we are delivering. Thus if we are going to continue to make strides in reducing the teen pregnancy and childbearing rates, then we are going to have to dig deeper and partner with organizations better suited to address the issues we cannot.
Liany Elba Arroyo is the Senior Director of Health Equity at The National Campaign where she works to ensure an equity lens is applied to the organization’s work. Previously she had served as the Director of Partnerships where she oversaw the development of programs and the dissemination of messages and resources tailored for the Latino and African American communities.
Prior to coming to The National Campaign, Liany spent over 13 years working in the government and non-profit sectors developing programs and promoting public policies that aimed to improve the health status of Latino communities across the nation. Most recently, Liany was the Associate Director of the Education and Children’s Policy Project at the National Council of La Raza (NCLR), where she worked on advancing NCLR’s education priorities and policies affecting Latino children and youth. Liany has published several pieces on children and Latino health and has been cited by Spanish and English media, including The New York Times, Newsweek, and Univision.
Originally from Bridgeport, Connecticut, Liany currently resides in Chevy Chase, Maryland with her husband and daughter. She holds a BS in psychology from Wellesley College, an MPH from Columbia University, and is Certified in Public Health.