I am working with a production company from France to create a documentary about human development from birth through the beginnings of puberty and sexual interest. My conversation, of course, will come primarily at the end of the film. In addition to an interview piece, they asked that I gather a group of 12 – 14 year olds together so they could film a sex ed class. It took some time and some doing, but I think I’ve finally managed it. But I was surprised by the path and the conversations I had along the way.
I spoke exclusively with parents I knew and who I had talked with about their children’s budding sexuality in one way or another. It seemed to me that it would be a big leap of trust for these parents to allow someone to film their young teenagers talking about sex. I extensively outlined what we would be doing in the class, remaining open to input and concerns and expressed a willingness to be flexible according to what the parents were comfortable with. These parents were uncomfortable with the idea – some only a little, some quite a lot. I got a few tentative positive responses, but no one was thrilled.
So I moved on, looking further afield for youth to be involved.
In the last week, I have found an amazing group of parents who are comfortable with their children being filmed in a sex ed class I will teach – even though they don’t know me personally and they haven’t seen a play-by-play of what will be included in the class. What I have seen in these parents is that rather than talking to me about the potential filming, they have been talking with their young teenagers. They have sat down as a family, with my short and to-the-point e-mail introduction (which I figured would be followed by many more) and talked together about the potential positives and negatives of being involved. They made a family decision, the parents and the youth, about whether to move forward. Some decided yes, some decided no. But the point is that they felt very little need for extensive conversation with me.
So where does the difference between these two groups of parents lay?
I think the first group of parents wanted to know – to KNOW – that they could trust me. Ultimately, they were torn because even if they did trust me, they weren’t SURE they could trust the film company.
The second group of parents, on the other hand, weren’t very concerned with trust of me or the film company – they had enough basic information to know that we were basically doing something good and interesting. Rather, these parents decided to trust their young teenagers to make good decisions and to be able to weigh the potential outcomes with the parents’ guidance.
So what can you learn from this little story?
Ultimately, it’s far more productive to work towards trusting your children and your teenagers than to try to trust every single adult who comes into contact with them.