Context: Parents can play a significant role in promoting healthy sexual development and risk reduction among adolescents, but many are uncertain about how to talk with their adolescents about sex. Worksites provide an untapped but promising setting in which to reach parents to help them develop parenting and communication skills.
Methods: Focus groups with 33 employed parents of adolescents and 41 high school students, and interviews with seven worksite executives, explored the desire for worksite-based parenting programs, how best to implement programs and recommendations for content. Standard qualitative analysis techniques were used to identify major themes in participants' comments.
Results: Parents and employers were enthusiastic about worksite-based parenting programs. Parents reported that adolescents are reluctant to talk with them, but acknowledged their own inexperience talking about sex. Their suggestions included that programs be held at lunchtime, give participants opportunities to interact with each other and with facilitators, and give participants exercises to practice at home. Employers described potential benefits (e.g., improved employee morale) and challenges (e.g., privacy concerns) of programs. Teenagers said that their parents made false assumptions about their sexual activity if they asked about sex. Participants suggested that parenting programs cover adolescent development, sex, abstinence and communication (e.g., how to start conversations).
Conclusions: A worksite-based program designed to help parents of adolescents develop communication and parenting skills could provide a way to reach busy parents. Recommendations from parents, employers and teenagers can be used to make such a program appealing and effective.