Puppet show engages students in life-changing experiences

Members of Honolulu’s Kapi‘olani Medical Center’s Parent And Child Education (PACE) Program, will be visiting local elementary schools next week with two puppet-show programs addressing issues of puberty and teen parenthood.

Set at puppet Christine’s parents’ restaurant, the show “Boys and Girls are Different” is the story of two friends, Jason and Christine, who begin to share their feelings about the changes their bodies are going through.

Jason thinks he’s too short, and Christine shares that she thinks her nose is too big.

The conversation then evolves into their fears about sexual development.

Ultimately, the two realize that the changes are normal, and that every person is unique in his own right.

The subject matter for the sixth-graders’ show, “Myths about Motherhood,” picks up right where “Boys and Girls are Different,” but with new characters.

“Myths” discusses young relationships, and the pressure teens face being young and single.

Most of the puppeteers themselves are women who became mothers while still in their teens.

After each of the puppet shows, they talk about the challenges they faced when going through puberty and pregnancy.

This opens it up for the students to participate in a question- and-answer session, they said.

“The puppeteers will each tell their story of what their expectations were when they got pregnant and what really happened,” said Parent Educator Janet Puanani Eblen.

“Then the kids can ask the different questions they have.” Eblen said the puppet show and then the question-and-answer format has proven to be an effective way of approaching these sensitive subjects.

The program is currently in its seventh year.

“The puppet show takes away the intensity of the subject,” she said. “The puppets are going through what these kids are going through. It gets rid of the tension, and they still get all the information they need.” Eblen said after the show, the kids are less hesitant to ask the questions they have.

“At first, they come in all giggling and nervous, but by the time the puppet show is over and the Q-and-A part comes up, they’re very engaged, and comfortable asking their questions.” Eblen held parent-to-parent workshops earlier this week to prepare and inform parents of the show the PACE program will be presenting to their children.

After the show, the students are given worksheets to take home that they can complete with their parents. The homework is optional to do, but encouraged.

“That way, they can say to their parents, ‘I’ve got this homework to do,’ and that opens it up for discussions,” Eblen said.

Kaua‘i Community College graduate Malia Ribeiro is one of the puppeteers in the two shows.

“I think it’s great to bring (the PACE Program) to the Neighbor Islands,” Ribeiro said. “Any techniques we can bring to help the parents is good for Kaua‘i, because there’s not that many programs out there.” Ribeiro is proud to be working in this program not only because of its educational value for the community, but also because it helps the teen mothers involved with their situations, she said.

“It functions not only as a program, but as a support system for teen parents. It’s created this support system for them to share their story,” she said.

PACE organizers bring this program and message to schools throughout the state to help start conversations between children and their parents.

It is funded by officials with the state Department of Human Services, in collaboration with those from the state Department of Health and state Department of Education.

“I talked with (parents) about the types of things their kids will be going through (as they grow up), culturally, physically and emotionally,” Eblen said.

“Situations changed from when they were growing up, so I talked to them about how to answer their kids’ questions. Kids want to be able to talk to their parents,” she continued.

“Parents want to be able to talk to their kids. They just don’t know how to.”

Lanaly Cabalo, lifestyle writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 237) or lcabalo@kauaipubco.com.

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