Sound Off: Parental help available here

Parenting is a huge responsibility, mostly undertaken with little idea the burden a child or two or three can bring. I always had children in my life either volunteering or spending time with my friends’ children. When I had my first child, it was a shock when I could not return the little darling to the rightful owner. The scariest part was this child was our responsibility for the rest of our lives. I was initiated into a new group of parents with babies. We would talk about sleep patterns and immunizations and milestones of walking and first words. The stroller always brought people who were free with advice and tales of their experiences.

Toddlers were a new challenge. The toddler crawls, walks, climbs, grabs, explores, tastes and starts vocalizing. As parents, this mobility created new awareness to the safety of our home and the items within. Under the kitchen sink was no longer safe for cleaners. Cabinets had child guards placed on them. Toddlers put anything and everything in their mouths. If the vacuum or broom missed something from the floor, you can bet the apple of your eye will find it. Through it all, we had medical appointments and advice from doctors, friends, neighbors and grandparents. Even the park and playground were sources of information and guidance.

Our children continue to grow and learn and parents have two, three or more social lives to track instead of one. New playmates, new sports, new classes, new teachers, new demands by the school, religious obligations and somewhere in there is family. Elementary school flew by and suddenly, it seems like overnight, I am the parent of a teenager. There is a whole set of new rules that nobody has explained. I cannot hug, kiss or show affection in public. Whatever I say to my teen, the response seems impatient and sarcastic. The parents whose children are older smirk and say something about good luck and how fun it is going to be. In 2002. Island County eighth graders had 7.3 percent reporting cigarette smoking, 16.5 percent drank alcohol and 8.4 percent used marijuana. I wonder if the current eighth graders are reducing use and if my child’s friends or my child are resorting to these risky behaviors.

So it is time to use my resources. I pull out “Youth at Risk,” 3rd edition published by the American Counseling Association, 2000 and check out the behaviors for risk:

Failing to obey rules or directives; Avoiding taking part in family activities; Spending a great deal of time alone in their room; Being secretive about friends and activities; Not communicating with parents or siblings; Displaying values and attitudes different from family; Resisting going to school or discussing school activities; Arguing about everything;

Staying away from home as much as possible.

After looking at the list, I noticed rules are being followed accompanied by objections— annoying but not risky. Family activities are still anticipated and enjoyed. His room is not his choice location.That would be in front of the television. He is not secretive, but not forthcoming either. As long as we ask, we get the scoop on friends and activities. He still yells at his sister about inconsequential (to me) events. His attitudes and values are a reflection of ours and he spends plenty of time at home. In my review of his behavior I find I need to work on opening communication and maintaining the expectation to interact and participate as an involved family.

What if I had found I needed help? Where would I go? There are resources all over Island County:

Enrichment programs are available for active duty military, retirees, DoD personnel and their family members through the Fleet & Family Support Center. 1,2,3,4 Parents is offered for parents of 1- to 4-year-old children. Specialized training of military parents (STOMP) is at Whidbey Island Naval Air Station.

Catholic Community Services has two parenting classes, for birth to age three and ages four and up.

Citizens Against Domestic & Sexual Abuse offers parenting classes several times a year.

Pregnancy Care Clinic offers a series of eight classes for parenting for parents of pre-natal to two years.

Whidbey General Hospital offers childbirth education.

Sno-Isle Regional Library in Oak Harbor offers a parenting series.

Early childhood education and daycare provider certification courses are offered through Skagit Valley College.

Churches and religious organizations offer parenting classes as well.

Resource guide is offered at www.wicapf.org.

Family Education offers a monthly class, Helping Children Through Divorce

Family Life Drop-in, Trinity Lutheran Church, open to all parents and family situations.

After many phone calls and asking people to refer me to other services, this has been a learning experience in itself. I found there are many people who want the best for our kids in Island County. I love that Island County has so many places to support parents. The answers are there for the taking, are you ready to ask the questions?

Lisa Yeager is coordinator for North Whidbey Youth Coalition.

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