Brian Mittge Commentary: ‘These Are Tough Times’: Parenting Help Available

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If you’re parenting a teen or pre-teen, odds are that you sometimes wish you could have a little help from someone with experience, insight and ideas tailored to your troubles.

Fortunately, there is a free set of classes coming up that offer just that kind of help.

For those who are open to learning more and leveling-up their parenting, this free class is called “‘Guiding Good Choices.” It is being offered starting next week through Centralia College’s Family Education department. It’ll be held virtually over Zoom.

I spoke with the instructor this week and came away with the impression that this will be a fun, laid-back class with plenty of information to immediately help parents with kids in late elementary, middle or high school (it’s geared to parents of children age 9 to 14).

Juli Jaeger is the instructor of the five-session class, which is free due to grant funding for drug and alcohol abuse prevention. Jaeger is the mother of five kids (ages 18 to 29) in a blended family. Over the years, she tells me she’s put the class curriculum into practice and seen countless parents implement the ideas immediately.

What struck her and her parent class participants the most is that, while we may think we don’t need to talk to kids about drugs or other risky behaviors until middle school or freshman year of high school, in reality, our kids are at forced to figure out how to respond to all kinds of potential trouble much earlier than we would think.

“People are shocked at how early their kids are exposed to things,” Jaeger said. “Kids love it if you’re asking them questions instead of you driving the conversation. You’re asking them and pretty soon they might be telling you things you have no idea they are facing”.

The class teaches ways to have the discussions, ask the questions and set the expectations that will help kids navigate a world full of troubles.

She teaches how to weave these important topics into everyday conversations so it doesn’t become a lecture.

“If I were to come into your house and ask your kids, ‘What are your parents’ rules around alcohol,’ most parents would assume their kids know, but a lot of times kids have absolutely no idea because you haven’t clearly set those standards,” Jaeger said.

She also teaches how to reward kids when they do what you’re asking them to do by finding out what their “currency” is — what interests them, what would be a reward for them.

She notes that during the pandemic our families have spent more time together than ever, and so we’re burnt out on being together.

“We’re together all the time, but are you really having fun as a family?” she asked. She suggests having family meetings and following them with a game, a walk, watching a fun movie together or another activity that will bond and strengthen your family ties.

“That bond is why they want to follow the rules, because they want to please you,” she said.

The curriculum includes activities to help parents and guardians spot risky behaviors, establish clear rules, learn to navigate family conflicts, and practice using the family meeting to improve relationships and involve youth in family decisions.

Classes will be held Wednesdays from April 7 to May 5 from 5:30-7:30 p.m. Parents or guardians that attend at least four class sessions will receive free dinner delivered to their home along with a small gift bag on the last night of class.

“These are tough times and everyone is doing the best they can,” Jaeger said. “Be looking for those supports among other parents. If not this class, there are all sorts of classes being offered now.”

Pre-registration is required for the class. To register, call 360-623-8412 or email        mary.gilbreath@centralia.edu.

Parenting is the hardest, most rewarding and most important job of your life. Don’t do it alone, especially if it’s a struggle right now. A class like this can be the reset that your family needs to not just survive, but thrive.

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Brian Mittge is glad to be a dad in rural Chehalis. What parenting advice would you give? Let him know at brianmittge@hotmail.com.

 

 

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