Teachers may get summer off-but parents don't PDF  | Print |  E-mail
Written by By JAN LARSON Sentinel County Editor   
Friday, 29 May 2009 10:26
The end of the school year can represent freedom for students - but new challenges for their parents. After nine months of regimented class schedules, carefree summers for youth can create extra worries for parents. And while graduations from high school are truly occasions to celebrate, the accompanying parties can also be sources of parental concern.
So one Bowling Green based organization is coming up with tips for families facing these annual transitions. The Community Coalition for Youth and Families is encouraging parents to set rules, stick to them, find meaningful ways to keep teens busy, and keep the communication lines open.
To put it bluntly - have a backbone and talk with your kids.
"It's the most important job I'll ever have," Sharon Clifford, facilitator with the CCYF organization, said about parenting. It takes effort, especially as children get older and test their new found freedoms.
"It's a challenging time," she said.
But it's important to draw a very definite line, and don't budge just because your teen protests. That includes rules on curfews, drug abuse or underage alcohol use. Set consequences for actions, then stick to them.
"We let the kids know what's OK and what's not OK," Clifford said.
And don't fall for it when teens say no other parents enforce such rules.
"Your child may make you feel that you are the only parent who follows up," she said.
And remember, teachers may get the summer off. Parents don't.
"We remind parents to still be the overseers of their youth in the summertime," said Lorrie Lewandowski, a coalition member from the Wood County Educational Service Center.
The coalition offers the following advice:
¥ Know where your kids are going, and call them if they pass curfew. Get phone numbers for their friends' parents, and speak directly to them about concerns.
¥ It's not enough that you are home with your teen and their friends, you have to actually supervise them. An occasional peek in the room can work miracles for nipping bad behavior before it begins.
¥ Bite your tongue, but if they call for a ride home after drug or alcohol use, don't yell, just pick them up. "At the end of the day, all you care about is that they are safe," Clifford said.
¥ Talk, listen .... then do it again, even if sometimes it seems like you and your teen are speaking different languages. Find a common dialect. "Communication is huge. It's huge," Lewandowski said.
¥ Don't avoid the tough issues. Children whose parents talk to them about the dangers of alcohol and drug abuse are less likely to use the substances, according to Lewandowski. "Parents need to share their values."
¥ Remember other parents have gone through this - and survived. "You're not in this alone. Other parents are dealing with the same issues," she said.
¥ Get your kids involved in meaningful activities. That leaves less time for bad choices by teens. Check with local groups such as parks and recreation programs, libraries and the YWCA to find out what activities they have going on. "Absolutely, keep them involved in an activity," said Kristin Otley, a coalition member and recreation coordinator for the city of Bowling Green.
¥ Check with those same groups about what volunteer opportunities they have for teenagers. "That's a good way for them to get outside and doing something productive," Otley said.
¥ Identify appropriate and safe places for your teen to hang out occasionally, such as a park or sand volleyball court at the city pool complex. While signing them up for some activities is good, they do need free time. "You don't want to over-program kids either," Otley said.
The next meeting of the CCYF organization is Aug. 27 at 9:30 a.m. in the Bowling Green community center. Anyone is welcome.
The group was formed in 2003 when concerns arose about unruly, unsupervised youth congregating at the Wood County District Public Library. Coalition members include parents, students, plus people representing schools, businesses and community organizations.