Lifestyle

Parents helping parents in Chilliwack

Chilliwack secondary techer, Steve Anderson, has organized a number of free parenting workshops focussing on how to understand, read, and help children and teens. The next session is Thursday, Nov. 22 at 6:30 p.m. in the Maple Room at Broadway Church.  - JENNA HAUCK/ PROGRESS
Chilliwack secondary techer, Steve Anderson, has organized a number of free parenting workshops focussing on how to understand, read, and help children and teens. The next session is Thursday, Nov. 22 at 6:30 p.m. in the Maple Room at Broadway Church.
— image credit: JENNA HAUCK/ PROGRESS

Amanda Todd’s tragic suicide death has proven once again how fragile and precious life is.

It has also caused parents province-wide to pause, reflect and ask themselves a lot of tough questions. Would I know if my child were having problems, dealing with depression or bullying? Would I see the signs? Do I talk to my child enough? How am I supposed to talk to a son or daughter who barely says three words to me all day?

The first thing parents need to know is that they aren’t alone.

The second thing they need to know is that there is help available.

Steve Anderson, a psychology teacher at Chilliwack secondary school, is helping to launch a series of sessions that will provide the latest in parenting information, and a venue for parents to meet and discuss their mutual issues.

“A number of us co-educators had been sitting around talking about the things we experience with people’s kids, and while we all love them dearly, we also recognize that a lot of kids arrive in the education system, across the grade levels, with a lot of baggage,” Anderson explained. “That led us to discuss some of the obstacles and trials that we face or faced as parents, things that we did wrong that we wished we hadn’t done. All that led to some great conversation.”

A parent of four and grandfather of five, Anderson saw the value in extending the conversation into the community — providing that forum once a month, for an hour-and-a-half on a Thursday night, for parents to share, compare and learn.

“There’s cutting-edge well-researched information out there, a lot of stuff that I bet you don’t know,” Anderson said. “And I bet that if you watched a 15-20 minute piece, you’d be saying, ‘Get out of town!’ And if you knew it had the potential to change some outcomes, you’d probably incorporate it, wouldn’t you?”

At the first session, held prior to the Amanda Todd suicide, the conversation centered around how kids learn and how their brains file information.

Anderson’s example was a 16-minute YouTube video by Dr. Dmitri Christakis, a pediatrician studying the effects of over-stimulation on the developing brain. Testing data showed that children who watched too much TV in their first three years of life had a greater chance of experiencing attention difficulties in their school-age years. Conversely, children who received more cognitive stimulation before the age of three (singing, reading, trips to museums and such) had a reduced chance of experiencing attention difficulties.

Good info for parents of younger kids.

But for parents of older children and specifically teenagers, the big question has little to do with TV.

It’s “How do I talk to my kid?”

“We had a parent at that first session who said, ‘I do not talk to my daughter anymore. She moved away, lives with her grandparents and we don’t communicate. She won’t talk to me,’” Anderson said. “Now that’s a situation that’s obviously gone well beyond where it should have. But we talked about some ways to maybe open a dialogue with that particular teenager, an actual strategy that could work.”

The sessions are held in space provided by Broadway Church, thought Anderson is quick to say religion doesn’t influence the content provided.

Anderson is equally quick to caution that these are no-judgement sessions.

“It’s not, ‘You’re doing this wrong, wrong, wrong,’ because we all know that we’ve made mistakes and we’re making mistakes,” he said. “We’re just presenting some information parents may not be aware of. If they can use it, rock and roll. If not, that’s their choice, but nobody’s going to be there saying, ‘You’re doing a bad job.’”

As the old saying goes, it takes a village to raise a child.

In an age of rampant technology and reduced communication, Anderson thinks the village is broken.

“Nobody’s having coffee at the neighbor’s house anymore, talking about their kids,” he lamented. “Nobody wants to say, ‘I’m having trouble with my child. What do I do?’ So we just carry on, and a lot of parents end up thinking they’re the only ones. Everyone’s facing the same problems, but no one talks about it. So we’re thinking, maybe we can have some village time over here.”

The current plan is to have another session on Nov. 22 (6:30 to 8 p.m.) and take December off, although Anderson is already taking calls from parents who want more sessions.

To get more info, click onto the Broadway Church website at lifeatbroadway.com or email Anderson at steve_anderson@sd33.bc.ca.

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