Last month, SCAN held a training for facilitators who will lead a new parenting program offered by SCAN’s Parent Education Program: Strengthening Families. Strengthening Families is an evidence-based program focusing on building positive relationships between parents and middle-school children. Charlie McLaughlin from the Virginia Foundation for Healthy Youth led the three-day training with lots of energy and enthusiasm. Here are our Top 5 Tips from the training:
- Give love and set limits.
Balancing showing love and setting limits for children can be hard. Some parents focus on setting limits for their middle school children and think that they do not need as much attention and affection as when they were younger. Other parents are afraid to set limits because they want their child to feel loved.
Children need both love and limits. Parents still need to show affection and tell their child that they love them. Parents also have a responsibility to set limits to keep them safe and teach them right from wrong. Parents should teach their child that actions have consequences and that certain behaviors are acceptable and others are not.
To keep a balance between love and limits, parents should speak openly about what the rules and expectations are and what the consequences will be for breaking those rules. If a child does not follow the rules, the parents should calmly follow through with the consequence. When children are following the rules, parents should be sure to compliment their child and thank them.
- Understand each other’s challenges.
Some children may think that parents have easy lives. From their point of view, parents get to earn money, set house rules, stay up as late as they want and go anywhere, anytime. They may not understand how hard parents have to work to earn money, how stressful paying bills and taking care of all of the housework can be, and how much they may worry about their child.
Some parents may think that their children have easy lives. They do not have all of the responsibilities of paying bills or doing all of the housework. They do not have to work full-time jobs or give rides to their children. Parents may not understand how stressful it can be to try to balance school work (which can be really hard), after-school activities, friends and family. Youth also may have to deal with bullying or peer pressure to drink or use other drugs.
Both parents and youth need to be aware of the challenges everyone in the family is facing, so that they better understand each other and appreciate the challenges other family members are facing.
- Actively listen to your child.
Parents should listen to their children and let them finish talking before reacting. Sometimes parents respond before a they can completely explain something that happened. If a child tells his parents that one of his friends was caught cheating, the parents may jump in and respond at that point. If the parents respond by reminding the child that cheating is wrong or saying the child can’t spend time with this friend, then the child won’t have the chance to explain that he reminded his friend that cheating is wrong and tried to stop him. He will probably not come to his parents again with a problem because he may think that his parents do not listen to him and do not trust him to know that cheating is wrong.
Parents should let their child explain everything that happened to make sure they know the whole story before reacting. This can be difficult, but it shows the teenager that their parents will listen to them. When children feel their parents listen to them, they are more likely to come to them for help.
- Use “I statements.”
Parents should also make sure that they are clear with their children about what they are feeling. One effective way of doing this is using “I statements.”
“I statements” follow this format: “I feel ___ when you ___ because ___.” This is followed up with what the parent wants the child to do differently in the future.
Using “I statements” makes it clear how the parent feels without putting blame on the child. Parents should use “I statements” in a calm voice, and they should be willing to listen to their child’s response.
- Plan family meetings.
Making time to meet as a family can be difficult because of people’s busy schedules. However, family meetings are an important opportunity to address issues that come up and celebrate accomplishments. Having regular family meetings means that families do not only talk to each other when something is going wrong. Having a set for a family meeting that all family members participate in strengthens each family member and the family as a whole.
SCAN is very excited to begin this new program, and our facilitators are looking forward to meeting and working with parents and their children this Fall! Please contact us if you’re interested in learning more.
– Marisol Morales, Parent Education Manager