Every stage of parenting presents a brave new world of challenges. What other job can you imagine doing that, even after a decade of experience, can still have you feeling like you’ve been suddenly blindfolded and dropped into the front seat on the wildest ride of your life? Without a Google Map parenting app to navigate any of it?
Here’s one idea: navigate the way together! Our kids are sitting in class buzzing with classmates absorbing new information and building new skills every day. They are learning in real time together, and so can we.
Enter Parents Connect groups: a community of small discussion groups of parents of children in the same grade at Drake and Redwood high schools. YOU are wanted in one of these groups!
Drake’s Class of 2021 parents are an example of one of these groups. They have been meeting about every six weeks since last year – sharing support, news and ideas on topics such as setting limits, communicating with your teen, substance use, college prep, technology and more.
Sure, you can cover these topics with friends, but connecting outside your usual social circle can expand your horizons. “Hearing bits and pieces from other parents about the Drake experience gives me a much broader perspective beyond my own kid's stories,” notes Carolyn, parent of a sophomore at Drake. “Specifically, I appreciate hearing from parents of boys (since I have a girl) and listening to perspectives of parents whose sophomore is not their oldest kid. I have learned something new at every meeting.”
Another sophomore parent, Kerrie, agrees with the value of participating outside your own social track: “I only know about a quarter of the parents in our group and it has been wonderful to connect with people you may not have crossed paths with before. The different backgrounds and parenting styles are really interesting.” In addition to personal growth, the core benefit circles back to support: “I feel the group is very supportive. You talk and listen to other parents perspectives. I think having these other perspectives is key. You may not agree, but hearing another side makes you really think about your own choices. I have really thought hard about some of our discussions and other opinions and advice.”
Two Redwood High School parents, Vickie Vann and Deb Blum, launched this idea when their boys entered the freshman class in 2016. Their aim was to provide a confidential, parents-only place “to have healthy non-judgemental discussions about our parenting,” explains Vickie.
“We were so aware that as kids move into high school, the parents no longer have natural opportunities to talk with each other through the playground, school activities, etc. Also, the teens are going out in the world and don’t want their parents to be involved. At the same time, the teens are experiencing big issues such as school stress, sexuality, driving, peer influence, and being exposed to alcohol, drugs and vaping. Parents are no longer talking with each other, yet the need to talk is more important than ever!”
“The unifying element in our groups is connection, with ourselves, each other and our children,” Vickie emphasizes. Group members are invited to share as little or as much as they feel comfortable doing, and topics vary from practical to personal. “Our members come up to us all the time and tell us how much they enjoy the groups and how much they rely on them for support, information, and camaraderie. We have fun, have made lasting friendships, and know that the groups are always there to help.”
Isolation, stress and overwhelm are toxic to any human, and we parents of teens can be especially susceptible, given our often overstuffed agendas and calendars. So take advantage of one potent antidote today and join a Parents Connect group. We will journey through the teen parenting jungle together, enlightening ourselves and lightening the load by sharing foibles, discoveries and laughs along the way!
Action Items to help you get and stay connected:
Join Drake Parents Connect. There are currently parent groups for the classes of 2021 and 2022 and they are hoping to get the graduating 8th graders’ (class of 2023) groups up and running as their students enter their freshman year next fall. Please send a message via the website if you are interested.
Join Redwood Parents Connect. They have three groups in each grade level for the 2019-2020 school year and always welcome new members.
Share news about this opportunity with others!
Suggest coffee and conversation with the parents of your younger kids’ friends.
Follow the Coalition Connection on Facebook for updates on events.
Reference our archived speaker series on this YouTube channel.