Oesterlen offers new parenting program

Guiding kids through modern times is the purpose of a parenting group being offered by Oesterlen Services for Youth.

The first session that began in mid-July is ending and the organization is looking for parents interested in its next session beginning Sept. 13. The program is free; the group meets 5-7 p.m. Tuesdays for eight weeks and is open to parents or caregivers of children up to age 17.

The program is based on the content of the Creating Lasting Family Connections Program, focusing on communication, resolving conflicts and building positive parent-child relationships.

The first group quickly formed a bond and discovered several similarities among themselves, finding a support system once they got comfortable with the format and overcoming skepticism.

Meredith Carter, Oesterlen’s director of community-based programs and class facilitator, kept expectations modest for this first session. Now nearing its end, she’s celebrating it as a success.

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“We’ve had people leading who wouldn’t before. They’re helping each other find school shoes and making friends,” she said.

All the participants are parents of teens. Parent Amanda Stevens said the program fills a gap where other resources aren’t available.

“In my situation, I’ll take the help where I can get it. I have a complicated child and I need the help,” said Verna Napier. “I feel the camaraderie has made me calmer, made me feel like I’m not alone but I’m supported.”

Among the issues are coping skills and ideas including how to respond to their children’s behaviors, and dealing with things such as social media.

Carter said part of the program is teaching how to communicate with teens, that their actions have consequences and rewards.

The isolation of the pandemic has added to the usual issues kids have. Napier found her son had more potential for getting into things due to idle, spare time, doing Tik Tok challenges when he was bored and adding to the anxiety.

“If it was a typical summer, we’d have gone on vacation and he wouldn’t have had as much time,” she said.

Another issue explored was bullying. Napier’s son has special needs and she’s hesitant to let him go out since he can’t always register what’s appropriate and what isn’t.

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The participants agreed they’d like to see another phase of the program added, possibly one where the kids and parents participate together. Until then, they have each others’ phone numbers and plan to stay in touch as a mini support group.

They also highly recommend the program to anyone needing extra help in raising kids.

“It’s a safe spot. And we get fruit,” Stevens said, smiling about the snacks offered during the meetings.

One meeting ended with a special back-to-school event and ice cream social with the kids decorating water bottles and got a backpack for the new school year.

Carter said in future sessions, when a discussion hits a topic that engages the group, they can go away from the program syllabus and focus on what interests them.

“If we stay on the same subject, it’s okay to do as long as the people are engaged and listening,” she said.

The meetings will be in the Stevens Learning Center on the Oesterlen campus, 1918 Mechanicsburg Rd. Children are welcome, with childcare available and meals for children provided, while transportation can also be arranged.

To register or for more information, call 937-398-0241 or go to www.oesterlen.org/oesterlenparentinggroup.

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