Every parent knows this basic truth: parenting can be a hard and sometimes baffling road. Increasingly, schools and districts are reaching out to partner with parents in an effort to address the whole child. In the Roaring Fork School District, that partnership can take many forms, including home-school visits, parent-education events and resource-sharing.
It all works toward an important end: Today’s research tells us that a child whose basic mental and physical needs are met, whose development and behavior is understood by caregivers and who can avoid the impact of toxic stress comes to school more ready to learn.
This spring, parents have the opportunity to learn about critical issues impacting their child’s development across seven different evenings (see sidebar). Topics range from self-regulation, child development and brain science to what parents need to know about sexual abuse, substance abuse, anxiety and social media.
“We have been trying to mirror topics that our administrators and teachers and students are learning about so that parents get that same information,” says the Roaring Fork Schools’ Responsive Services Coordinator Grace Tennant. “When we all work together as a team with the trusted adults in a child’s life, we increase the likelihood of success for that child.”
Events in Basalt kick off on Jan. 10 with a district-sponsored workshop on self-regulation and brain development. At the most basic level, self-regulation is the ability to control one's behavior, emotions and thoughts for the benefit of long-term goals. If you’ve ever lost your temper while trying to usher a dawdling child out the front door for school, you both likely struggled with self-regulation.
Because self-regulation presents differently at different ages, three workshops will be offered simultaneously. Kathy Hegberg, founder of the FocusedKids program, will guide the elementary school workshop, providing brain-based approaches to help young children develop age-appropriate skills.
Sonja Hendrickson-Linman, the prevention specialist at Glenwood Springs Middle School, has worked as a youth advocate for more than 30 years and will look at how middle school brains are expanding rapidly and how risky behavior can result if self-regulation skills lag.
Laura Bartels, executive director of the Mindful Life Program, will focus on self-regulation and mindfulness strategies for young adults.
All participants will leave with handouts, resources, and tools to put into practice immediately.
“This is newer research that many of us with school-age children weren’t brought up knowing,” says Tennant. “It’s information that anyone can use to increase a child’s success at home and at school. If we’re talking at school about self-regulation with the kids, it’s important for families to know the why behind it and that what we’re doing is supported by research. That might look a little different than what our own schooling was, and that’s okay.”
Throughout the spring, Basalt will host a variety of other opportunities for parents to get up-to-speed on topics that might impact their children.
Meghan Hurley, LCSW, a mental health therapist with the River Bridge Regional Center, will speak to parents about body safety, sexual abuse and talking to children of all ages about these hard topics on Jan. 16.
Basalt Middle School will host coffeehouse evenings that tackle topics ranging from vaping to social media to teen anxiety.
The parent evenings conclude in May with a district-sponsored workshop on May 2 about childhood toxic stress and brain science and a parent coffeehouse on May 8 looking ahead to summertime and some of the issues that arise when children head off into the unstructured summer months.
The ultimate hope is that parents come away with new tools and knowledge that can help their child succeed both at home and school.
“If parents and schools use the same language and know the same information, it’s going to create a more consistent, predictable environment for the child,” says Tennant. “Children are going to be able to better apply their learning, whether it’s science or self-regulation, across different situations. It boils down to looking at the whole child and not just a score on a science test.”
These free parent education evenings in Basalt are open to any parent or family member.
Jan. 10: Building Stronger Self-Regulation Skills. Come learn how to support your child in regulating behaviors and emotions, promote focused attention and stress reduction, and leave with tools both for at home and at school. (BES, 5:30 p.m., dinner and childcare provided, bilingual, whole family invited.) RSVP to email@example.com
Jan. 16: Ten Tips Every Parent Should Know to Protect Your Child from Sexual Abuse. Learn age-appropriate skills and ways to speak to children about sexual abuse and body safety. This class empowers adults with effective strategies for communicating about this difficult topic. (BMS, 4:30 p.m., coffee and snacks provided.) RSVP to River Bridge Regional Center at (970) 945-5195.
Feb. 6: Parent Coffeehouse on Substance Abuse and Vaping with Officer Thomas Wright. The Roaring Fork Valley has one of the highest teen vaping rates in the nation. Come learn the facts about vaping and substance abuse and how to talk with your child. Bring your questions. (BMS, 5:30 p.m.) RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org.
March 6: Parent Coffeehouse on Teen Anxiety: A showing of the critically acclaimed documentary "Angst" will be followed by a guided discussion. “Angst” explores anxiety, its causes and effects in teens, and what we can do about it. (BMS, 5:30 p.m.) RSVP to email@example.com.
April 10: Parent Coffeehouse on Social Media. A showing of the documentary “The Like” will be followed by a guided discussion on internet safety with digital forensics expert Lee Damuth. “The Like” addresses the impact of social media on our lives and the effects of technology on the brain. (BMS, 5:30 p.m.) RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org.
May 2: Positive Parenting Solutions and Essential Brain Science Every Parent Should Know. This district-sponsored evening provides parents with evidence-based information on what happens to a brain under chronic or toxic stress, how parents can address this, and tools for how to rebuild and repair the brain both at home and at school. (BES, 5:30 p.m., appropriate for K-12 families, bilingual, free dinner and childcare, giveaways, and more.) RSVP to email@example.com.
May 8: Parent Coffeehouse: Prepare for Summer: This parent coffeehouse panel and discussion sets up you and your student for success as summer nears with guided discussions on screens, social media, and other topics that create summer conflict with your child (BMS, 5:30 p.m.). RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org.