In a middle school classroom on a warm summer afternoon in Spokane, Stand for Children Organizer Darcelina Soloria explained teenage brain development to a group of parents:
“Brain science can explain a lot of things. When it comes to parenting, it explains why your teenager is less likely to think before they act, pause to consider the consequences of an action, or change inappropriate behaviors. Their brain just isn’t done developing yet. It turns out the amygdala (which controls fear and aggression) develops early, before the frontal cortex (which controls reasoning), creating the perfect storm for an impulsive, accident-prone, and emotional adolescence.”
The parents were attending the first of three workshops hosted by Stand for Children in Spokane titled The Art of Perseverance, part of Darcelina’s effort to educate and empower parents to support their kids in the best way possible during a critical transition: the beginning of 9th grade.
Students need to know certain facts and develop certain academic skills like performing math equations and writing essays to succeed in high school. But they also need social skills, task management, and a support structure to succeed in life beyond school.
“My goal is to help parents teach their kids the skills that we all already know as adults, but don’t always know how to explain to teenagers,” says Darcelina.
The three-part workshop series breaks down character traits associated with success - self-confidence, initiative, and persistence – into the practical skills and tools needed to embody them.
As part of the first workshop, parents walked through role-playing activities about what makes a good first impression and what makes a bad one. Then they reflected and discussed how they would practice good first impression skills with their teenagers.
Joe, a parent of seven who successfully completed the series with Darcelina in July, wasn’t sure about the interactive activities initially: “I didn’t want to do the role-playing at first. But I did come back with my wife, and I found useful tools and lot of good information. I feel good about being able to use the skills when a situation arises with my kids.”
Anna found that the first workshop’s conversation about positive attitudes and supportive communication helped her connect with her teenage daughter more: “I liked having tools that I could go home and use right away. I started listening to my daughter more, instead of telling her my opinion. And now she’s more likely to open up and approach me.”
Brenda came looking for ways to support her daughter Trisha, who will be an incoming freshman at North Central High School this fall, and found she walked away with more than she anticipated: “I came because I want to be a better parent, but it was really helpful for me too. When we were talking about goals and dreams I realized that I hadn’t even thought about what my own goals were! Darcelina made it easy. She’s really relatable and non-judgmental.”
The first round of The Art of Perseverance workshop series finished in Spokane with a celebration on July 31st. Parents brought their students in with them and wrote out pledges about how they would support them in the upcoming school year in building their self-confidence, initiative, and persistence. Darcelina has already made plans with North Central High School to offer the series twice in the 2018-19 school year for parents and is expanding her workshop offerings to other Spokane schools.
During the celebration, one of the parents reflected about how she’s already been able to make some changes at home thanks to the skills she’s learned: “Since we started the workshop, we’ve been using more lists now! My daughter has a camping trip coming up, so I encouraged her to make a list of what she needed to bring along and made her responsible for putting things together.”
Despite the challenges of adolescent brain chemistry, it looks like teenage parenting isn’t just for brain scientists after all.
To support Darcelina’s workshop schedule in the 2018-19 school year with Spokane parents, make a donation to our family engagement programming today.