Group helps parents through kids' teen years SOUTHEAST -- Skyesville * Eldersburg * Gamber

October 06, 1992|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,Staff Writer

SYKESVILLE -- Teens can try the souls of the most patient parents.

Whatever the problems -- from typical rebelliousness to substance abuse -- Linda M. Luther helps parents talk out their troubles at a Parent Support Group. Often, those discussions lead to solutions.

"Our group is for anybody, from all over the county," said Mrs. Luther. "Some people drop in to see what we are like. Some just want to talk. Some want help with major problems."

For nearly four years, the support group has met at 7 p.m. Tuesdays at Liberty High School. Tonight's meeting, in the media center, will be the first of this school year.

"Everything is confidential, and nobody talks about who is there," she said. "We talk about life in general or whatever is bugging any individual."

Mrs. Luther's two daughters are both in college now, but she continues to work with the group.

"Mom, you don't have anybody left in high school anymore," said Wendy Luther, 19 and a junior at University of Maryland Baltimore County.

"I'm withdrawing slowly," said her mother. "Just be quiet or I'll start a PTA at UMBC."

Mrs. Luther, 40, still calls herself a "hands-on" parent. Her role has moved more to the background and changed from her days as a Girl Scout leader who bought 1,000 boxes of cookies to help the troop finance a trip to Williamsburg, Va. Her husband, Rex, lost his taste for cookies soon after that, she said.

"When my daughters are out for the evening, I am up until they get home," she said. "I still want a phone number where they are."

The girls' high school years are behind her now, but she remembers the pressures well.

"I wanted to keep track, and I became the mother who knew where all the parties were," she said with a laugh.

"She followed us everywhere," said her daughter, also with a laugh. "I spent most of the ninth grade grounded."

The alarm bells first went off when her daughters' new high school friends would spend the night without so much as a phone call home.

"This has always been the house where all the kids come," she said. "They are welcome, but parents need to know and care where they are."

Miscommunication was at the root of many problems, she said.

"Some people think when their kids get to high school, their job is done and they can drop out of their children's lives," she said. "Lack of communication between parents and kids at this age level is astounding."

She discovered parental peer pressure, too, when Wendy and Heidi, now 18, started their high school years.

"The kids list other parents who allow drinking and late-night partying, and ask you to do the same," she said. "Parents have to communicate with each other, too."

Although unsure how, she wanted to start a support and discussion group. She connected with Linda Oreamuno and Tough Love -- which stresses "loving your children more than needing them to love you," said Mrs. Oreamuno, who helped get the Liberty High group off the ground.

"I really admire Linda," said Mrs. Oreamuno. "She has the energy of three people and has been my inspiration."

Right from the start, the group dealt with all situations. Mrs. Oreamuno said it involved everyone and should have been renamed the Family Support Group.

"Many parents tragically contribute to their children's problems with maturing," she said. "Then they have difficulty saying, 'I need help.' "

The group -- the only one of its kind in the county -- took off, said Mrs. Luther. Other support agencies, such as Junction, and high school guidance counselors referred parents to it.

"We try to help each other with all the problems," she said.

A mother might be uncomfortable with the boy her daughter is dating. After discussing the situation with the group, she may decide that allowing dating with restrictions will work.

Alcohol and drug problems are the most frequent topics for group discussion.

When one mother could not deal with a son's violence and alcohol abuse, the group advised her to call the police.

"I cried over that one, but we thought it was the only way to save that boy," she said.

"We are in this together. Any day, any one of these things could happen to us."

The group uses no set formula, she said.

"We toss ideas around and draw from that," she said. "Participants go home and decide what works for them."

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