To help parents help children, school staff will go out on job

January 28, 1993|By Anne Haddad | Anne Haddad,Staff Writer

For many parents, a visit to school during the day to discuss a problem means punching out at the job and losing some pay.

In addition, there's the intimidation some parents feel about going into a school office that brings back memories of their own school days.

So Carroll County school officials are trying out a new concept -- going to the parents' workplaces and meeting them on their turf. The idea, originated by pupil-personnel worker Barbara Guthrie, was to offer seminars on various topics that might help parents avoid problems for children later.

The first series of these sessions has been offered at English-American Clothiers. Vikay Koontz, human resources manager there, also was among the first eight employees to take the course.

Until Ms. Koontz took the course, it had never occurred to her to try the same approach with her children that she learned in management training seminars for her job.

But treating children with more respect was just one suggestion on how to get them to take responsibility for things such as homework, cleaning their rooms and other responsibilities, said Anita Miller, a pupil-personnel worker who conducted part of each seminar.

Mrs. Miller suggested that parents should ask themselves, "How would I say this if my child were my co-worker?"

She and school psychologist Riv Swartz focused on a topic parents chose after a survey last year: helping their children become more organized and take on responsibilities.

Missy Flook, an employee at English-American and a Taneytown mother of three, said that she found the seminars helpful in confirming what she was already doing.

Her oldest daughter is 8, and Mrs. Flook was looking for advice on how to get her to do her homework and other things.

"I'm raising these kids by myself," she said. "My husband left last year, and it's been kind of hard on them."

The lunchtime seminars are especially helpful for single parents, Ms. Koontz said, because after-work hours are packed with taking care of children and spending time with them. She is a single parent, as are many of the other 320 employees, she said.

If parents try to go to seminars at night, they have to find baby sitters, she said.

Mrs. Guthrie said that from the time she came up with the idea for the workplace seminars in 1991 to carrying out the first one this month, she and her three colleagues have put in a lot of personal time. Cynthia Little, the county's guidance supervisor, also has been involved.

Mrs. Guthrie approached English-American first, partly because Ms. Koontz had shown interest when a school administrator mentioned the program to her.

School officials are hoping more employers will ask to have the seminars.

Ms. Koontz said she couldn't think of one reason an employer would refuse. The program is free.

"Everybody wins," Mrs. Miller said.

"The message to employees is, I am concerned about you as a whole person," Ms. Little said.

Ms. Koontz said an employer's reason for having the seminar could be totally selfish:

"Life is holistic. If you have a child with trouble in school, your work suffers," Ms. Koontz said.

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