Free program offers parents a sympathetic ear Center can help deal with problems GLEN BURNIE

September 16, 1993|By Carol L. Bowers | Carol L. Bowers,Staff Writer

Are you a frustrated parent? Can't talk to your teen-age son, or having trouble getting the kids to adjust to having a stepmom or dad? Or maybe you just want to find a way to help your child study better.

Whatever your situation as a parent, help is here: at The Parent Involvement Center.

Located in Oakwood Elementary in Glen Burnie, the new countywide center will offer free programs three nights a week, including tips for parents and free counseling sessions. The center's first activity is set for 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday, with a speech by Joseph Procaccini on "The Changing Nature of the Family."

The center, officials say, is more than just a way for parents to help themselves. Getting parents more involved with their children's schools may be just as important.

"There's always been a core of parents who belong to PTA and the Citizens Advisory Council, who are room mothers or go on field trips," says Patricia Barton, director of the center. "But there's another group of parents who don't come in. Maybe they have difficulty making arrangements to come to their child's school, maybe the parent is a working mother, or maybe the problem is transportation, or the parents feel uncomfortable because of their own negative experience in school. If we can identify the stumbling blocks, we can find ways to make them into stepping stones."

A school teacher and student counselor for 26 years, Ms. Barton says that most parents just need someone to listen and provide a little encouragement.

"One thing parents want most is for someone to just listen and to say that what they're experiencing is normal, or just to have someone listen and give them their undivided attention," said Ms. Barton.

For example, a mother who recently separated from her husband may be concerned about the effect the pending divorce will have on their child. At the Parent Involvement Center, the parent could make up to three appointments to talk one-on-one with a counselor.

"The other thing we want to accomplish is to make parents feel comfortable. Then, they'll tell us what else they need," said Ms. Barton.

In addition to counseling services, there will be programs aimed at improving communication between parent and child.

"What we are about is children and academic achievement, and one way to do that is to work with parents and their families," says Ms. Barton.

"From birth to age 18, children only spend 9 percent of their time in school. And though what we're doing in school is important, we also need to provide support and partnerships for whoever is with the child the other 91 percent of the time."

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