Helping parents to help their adolescent children


April 03, 2002|By Heather Tepe | Heather Tepe,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

WHEN LAURIE Diener, who was trained as a librarian, wanted answers about raising her two teen-agers, she had a hard time finding information.

"There are a lot of resources available here in the community, but it's tough to navigate your way through," she said.

When Diener heard about a grant being offered by the Horizon Foundation, she teamed with Cindi Miller, director of Community Health Education for Howard County General Hospital, to launch SPARKS (Successful Parenting of Adolescents Requires Knowledge and Support). The grant paid for a series of four community-resource fairs aimed at parents of adolescents. The last resource fair of the series will be held April 16 at Atholton High School.

The fair will include more than 40 exhibitors to help parents deal with issues that challenge their children's physical and emotional health and well-being. There also will be a variety of sessions called "Hot Topics." Diener said the sessions aim to offer concrete information and tips that parents can use with their children.

Sgt. Frederick von Briesen of the Howard County Police Department will present a program called "The Teenage Driver - Tactics for Parents."

"Nationwide, teens account for 6 [percent] to 7 percent of drivers but are responsible for 16 [percent] to 17 percent of accidents," von Briesen said. "There's pressure to let your child get their license because everyone else has it, but you've got to make these decisions based on what your child is showing you. Some teen-agers don't have the maturity or skills to drive yet."

Sgt. von Briesen recommends that parents ride frequently with their teen-age drivers even after they get their driver's license and limit the number of occupants in the car for the first year.

"Driving is a multitasking operation. You've got to look left, right, operate the steering wheel, the pedals and check the rearview mirror," von Briesen said. "Add listening to the radio, talking on a cell phone or to other people in the car, and you're tripling the complications of driving a vehicle."

Other sessions include "More Than the Facts of Life," offered by Laura Smit of the Coalition for Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention, where parents will learn how to approach teen issues related to dating, relationships and sexuality.

Carolyn Wohnsigl of the Children of Separation and Divorce Center will lead a discussion, "Helping Teen-agers Cope with the Changing Family," a review of how separation, divorce and remarriage affect teen development.

"We've had a few parents come back and tell us we've made a difference in their lives," Diener said.

The final SPARKS Community Resource Fair will run from 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. Attendance is free, and refreshments will be served. A schedule of events is available at

Information: 410-740-7605.

Miss Debutante

When Arnold Graff was diagnosed with prostate cancer five years ago, his wife, Martha, decided to set up an organization that would help others find information to help them manage the disease. The organization she founded, the Prostate Cancer Network, offers information to patients and professionals who treat individuals with prostate cancer and operates a 24-hour information line.

On Saturday, Graff's organization will sponsor the Miss Debutante Charity Pageant and Talent Showcase at Jim Rouse Theatre for the Performing Arts at Wilde Lake High School, 5460 Trumpeter Road. The event will begin at 7 p.m.

"It's a charity pageant, not a beauty pageant," Graff said.

Contestants will participate in a processional and most will participate in a talent showcase. The contestant who has raised the most money for the organization will be crowned "Miss Debutante."

The event is open to the public, and admission is free.

Information: 410-465-0368.

A night for candidates

The Wilde Lake Community Association will sponsor Candidates Night at 7:30 p.m. Monday at Slayton House.

Candidates for the 2002-2003 village board of directors and Columbia Council representative will give a brief presentation followed by a question-and-answer period.

Information: 410-730-3987.

Sandwich generation

The American Business Women's Association will present a discussion on the "Sandwich Generation" at its dinner meeting Monday. Financial planner Mary Boyle and long-term-care specialist Susan Ficks will discuss strategies for protecting your spouse and children while caring for your parents.

Women of the community are invited to attend and dine with other professionals. Tickets are $25. Reservations are required.

Information: 410-309-4262.

Plant clinics

Is your hydrangea full of holes? Not sure what's ailing your azaleas? Howard County master gardeners will offer assistance to home gardeners at plant clinics to be held from 10 a.m. to noon on the second Saturday of each month, beginning April 13, at the central library, 10375 Little Patuxent Parkway.

Trained by the University of Maryland Cooperative Extension, Howard County master gardeners will answer questions, look at soil samples of ailing plants to make a diagnosis and provide printed materials on a variety of gardening topics.

Information: Maryland Cooperative Extension's Howard County office, 410-313-2707.

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