HHS book study group helping parents to navigate their kids’ teen years

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Huntsville High School’s parent book study group provides parents of teens a safe space to discuss and learn about healthy coping mechanisms and tools for both themselves and their kids.

HHS teacher Vanessa Taylor pitched the idea at the grade 9 parent orientation at end of August to great response.

Research led her to the book Untangled: Guiding Teenage Girls Through the Seven Transitions Into Adulthood by Lisa Damour, Taylor decided it would be the perfect one to start with.

“I pitched it as a two-part idea to the parents,” said Taylor. “Untangled speaks to the transition for young girls but also applies to all children on their transition into adulthood and has awesome guidelines to help parents navigate this time in their teen’s life. I also thought it would be a great way for parents to feel connected to the school, each other, and their kids’ lives as they often leave elementary school and are less involved so this was a great way to get involved again.”

Taylor is running the book study group with English teacher Jen Rosewarne and social worker Jen Nicholson, who also does counselling for teens and adults.

HHS parent book study group organizers (from left) Vanessa Taylor, Jen Rosewarne and Jen Nicholson (Sydney Allen)

HHS parent book study group organizers (from left) Vanessa Taylor, Jen Rosewarne and Jen Nicholson (Sydney Allan)

Twenty-six parents participated, reading two chapters a week. They met every other Tuesday evening in the HHS library to review the chapters and to discuss parenting wins, things they wanted to reflect on, and the parenting strategies suggested by the book’s author.

“Something else we quickly realized when starting the group was that it was great to have this space for parents to have a community to open up and ask advice,” said Taylor. “When you are a new parent of a baby there’s so many resources and play groups but when you’re raising a teen there’s fewer places to go for help or even just to vent.”

What the parents wanted to accomplish while studying the book included gaining resources and self-care tools, connecting with other parents, and celebrating successes.

“I have a 14-year-old daughter who is kind, generous, shy and caring,” said one member. “She can also be defiant, strong-willed, and argumentative. This book has helped me learn and acknowledge that she is ‘normal’ and this is just a phase that we both need to navigate. The women in this group have empowered me, guided me and listened to me and I am beyond grateful and feel so blessed.”

Another member added, “Being in the safety net of parents who are all going through the same, everyday life situations and having the opportunity to share has been great.”

The members also have a private Facebook group and formed an online community where they can to ask questions or ask each other for advice between meetings.

The Safe and Accepting Schools TLDSB program, which is focused on building a safe, caring and inclusive school community, funded a number of the books to provide equitable access for parents.

To wrap up the Untangled book study, the group held a potluck and conversation about their experience. Feedback about their experience was all positive and the parents said they want to continue to study another book.

In January, the group will start reading Drop the Worry Ball: How To Parent in the Age of Entitlement by Alex Russell and Tim Fauconer, using the same model they implemented in the fall book study.

Anyone interested in learning more about the group can contact Vanessa Taylor at [email protected]

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