Pay it Forward: Program helps parents raise teens

Parenting is the toughest job you’ll ever love. Because teenagers are sharp, creative and ambitious, they add a whole new level of challenge to the job. Those who have raised teenagers can attest to this. Many have relied on advice, support and care from others along the way. Parents who “raise their bar” have greater confidence in their parenting abilities, are equipped to handle bad days and lower their family stress levels.

“Our older teenager had been such an easy child. Allison,* our younger one, was so different,” said Homer parent Katie*. “The only thing that worked would be to holler and scream. It was really hard to walk away and not get our buttons pushed.”

Enter Parenting with Love and Limits (PLL). Since participating in PLL, Katie said, “Now we can step back and say, ‘I know what’s she’s doing.’ It just sort of opened our eyes as to how we can react to it to make things better. We are so much stronger as parents now.”

PLL is not your typical parenting class. The evidence-based program provides specific and practical strategies to help struggling families better interact with each other, reducing stress for everyone and getting them back on the path to enjoying each other. The six-week parenting class combined with customized individual family coaching sessions address the problems that are unique to the particular family. It helps families improve communication and develop skills to deal with parenting challenges that come up.

“We were struggling when Sue (PLL Coach) called; when the class started we were bottom of the barrel,” Katie said. “It’s so hard to admit that you have something tough going on in your family. But you guys turn it around and you make it so positive, you find the positive. It’s very powerful. You give power back to parents.” She said not only are she and her husband close with their daughter again, PLL impacted their own relationship as well. “Everything about it was positive for us. It brought the love back into our house. It’s amazing really.”

Katie said she was skeptical that PLL could have much of an impact on their family, but now she wants other parents to give it a shot too. “Don’t give up on your kids,” she said. “Yes, this is going to take some time and some work, but it’s going to be so much better in the end.”

“Teenagers are not terrible, teenagers need to be heard,” Katie said.”I think parents hear that in class. Your child is just pushing some buttons. Asking or needing some attention. I think we are so much better prepared to deal with [button-pushing] than we ever would have been.” When asked about her daughter’s PLL experience, Katie replied, “She understands now that we’re listening to her,” acknowledging Allison’s experience of being validated.

Christine*, a parent who completed PLL, said, “The PLL methods improved our relationship and family life. We are more relaxed and express more joy together and we move forward.” Julie*, another PLL graduate, credited the PLL consistency skills and “having a plan” as being critical for her family’s progress.

The PLL program is used across Alaska, the country and Europe to support healthy families and communities. The organization focuses on youth 10-18 years old, their parents and their village, and strives to strengthen families. Strong families are adaptable, cohesive and communicative; these strong families make Homer a stronger community. Teens are happier and better connected to their parents.

Parents feel that connection from their children, along with the decrease in day-to-day stress. Neighborhoods become more connected, work places become happier, and our hometown becomes more caring.

Pay it back; if you have a parent, call them and thank them. Pay it forward; if you know a parent, reach out and support them. There are many tools in our community to help families build resilience.Help a parent find new tools for their parenting toolbox and let them know about some of these resources. They’ve got nothing to lose and it could mean less stress and more connection for the whole family and community.

For more information, call Sue at 235-9265.

“It helped us help her live her best life,” Katie said. “The (PLL) book is still sitting next to my bed (a year later).”

*Names have been changed for privacy. PLL is offered at low or no cost.

Sue Rennolds is a clinician who has been coaching families through the PLL program since 2015.

Karen Shemet joined the team in 2017.