Peer groups aid kids, parents

Published 11:06 pm Wednesday, May 4, 2011

LeTevia Hardley, Parent Coordinator of Parent-to-Parent Support Group, said she and her colleagues are on a mission to help parents communicate better with their children and vice-versa.

The Parent-to-Parent Support Group and the Peer-to-Peer Support Group are funded by a grant through the ECCHCO project, serving parents and children of Pike and surrounding counties to help fix underlying relationship problems and help improve family dynamics.

“Parents and children can seem like enemies when children get to a certain age,” she said. The peer-to-peer group “gives children a chance to talk to each other and give each other advice. They hear the advice from their peers instead of the parent.”

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The parent group “lets parents know they’re not alone and that they’re not a bad parent because their child is going through ‘something’ at the moment. Maybe the way a parent is trying to ‘fix’ whatever the problem may be is not working for your house, so parents can communicate with one another at these support groups and suggest solutions to each other that may have worked in other similar situations,” Hardley said.

Hardley said counselors are not present at these support group meetings and the groups are simply made up of parents and children sharing experiences with each other to let each other know they are “not alone” in whatever issues they may be facing.

“It’s just parents helping parents, saying ‘I’ve been there and I understand,’” Hardley said. “These support groups let them know there is someone here to help them, without judgment.”

Hardley said from her experiences helping parents and children alike, she has determined there needs to be a “middle ground” when it comes to solving problems.

“As a parent you kind of have to give a little in order to get a little,” Hardley said. “For example, if you give your child a 9 p.m. curfew and they really want to stay out until 10 p.m., then what’s wrong with compromising with a 9:30 p.m. curfew? It’s so much easier knowing that he or she will be willingly coming home at 9:30 p.m., so you don’t have to call or worry.”

Hardley said most parents often times try to play the “tough” role and this might not always work.

“We have to learn how to respect our children as human beings and treat them accordingly,” Hardley said. “When we respect them they will respect us back.”

The support groups are still relatively new and the first support group Hardley said she was involved with was in February of this year.

Since the beginning of the support groups, Hardley said she has had somewhat of a mixed response.

“Right now, the problem is with transportation. A lot of the parents we help are low-income families and often times are just getting off work and have to go home, cook, and see about their other children. Because of that, some parents see the group meetings as somewhat inconvenient,” Hardley said. “The way we try to make it convenient for them is, right now, we have Hungry Howie’s and they donate five pizzas for each support group.”

Hardley said this helps ease the stress of having to cook dinner and if there happen to be any leftovers, then support goers can take it home with them.

The Parent-to-Parent Support Group will meet on Thursday, May 12, at 6 p.m. in the ECCHCO office located at 798 U.S. Highway 231 South, directly across from Dairy Queen.

For more information about the support groups, please call LeTevia Hardley at (334) 670-6777 or (334) 372-2350.