Falmouth support group for parents 'invaluable'

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FALMOUTH — Parenting a teenager presents unique challenges, from deciding how much freedom to permit them to talking about drugs, alcohol and social media.

That’s one reason Sarah Maloney, a social worker at Falmouth High School, offers a Parent Support Group for any parent seeking a safe, confidential place to talk about any issues they’re having with their teens.

The group also offers peer support from other parents, professional advice from Maloney and access to resources for specific issues that families might be facing when parenting a teenager.

The group meets twice a month, at noon on Wednesday, at the Falmouth Memorial Library. It’s drop-in, so there’s no need to make every session, and Maloney said parents should also feel free to contact her with any specific questions or concerns beforehand.

Maloney can be reached at 781-7429 or smaloney@falmouthschools.org.

“The parent support group is an informal gathering, and the goal is to provide a safe place for them to talk about any issues they’re having with their teens,” Maloney said.

Concerns generally range from grades and academic performance to issues around drugs and alcohol, strategies for talking with teens and ways to build trust, she said.

One of the biggest challenges that parents of teens face today is the role of social media, according to Maloney.

But, she added, “I think the biggest issues are tried and true across the generations: peer pressure, fitting in, bullying, substance use. Social media may change the formula, but the issues remain the same.”

Leigh Mundhenk, whose daughter is now in college, was a regular at Parent Support Group meetings while her daughter attended Falmouth High. She called the meetings “totally invaluable. By my being in this group, I think my husband and I were able to help our daughter navigate the challenges of high school much more successfully than had this group not existed.”

“I really felt it was important for me to connect with other parents and learn a little bit about what to expect, the culture of high school and the kinds of activities kids engage in,” Mundhenk said about why she attended.

“It was very valuable (and) it gave me information that enabled me to have really productive conversations with my daughter.” She said the group makes a difference because parents are able to “share candidly.”

Mundhenk added, “I felt I had a very safe place to discuss issues and concerns. That is hugely important when you have a high school student. I want people to know how wonderful Sarah has been to keep this group going. She asked good questions that challenged me in a positive way.”

Gregg Palmer, the principal at Falmouth High, also believes the Parent Support Group is highly beneficial.

“(We’re all) working to support our teenagers, but parents (often) see a whole other side of their sons and daughters,” he said. “Having the school and parents talk about (all) kinds of issues is a way to get a more complete picture of what’s going on, so we can help our teens make good decisions.”

Being a teenager, Palmer said, is “a real and unique period of life. We know that unique things are happening in the brain, as well as hormonally during these years, but I think it goes beyond that.

“I believe that in the teen years people are coming into a new kind of awareness about life and the world. We become idealistic and committed to a variety of causes and form deep connections with friends.”

“I think the cement is still wet,” he said. “They’re experimenting with who they’re going to be and all possibilities are still open to them. It’s an exciting time that can look a little chaotic to folks (on the outside).”

Palmer said the Parent Support Group is also important because it provides perspective and balance and gives both parents and school staff an opportunity to “think about what matters, overall, in order to create a great high school program.”

“When things go wrong it’s usually about poor communication. The converse is also true; that we’re at our best when there’s positive, healthy communication and the Parent Support Group is part of that overall picture,” he said.

Kate Irish Collins can be reached at 710-2336 or kcollins@theforecaster.net. Follow Kate on Twitter: @KirishCollins.

A Parent Support Group at Falmouth High School is being called a valuable tool for both parents and school staff who want to keep up with teens and the unique issues they face.