Amanda Oakes knows a little something about parenting. In fact, she knows a lot. It’s not only her degrees in sociology and criminal justice and the professional experience she has obtained over the last few decades that make her an excellent resource on parenting skills; it’s the daily interactions with ten-year-old daughter, Adrien, that
have kept the single mom up-to-date
on the culture that surrounds youth and lends credence to her advice.

As the Director of Prevention Services for Danville-Pittsylvania Community Services (DPCS), Amanda’s job is helping parents navigate the tricky avenues of raising happy, healthy children and avoiding the pitfalls. She explains, “Helping parents be better parents will have the biggest impact on children because parents have the biggest influence.” With that in mind, Amanda quickly elaborates on ways every parent can improve family relationships:

• Make time for your children. Talk to them about their interests, music, clothes and TV shows. You might not like the same things, but you are showing you care enough to learn about the things they like. That will help to segue into conversations about more important issues in the constantly changing youth culture. If parents don’t feel comfortable talking about drugs, sex, violence, gangs or other sensitive topics, ask DPCS for conversation starters and more information.

• Know your children’s friends. Parents can’t control every environment that the child encounters. If a child reports hearing or seeing something inappropriate ask, “What do you think about that?” to learn what the child is thinking and to determine the maturity level for the proper response.

For parents of teens, Amanda stresses knowing your child’s friends and their parents. Ask the friend’s parents about their expectations and make sure they are aligned with your own. For example, say to a friend’s parent, “My daughter’s curfew is at midnight. What is the curfew at your house?” Community research shows that most often teens abuse drugs on the weekends at a friend’s house. Currently, prescription drug abuse is on the rise and marijuana use is growing at an alarming rate because it is perceived as a safe high.

Check to make sure your teens are where they say they will be. Assure your children that you trust them but safety and parenting come first. Set expectations ahead of time and don’t wait until an unspoken rule is broken and then react. Tell them rules are important for safety, but, “I love you more than the rules, so talk to me.”

• Eat dinner with your family. Children who eat with their families are less likely to use drugs. “It’s that simple,” says Amanda, because if families eat together without any distractions, there is opportunity for conversation.

• Have a positive adult role model. If it’s not the parent, who is an important adult in the child’s life? Everyone needs someone to talk to—maybe a teacher, coach, pastor or relative.

• Enjoy positive activities together. Kids who are involved in sports, youth groups, extracurricular activities or other healthy activities with the family are less likely to have time for undesirable pastimes.

That’s the short list of advice for parents, but Amanda and staff have more. They invite you to the next session of Strengthening Families. For more information visit Danville-Pittsylvania Community Services,
245 Hairston Street, call 434.799.0456
ext 3071, or visit www.dpcs.org.

• Resources for parents to help with communication:
www.samhsa.gov/underagedrinking
www.theparenttoolkit.org
www.casafamilyday.org
• Talking to kids about sex:
www.vdh.virginia.gov/ofhs/childandfamily/reproductivehealth/talk2Me.htm

Danville-Pittsylvania Community Services
Prevention Services Division
Programs address the following topics:

• strengthening families
• mediation
• parenting classes
• kids in divorce & separation
• anger management
• self-sufficiency
• social skills grades 1-3
• children at risk for abuse, neglect, developmental problems
• social skills for 3-8 year olds
• physical activity and healthy eating
• prevention of alcohol, tobacco, drug abuse
• violence prevention for 9-11 year olds
• gang awareness and prevention
• aggression replacement for 13-17 year olds
• dating abuse and violence

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