Workshop teaches parents how to communicate and connect with their children

Parents who attended the workshop split up into pairs to talk about what kinds of misunderstandings they have had with their kids recently and how they approached it. (Photo by Peter Currier)

WESTFIELD – Communicating with children was the focus of a workshop Jan. 29 hosted by the Coalition for Outreach Recovery and Education and the Westfield Public Schools.

The Family Communication Workshop at the Westfield Intermediate School was open to all parents and guardians of Westfield Public School children. It was designed to give parents an understanding of what their children are learning in their health curriculum in relation to drug use. The workshop also gave parents the opportunity to discuss what kinds of misunderstandings they have had with their kids, and how they can improve communication at home. 

“It helps parents gain an understanding of the kids curriculum so they may connect to it at home,” said Westfield Schools Director of Curriculum Susan Dargie. “It is a prosocial curriculum for students in grades 3 – 10 to develop their skills for when they are confronted with unhealthy choices.”

Dargie added that, as partners in education with the parents, it is important to keep them connected with their children. 

Part of the data for the workshop came from a survey of students in grades 8, 10, and 12 about drug use and other concerns parents may have. Dargie said that there has been an increase in marijuana and vaping use among WPS students from 2017 to 2019. There was also a decrease in alcohol consumption during that same time period. 

The workshop on Wednesday evening was part two of four, with two more workshops expected to take place in March and May respectively. Those workshops will again be open to all WPS parents and guardians. Childcare will be provided for parents wishing to attend. 

The focus on Wednesday was about protective factors in keeping their kids from making unhealthy choices. 

Some of the strategies that were discussed on Wednesday included making sure to talk to your kid every day, and to acknowledge that one will inevitably have disagreements with their child and how to approach it when it happens.

Dargie was joined by health educator Liz Bolivar from Highland and Paper Mill Elementary schools as well as Michele Tarbox, the lead health teacher from Westfield Intermediate School.

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