Underlining causes for the unengaged parent

BY RAVEN JOY SHONEL, Staff Writer

ST. PETERSBURG – The Parent Support for Education Council (PSFEC) held a parent forum Saturday, April 16 at the Enoch Davis Center. For years they have held parent summits focusing on increasing family and community engagement, and this meeting broke down some of the causes for the lack of parent involvement.

PSFEC President Pastor Martin Rainey urged the community not to paint all parents with the same broad bush. He explained that there are three types of parents: the engaged parent, the parent that wants to be engaged but don’t know how and the parent that appears not to care.

For the parent that appears not to care, there are often underlining causes as to why they are not involved in the lives of their children. For instance, parents who are in domestic violence situations, parents who are struggling to keep their heads above water, parents who lack education and the list could go on and on.

One parent on hand to give a testimony was Candice Moore. Having her first child at age 13, she understands what it means to struggle. With eight children in total, she had no guidance from her parents and ended up homeless living in a shelter. She struggled to educate herself and her children, never giving up.

Moore thanked Rainey for his guidance. She said he was the only person who took the time to help and encourage her.

“He stepped in as a father figure,” she said, stating that if more people would do the same “we’ll start seeing a change in this community.”

She challenges all of the “seasoned women” in the community to take a struggling parent under their wing and help guide them through life.

“We need you. We need you to slow down when you’re in that grocery store and say one extra thing to us. We need you to slow down when you see us disciplining our children and we’re not able to do it in a proper fashion,” she implored.

Dr. Wanda Barnes from Caring Community Counseling spoke about teaching parents how to handle the stresses of everyday life so that they do not teach angry and frustration to their children.

She gave an example of how one child at her office walked by a plant and yelled, “What are you looking at?” That child picked up on bad behavior modeled to them.

Caring Community Counseling works with children from age two to adults. They counsel couples, families and individuals. If a client cannot meet at their office, their staff will come to them.

Barnes explained that some people need more than just a Ph.D. counselor, so they offer case management.

“They need to know how to keep their lights on, need help getting a job, the children need help with dental and medical appointments,” she said.

Caring Community Counseling takes all insurances and Medicaid. From anger management to domestic violence counseling to trauma counseling, they offer high quality services that are sensitive to a wide variety of clients.

Therapist Cara Dixon Taliaferro, who works under Dr. Barnes, spoke on trauma. She explained that trauma can be subtle and it doesn’t have to rape, war or surviving a disaster.

“When we’re talking about trauma, we’re talking about something that happened, what happened and at what point in your life that it happened,” she said.

Taliaferro said trauma could start in the womb. If a mother is being physically abused while the child is inside her, the child is experiencing it right along with her.

What are some symptoms of a child that has experience trauma in the womb? A child having a temper tantrum is not always a bad child, they could be remembering trauma. A child that won’t stop crying or who won’t eat doesn’t have to necessarily be sick; they could be experiencing trauma symptoms.

In school settings, children who have been through trauma both in and outside of the womb are often viewed as difficult. Many of these children will go into a dissociative state where their body is present, but their mind is not. They may be re-experiencing what they’ve gone through.

Sometimes trauma can be triggered by someone who looks or sounds like a person that has hurt them.

“What you get is a child who is not being compliant,” Taliaferro said. “They are not necessarily being bad; it is possible you are looking at a child who is in a dissociative state.”

Taliaferro said it is easy to think that the child is bad or that the parent is negligent, but it is possible these children are showing trauma symptoms.

Rainey said the community needs to know how to identify these traits in children so that the problems can be fixed. Behavioral problems are the primary reasons given for the low success rate at Lakewood, Maximo, Fairmount Park, Melrose and Campbell Park Elementary Schools.

“If you can’t get discipline in the classroom, you cannot effectively teach,” he said.

A panel discussion followed on how to encourage parents and caring adults to increase engagement with Apostle Ellis Hodge from Word of Life Fellowship Church, Pastor Shurrea Daniels of Kingdom Restoration Outreach ministry, educator James Oliver and Dr. Barnes.

The Juvenile Welfare Board and 2-1-1 Tampa Bay Cares were on hand to give out important information to families along with the Tutor Doctor, which is an in-home tutoring service. Local franchise owner Laura Hughes is looking for volunteers to open up their homes to small, organized groups of five students one day a week for one hour. For more information, please call 888-718-8832 or log onto TutorDoctor.com.

PSFEC meets every third Thursday of each month at 6:30 p.m. at Melrose Elementary School, 1752 13th Ave. S, in the library. The community is welcome!

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