What started a few years ago with a few lunch-and-learn sessions for parents at Johns Creek High has mushroomed into a robust program designed to educate and inform parents about issues that impact their children’s lives – as well as their own.
Parent University, an outreach of the school’s Parent Teacher Student Association, grew out of a recognized need to address concerns around stress, anxiety and well-being among students and the families who support them.
“Initially, it was a positive way to talk about discipline and attendance,” said Maiko Noiri-Schoen, the school’s social worker. “But soon we found we were talking more about mental health. The organizers reached out to local therapists and had them come to talk about topics like academic pressure and to offer tools to parents that could improve academics and attendance.”
The PTSA also addressed students’ needs by launching Wellness Wednesdays, when information about various ways to support mental health are shared in the school. Then it turned its attention to expanding the offerings for parents.
About once a month, the Parent University sessions bring adults together with speakers, films and discussion panels. A recent gathering featured a conversation with Jeannine Jannot, author of “The Disintegrating Student.” Another screened the documentary, “Race to Nowhere,” and followed that with three discussion sessions around how to deal with school pressures. That conversation continues on Nov. 21 and Dec. 6.
“We encounter a lot of student anxiety and competition stress, and parents don’t always know how to communicate to children about it,” said Noiri-Schoen. “So our topics have included escaping the competition trap, wellness for you and your teen, parenting skills and five things teens wished their parents knew.
“It also helps for parents to come together and hear what other parents are dealing with. It’s great to have one-on-one interaction with other parents when you’re struggling,” she said.
Rachana Sureka, a pediatrician, PTSA member and mother of two Johns Creek students, has seen the need for parent education through the success of the Wellness Wednesday events and how positively they have been received by students.
“Whether it’s through Parent University or Wellness Wednesdays, we’re trying to figure out ways to focus on overall physical, emotional and social well being,” she said. “There is such an increase in depression and anxiety that we see a terrific need to address it. That might be talking to kids about vaping or handling communication with your teenager. We just want everyone to know that well being is very important.”
Information about Johns Creek High is online at johnscreekhs.net. Learn details about upcoming Parent University sessions by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
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