Parent Engagement Expands During Remote Learning

DCSD Parent Engagement Expands During Remote Learning
Posted on 06/10/2020
DCSD Parent Engagement Expands During Remote Learning

During the recent remote learning period, Douglas County School District (DCSD) expanded its parent engagement opportunities with a series of online webinars on social-emotional well-being. With homes now serving as the classroom, parents became more involved in their child's education helping their students both academically and emotionally. Resources offered by DCSD aimed to connect parents with community experts who can help families build additional skills in supporting and empowering their children.

DCSD Parent University Webinar

In partnership with Sky Ridge Medical Center, DCSD Parent University invited experts to tackle the tough issues that parents and students were experiencing during social isolation. "Manage Your Fears (And Your Kids Fears) as the Pandemic Evolves" featured Whitney Kearney, LPC, Director of outpatient programming at the HealthONE Behavioral Health & Wellness Center, and Dr. Jacob Beniflah, Pediatric Emergency Medicine physician at Sky Ridge Medical Center and Presbyterian St. Luke's Hospital.

Kearney spoke on what parents can say to kids of different age groups, what behaviors to expect, and how parents can keep their children and themselves healthy.

Whitney Kearney Presentation "[As a parent, you] are taking on many roles you did not realize you'd be taking on in this circumstance, whether that's teacher or barber or chef or whatever it might be," said Kearney. "Be realistic with yourself and what you're capable of doing and recognize you don't have to do it all! We do the best we can, and that's wonderful."

Helpful Resources:
DCSD Parent University is made possible through a partnership with Sky Ridge Medical Center.

"We have loved our partnership with the Douglas County School District to offer important topics from vaping to depression to parents through Parent University," said Linda Watson, Director of Marketing and Public Relations at Sky Ridge Medical Center. "With mental health and medical professionals on hand to provide guidance and answer questions, we believe Parent University is a great community resource for teachers, parents, and students."

DCSD Health, Wellness, and Prevention Webinar Series

DCSD Parent University also partnered with DCSD Health, Wellness, and Prevention to provide brief 30-minute webinars on social-emotional well-being. Jamie Montoya-De Smidt, Coordinator for Team Universal Prevention (Team U.P.) and Laurie LaComb, Coordinator for DCSD Healthy Schools, tapped into experts across the school district and within the community to share valuable resources with parents.

Watch the DCSD Health, Wellness, and Prevention webinars:

Both Montoya-De Smidt and LaComb facilitated each webinar.

"The webinars were a joy to do," reflected LaComb. "I feel like I left with something from every one of them."

"From a personal perspective, Dr. Saiz's webinar was the most impactful for me," said Montoya-De Smidt. "The concepts weren't necessarily new, but the way he presented them had me go out and actually take on those practices. It shifted things in my relationships."

Healthy Teen Series Book Study

Meanwhile, the Parker Area Counselors for Prevention continued their Healthy Teen Series with a virtual book study for parents. Emily Benson, Counselor for Prevention at Cimarron Middle School; Andrea Christensen, Counselor for Prevention at Sagewood Middle School; and Tiffany Anderson, Counselor for Prevention at Sierra Middle School, started the Healthy Teen Series at the beginning of the 2018-2019 school year. They sought to bring the types of resources parents needed to the community free of charge. Before the COVID-19 pandemic began, the Healthy Teen Series featured several in-person events addressing anxiety, self-esteem, internet safety, and vaping prevention.

The Counselors for Prevention intended to end the school year with a book study of 13 Things Mentally Strong Parents Don't Do wrapped with a visit from the author, Amy Morin. Unable to move forward, Benson, Christensen, and Anderson migrated the book study to an online platform. They used Padlet to communicate with parents, ask reading questions, and share supplemental materials -- such as a Mentally Strong Parenting podcast with Morin.

"We thought we could reach more people if we had something online," remarked Christensen. "It's a good option for parents unable to come during day and evening events."

The book itself seemed like perfect material for families coping with changes brought on my COVID-19, especially how parents could model and teach values, resilience, responsibility, and balance for their children.

"I think there were a lot of things from the book that apply to my life as a counselor and my life as a parent," said Benson. "For me, my favorite part was not parenting out of fear. That was the best part for me, just remembering how to apply that to my life. "

Anderson echoed Benson's remark. "It is empowering and freeing to have that idea that I'm not responsible for my child's emotions,” said Anderson. “I'm not responsible for everything, and I don't have to shield my child from everything going on. I think it's easy as a parent and in other roles to want to control everything with great intention because you love your child and want them to be happy, healthy, and safe. But sometimes you have to let them fail. You have to show them what it's like to build resiliency."

DCSD Parent University; DCSD Health, Wellness, and Prevention; and the Healthy Teen Series took the initiative to support parents and caregivers during a challenging time. Parent engagement programs such as these will continue to bring resources and education that enable families to take active parts in their child's academic and personal success.
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