Valerie Ficke grew up in a single-parent home with an alcoholic
"I was raised with a lot of yelling and screaming and
spanking," she said. "I knew I didn't want to bring my children
up that way."
But when Ficke would return home from work in 1992 while her
Navy husband was out on sea duty, she noticed she was constantly
reprimanding her two small children. And she didn't spend enough
quality time with them, she said.
Alcoholism wasn't a problem for Ficke, still, she could see
shades of her mother's parenting behavior. That was exactly what
she didn't want.
She began looking for ways to change.
In her quest to become a better parent, Ficke formed
ParentLink, a support group in which parents help each other
deal with the trials and tribulations of raising children.
Now the group continues to meet, every Wednesday night at
Englewood High School.
Gathering in a small group, these parents talk about parenting.
They discuss handling unruly children, spouses who abuse kids
and the difficulties of raising a child as a single parent or
grandparent. Once lone crusaders, they now turn to each other,
commiserate, and look for solutions.
"Sometimes the parent feels alone with the problem," said Peter
Racine, executive director of The Exchange Club Family Center.
The center, a non-profit agency involved in child-abuse
prevention and family support, administers ParentLink with a
$3,000 grant from The Parent Network of Florida. The network is
made up of 45 community-based parent support groups.
"Everybody has problems raising their kids," he said. "Theirs
may be a little more extreme."
Child-rearing challenges were not astronomical for Ficke, 29.
But she knew she didn't want to discipline her children the way
her mother had disciplined her.
"She was extremely abusive," Ficke said. "She was a single
parent, an alcoholic. With those two situations, it didn't leave
very much time for bringing up her children. We were latchkey
children basically left on our own."
When she had her own children, Ficke was haunted by those
"I knew I had the potential to be rather firm in terms of
disciplining," she said. "I didn't want to be as coarse or as
harsh as my mom was with me and I knew I needed to do something
to break the cycle of potential child abuse in the home."
Many of the parents in the support group were abused
themselves, Racine said.
"It's open to any parent, but some of the parents that are
there feel like they may be at the stage or getting ready to go
across the line, and that's why they're there," he said. …