SHARING THE KNOWLEDGE Parents Turn to Each Other for Solutions to Difficult Parenting Problems in Support Group

Article excerpt

Valerie Ficke grew up in a single-parent home with an alcoholic

mother.

"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

memories.

"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. …

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