OLA’s Youth Connect & Teen Leaders Hold Parent Workshop ‘Helping Your Teenager to Thrive’

OLA of Eastern Long Island will hold a free, bilingual educational workshop for local parents, “Helping Your Teenager to Thrive,” on Wednesday, January 18, from 6 to 8 PM at the Bridgehampton Community House. The event is open to English-speaking and Spanish-speaking parents, who can call 631-899-3441 to register.

Two-time National Book Award finalist Patricia McCormick is the featured guest speaker. She is the author of several books for young adults, including “Cut,” about a 15-year-old girl who engages in self-harm. The event is part of OLA’s new Youth Connect initiative, a project that provides local adolescents with healthy coping strategies through interactive workshops and offers an anonymous, bilingual call/text line that connects teens immediately with a trained crisis counselor.

Organized by eight local youth leaders (ages 13 to 21) in collaboration with OLA’s Youth Connect staff, the event will provide parents the opportunity to discuss concerns and challenges they may be experiencing with teenage family members. Teen organizers have generated topics for discussion that they will openly speak about at the workshop. These include communication and conflict resolution, stress related to academics and parents’ expectations, parental stereotypes of the “angry teen,” and the need for parents to understand their adolescent child’s need for outlets to cope with stress.

Parents will also be asked to share topics and concerns from their perspective, which will be addressed in break-out groups and through role play, where either a Youth Connect crisis counselor or a teen plays the part of the parent, and a parent plays the part of the teen.

“These can be hard conversations to have at home,” said Minerva Perez, OLA’s executive director. “We want to provide a space where teens and parents can come together to discuss the very real issues they are dealing with in their respective families, but without the strife that can be there when parents confront their own teens and vice-versa. Having our teen leaders speak to a group of parents allows for openness and honesty about these important issues, without the conflict that often arises when we’re dealing with our own children.”

This event for parents spun out of OLA’s first annual Youth Summit held in August 2022, during which teen participants raised the issue of their need to have parents understand the importance of their emotional health and to be able to respond more effectively to the anxiety, stress, and depression that they, as adolescents, struggle with daily.

Since the project’s inception in September 2022, OLA’s Youth Connect staff have worked with middle school and high school students in Bridgehampton, East Hampton, and Riverhead schools, with additional upcoming interactive youth workshops scheduled in other East End schools. Youth Connect staff also work outside the schools with local youth groups and speak at houses of worship and other venues to raise awareness about the need to focus on adolescent emotional health.

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