By Emily Williams
Parenting isn’t easy. There isn’t a book that can be read or an app that can be downloaded to solve all of the mysteries and struggles. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t help available.
One of the ways the Mountain Brook school system helps parents is through participation in All In Mountain Brook, a community-based nonprofit organization that educates students and parents on issues that students today face by hosting talks and workshops throughout the year.
On Nov. 8, the organization will be hosting its annual “All In Parenting” fall conference at Mountain Brook High School. The free event includes three 45-minute sessions from 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. featuring speakers discussing a variety of tools parents can use to help their children.
Many members of the community may be familiar with Mountain Brook Schools Director of Student Services Dale Wisely, who will be a featured speaker.
Wisely has been a child and adolescent psychologist for more than 30 years and – in addition to overseeing the school system’s counseling, guidance, health and at-risk programs – regularly hosts speaking engagements and workshops on parenting and family matters. He also is a founding member and board secretary for All In.
“Everyone I know who works with youth is seeing an increase in anxiety and stress among kids,” Wisely said. “I don’t know anyone who can say why.
“Social media is likely a contributor. Academic expectations may well be higher than ever. Young people are often way too busy and are universally sleep-deprived. I don’t think it’s ever been a walk in the park to be a kid, but these are not easy times for them.”
While working closely with adolescents and parents throughout his career, Wisely has found that parents often feel overwhelmed and isolated regardless of how many resources their communities offer. His hope is that programs such as this conference provide people an opportunity to really think about the struggles their children go through and gather as much information as possible.
“I often wonder if these programs we do for parents, at their best, help parents spend time focusing on some of the common issues,” Wisely said. “With so much to do these days, it can be hard for parents to sit down and say, for example, ‘OK, here’s the thing about underage drinking, and here’s the stance we need to take on it.’”
At the fall conference, Wisely will be leading the talk “Exit Strategies,” which is one of his newer talks.
“It describes a long-term approach to parenting that helps youth learn to recognize the dangers in high-risk situations and to approach those situations with an established set of strategies for getting themselves out of danger while saving face with their peers,” Wisely said.
In the talk, Wisely notes that repetition is key in this approach, and he provides some ways parents can regularly engage their children in discussions about common risky situations such as drunk driving, sex, dangerous stunts or drugs.
Hitting the High Points
The slate of speakers will include Dr. Lee Keyes, long-time director of the University of Alabama’s counseling center, talking about emotional and behavioral strains that college students face.
Dr. Susan Walley, a pediatric pulmonologist at UAB, will give a presentation on issues with e-cigarettes and vaping. According to Wisely, Walley is a national figure when it comes to her topic.
In addition, attendees will hear from the Rev. Rich Webster, Dr. Andrea Hendricks, Jerry Hood and Mountain Brook High School Principal Amanda Hood, and municipal court Judge K.C. Hairston.
Joining Wisely and Hood in representing Mountain Brook schools will be Superintendent Dicky Barlow, speaking on the subject of family dinner conversations and healthy decision-making.
Wisely said the community can be proud that the school system is so heavily involved in the All In program.
“The leadership of this district – Dr. Barlow, our principals and our school board – have been uniformly supportive of our efforts to reduce the very real dangers and risks our youth face,” he said. “We also get great support from the city government, the City Council, the Fire Department, the Police Department and others. They’ve not just been supportive, they have been out in front, directly involved and very much visible.”
OTM Groups Joining Forces
Groups similar to All In Mountain Brook also have been gaining momentum in the Over the Mountain area, and the groups are finding opportunities to join forces. Most recently, the Safe and Healthy Homewood Coalition and the Homewood Police Department hosted an event Oct. 24 that featured a panel discussion on “Today’s Teen Drug Culture,” opening attendance to Vestavia’s Help the Hills Coalition and All In Mountain Brook.
Until the next joining of forces, the All In community can look forward to the fall conference. The event is open to parents of children of all ages, and a similar parent conference focusing on elementary school children will be held in February.
To register and reserve a space at the event, visit allinmountainbrook.org.