By Helen Burke, BYS Counselor 

“Making the decision to have a child – it is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body.” – Elizabeth Stone, Teacher, Journalist, Author

This quote is just one of the reasons that the merger of Raising Resilience and Bainbridge Youth Services is so exciting! Throughout my time with BYS, I have had the privilege of working with both teens and parents and I know for sure that supporting parents in the hard work of parenting is one of the best ways to support our youth. I am grateful to be part of an organization that will continue to build on the parent support that Raising Resilience has provided to the community since 2003.

Through my personal experience as a parent and my professional work with parents, I have learned a few things: Parenting is hard – it can be scary and isolating. Parenting can feel like a competitive sport. Parenting can be joyful. Parents often feel criticized and unfairly judged. Parenting is incredibly meaningful and important work that is often undervalued. Parenting is easier when we can share the load.

Maybe you have heard or read about the idea that families are “systems;” that the actions and behaviors of each member of the system impacts the whole family. If one member of the family is struggling, the whole family feels the impact. We also know that parents have more power than children to impact the well-being of the family. This is why supporting parents is so critical to kids’ well-being. A parent who feels supported is a parent who is more able to show up for their kid(s) with presence, patience, and love. Who will help parents put on their oxygen masks? Friends, extended family, counselors, and other parents who have been there.

Research focusing on communities with “high achieving schools” such as Bainbridge Island consistently shows higher levels of anxiety, depression, and substance use in youth. This same research advises that one of the top priorities for intervening to support these kids’ well-being should be to ensure the well-being of the adults in significant caregiving roles like parents and teachers (for more information check out this interview with Suniya Luthar).

Parents report feeling exhausted by the demands of being human (and parenting humans) in the midst of a pandemic and global upheaval. My wish for parents is that they find they are not alone with their exhaustion, their worry, their fears about whether their kids will be okay. I hope you agree that carrying forward the work of Raising Resilience to support parents fits right in with BYS’ mission to promote youth mental health and wellness in our community. If you are interested in more resources and research on this topic please feel free to email me at [email protected].