“Parenting at the Creek: How to Catch Up Keep Up and Stay Ahead”

One of the most valuable benefits to parents of belonging to the Indian Creek School (ICS) community is forming a partnership with the school and other parents in order to keep our children healthy and safe. The ICS Parent Teacher Organization (PTO) helps to facilitate these bonds by providing several Parent Education Sessions each year, where parents can come together to hear from experts on a variety of topics that are important to ICS families. On Saturday, December 2, the ICS PTO held a Parent Education Symposium entitled, “Parenting at the Creek: How to Catch Up Keep Up and Stay Ahead,” which achieved the PTO goal of bringing parents together with the school to create an outstanding experience for our children.

The Parent Symposium began early Saturday morning, with a welcome from Head of School Dr. Branson.  As he welcomed the parents, Dr. Branson acknowledged that parenting is a challenging job, especially in today’s world. “Parenting may not be harder or easier today than it was 30 years ago, but it is certainly more complicated.” Dr. Branson thanked the parents in attendance and gave them praise for striving to learn all they can in order to raise healthy, safe, happy kids. After this welcome, Dr. Branson was joined by members of the Indian Creek Equity and Inclusion team, including Christina Bachenberg, Becca Derry, Todd Kerr, and Doug McCuiston, for a conversation on “Building a Strong, Resilient, and Inclusive Community.” During this session, the audience was broken into small groups of parents, many of whom had not met before, for a brainstorming session. Parents were asked to generate ideas about ways to help our School continue to evolve as a community that is diverse and equitable. Parents wrote their ideas on Post-It notes, then shared their responses with the entire audience. As the session ended, parents were asked to answer the question “What is the next thing that Indian Creek School can do for parents?” on a post it note as their exit ticket. Dr. Branson consolidated these answers and has shared them with the PTO officers and the Equity and Inclusion team for follow up.

Next, parents could choose to attend one of two sessions: “Creating a Home of Peaceful Responsiveness,” with Lower School teachers Christine Andrews and Emma Moran, or “Human Development at Indian Creek School,” with Lower School Counselor Christina Bachenberg and Upper School Associate Head Matt McCormick. The Peaceful Responsiveness session shared practices for the whole family that weave together techniques from the Conscious Discipline behavioral management system with mindfulness practices in order to achieve calm, positive, atmosphere at home. Ms. Bachenberg and Mr. McCormick shared details about the School’s Human Development curriculum for students of all ages, and illustrated the many ways that these lessons often adjust based on events occurring at school and in the wider world. Both sessions took the format of conversations, rather than presentations, so that parents had the opportunity to ask questions, share ideas and concerns, and encourage each other.

The keynote speech for the day was entitled, “Never Too Late: How to Support Your Child’s Healthy Sexual Development.” Presented by author and sexuality educator Debbie Roffman, this session was poignant, funny, straightforward, and informative for parents with children of all ages. Roffman is renowned as one of the most articulate professional voice in the US on the need for broad-based human sexuality education. Her ability to find common ground by keeping the focus on young people and their universal needs around healthy sexual development is one of her gifts, and she certainly shared that gift with the parents of Indian Creek School. Parents of students in Pre-Kindergarten through twelfth grade gathered together to learn from her wisdom about how to create and maintain open and honest lines of communication about what many parents consider to be a difficult subject. “Sex is a very special and unique form of human intimacy,” Roffman answered to a question about what to say to an adolescent who has questions about sexuality. She advised parents to share that sex is a very powerful behavior, which can lead to great good and also great bad. Some of the biggest take-aways from her session is that its never too early to start talking to your children about sex, and that children should be given facts and correct terminology when talking about this issue, as they would be for questions on other topics. Roffman identified five core needs across the developmental spectrum to guide all conversations with children: Affirmation, Information, Clarity about Values, Limit Setting, and Anticipatory Guidance. She shared examples of conversations between parents and children of a variety of ages that met these needs to illustrate positive interactions.

Parents left the Symposium feeling connected, informed, and grateful to Indian Creek School for facilitating these conversations that will benefit our families in many ways.