Editor's note: This article is sponsored to you by the Knox Parent Support Initiative.
With the holidays right around the corner, it’s easy for parents to feel stressed. However, some parents can experience that more than others, especially if they or their children are going through depression or anxiety.
Growing up, Mount Vernon native Angey Watkins dealt with anxiety and depression. In middle school, she was socially awkward, bullied, and at times the emotions she bottled in from those interactions went home with her, turning into arguments with her parents.
Now, as a mother of three young daughters with her husband, Watkins can see a lot of herself in her daughters, including anxiety and emotional distress. Rather than inflict any sort of trauma or lash out at them for their feelings, she’s taking extra steps to make sure she can help them work through their emotions.
“Raising younger kids, for me, I wouldn't say is easy. But there’s a lot of tips and tricks out there that you can find, a lot of information like ‘this is how you deal with a toddler.’ But with my oldest being 12 and already having that teenager spirit, I was like, ‘I think I'm running out of tools,’” Watkins said.
In the spring of 2020, the pandemic started up and Watkins’ kids had to finish school online. At the same time, she did not have a job, having recently graduated from a dental hygiene program. Like many families around the world, Watkins had to deal with the stress of getting through difficult, isolating times.
While scrolling through Facebook one day, she noticed a post inviting parents to a virtual teenage parenting class hosted through the Knox Parent Support Initiative, an initiative providing Triple P Parenting. Since she was all out of ideas on her own, Watkins decided to give it a try.
“I was nervous because I thought we were going to go in there and they were going to act like teachers or something. I didn't know how it would be,” Watkins said.
To Watkins’ surprise and delight, the class exceeded her expectations. Rather than feeling lectured or taught to, the coordinators of the class would be in the group with them, offering and asking for advice.
“We all had kind of ‘aha’ moments together,” Watkins said. “I quickly made friends with them and the other parents in the group. There would be grandparents. Some people were caregivers or teachers. It was a really wide, different kind of group. And it wasn't just moms. It was dads and moms, and it was really cool.”
Susan McDonald, coordinator of the Knox Parent Support Initiative, has been with the program for four and a half years and provides easy and consistent access to the program, classes, courses, individual sessions and other resources and support. With the holidays coming up, parents need to know that their frustrations and emotions are valid and that there are resources available.
“I think that a lot of times, during the holidays, we as parents have really high expectations of what the holidays are supposed to be like and how we're supposed to parent during that time,” Watkins said. “Oftentimes we feel like it's supposed to be this magical, amazing, memory-making time—which it is. But at the same time, we want our children to be present and appreciate the holidays. And sometimes our expectations for all of that is really high.”
The Knox Parent Support Initiative gives good tips and strategies for parents in need of support. Parents also have access to on-demand learning.
“It really is a survival skill to make sure that we are taking good care of ourselves as parents because if we're not, we can't fill from an empty cup,” McDonald said. “And the holidays just heighten all of that responsibility or expectation that we have.”
Watkins doesn’t want parents to feel ashamed for taking parenting classes due to a certain stigma that says you’re not a good parent if you take them. She appreciates the Knox Parent Support Initiative for giving the Mount Vernon community an opportunity for families to share in their struggles and overcome them.
“I think it's important to know that there should be no shame—that actually it should be celebrated that you’re doing everything you can to be the best parent you can be for your child. It's always been a hard world but you really got to be on your game and prepared. And I really feel like the Knox Parent Support Initiative does that. They give you the tools that you need to support your kids and their individuality.”
The Knox Parent Support Initiative provides resources that give parents the support they need to handle stressful situations with their families in a healthy manner. Visit them on Facebook or Triple P to learn more about parenting classes for you and your loved ones.
A special thank you to our dedicated funders, Ariel Foundation and United Way of Knox of Knox County.