ICC workshops to help parents with toolkit for raising kids

By Elise Zwicky For Chronicle Media
Lisa Gentry, a public school teacher and licensed therapist, will facilitate a series of parenting workshops at Illinois Central College beginning Saturday, July 16.

Lisa Gentry, a public school teacher and licensed therapist, will facilitate a series of parenting workshops at Illinois Central College beginning Saturday, July 16.

As every parent knows, kids don’t come with an instruction manual. Illinois Central College has created a series of interactive parenting workshops, however, that will at least provide a tool kit to handle the difficult issues that arise when raising children.

“Life’s hard. Growing up is hard. Raising kids is difficult. I’m very passionate about kids, and I’d like to make life better for kids and their families,” said workshop facilitator Lisa Gentry.

Titled “Your Parenting Toolkit,” the four workshops each deal with issues relevant to specific age groups and are divided into these categories: young children up to age 5, elementary ages 6-9, preteens ages 10-12 and teens ages 13-17.

The first workshop, emphasizing young children, takes place from 8:30 to 10:30 a.m. Saturday, July 16, at Hickory Hall at ICC North, 5407 N. University in Peoria. The second, dealing with ages 6-9, follows from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the same location. The third and fourth workshops will both be offered on Aug. 20.

The cost is $30 per person for each session.

“We’ve tried to keep it affordable to bring in as many parents as we can,” Gentry said. “I’m sure $30 for some families may be a stretch, but you also want it to be valuable to the family.”

Though recently developed, the workshops have been a long time in the making and evolved from an educational program called Children First that’s mandated in Illinois for parents with children under the age of 18 who are involved in custody and visitation issues.

“We have started offering these workshops because of interest expressed by the parents in our Children First classes,” said Melissa Dusseau, coordinator of public programs for ICC’s Professional Development Institute. “The goal of Children First is to prepare parents for typical types of problems they might encounter during their proceedings and help them be more aware of the needs of their children.”

Participants in the Children First classes were asking for more in-depth information for the particular ages of their children, she added.

“ICC had been thinking about workshops for all parents for quite awhile. They approached me about it because I had expressed interest awhile back,” said Gentry, one of the Children First instructors for ICC. “It’s really kind of a grassroots thing where I’d been collecting activities and different information in trying to put together something helpful for parents.”

Gentry currently teaches sixth grade in Pekin Grade School District 108 and has more than 20 years experience in education. She also works as a private practice therapist and holds several degrees in education from Illinois State University and a degree in counseling from Bradley University.

“What I’ve developed for these parenting workshops is a lot more experiential activities where we role-play,” Gentry said. “ I could fill several days with different activities, but this is kind of a brief overview to get people started with some new ideas and to have an opportunity to practice  (skills). I’ve also built in time to answer questions, because I’ve found that’s an important piece of this.”

Topics will include how to conduct a family meeting, why children misbehave, effective ways to communicate with children, effective parenting styles, the difference between discipline and punishment and how to parent during difficult times.

“My philosophy in creating these parenting classes and creating these activities is to help parents understand how their children are trying to communicate with them. Behavior is a child’s language, especially when they don’t have the words to be able to express how they’re feeling,” Gentry said. “That’s true even for grownups, but it’s really apparent when they’re little, so we need to help them understand and identify their feelings.”

One of the activities Gentry will emphasize in the workshops is identifying what children are trying to get when they’re misbehaving.

“Sometimes they just need attention. Sometimes they’re feeling powerless. Sometimes they’re feeling wronged. Another one I see in my classroom and in working with kids is something called ‘assumed inadequacy.’ It’s basically when they feel like they’re already defeated before they get started so why bother trying,” Gentry explained.

“So we’ll work on understanding their motivation for the behavior so we can address the underlying issues and then help them be able to work through and cope with those feelings and problem solve,” she added.

One tool Gentry will teach is called “bugs and wishes.”

them,” she said. “One of the examples I give is: it bugs me when you cut in line, and I wish you’d wait your turn. My husband and I use this as a way of communicating conflict as well. When you’re emotional or upset, it’s a good script to rely on so you don’t say something ugly that you don’t mean, and it’s still done in a respectful way.”

As the mother of a 19-year-old son, Gentry also has personal experience in raising a child.

“My son is phenomenal, and I give credit to the village that has helped me raise him. I may have been steering the ship, but I certainly haven’t been alone on the cruise. I know when I need to involve other people, like coaches, teachers, counselors, extended family who I know have the same common values. So I would like to do that for other families,” she said.

Gentry said the workshops would be good for any parent, not just parents who are currently experiencing issues with their children. “Every child is different. Even within the same family you have different personalities, and what works for one child may not work for another. That’s why it helps to have a set of tools in your tool belt,” she noted.

For more information or to register for the workshops, call (309) 690-6900 or visit www.icc.edu/pdi/parenting. The workshops will be offered again on Sept. 17 and Oct. 15.




— ICC workshops to help parents with toolkit for raising kids —