I was recently chatting with a friend in California on Facebook. She had just put her 2-year-old daughter to bed after a tough night that included losing her temper and yelling. In our conversation, my friend was truly distraught about how she had dealt with the situation and was looking to me for support and advice. But it wasn’t clear to me exactly what she was looking for. Simple peer support? A sympathetic friend? A more experienced parent with specific advice? The conversation reminded me of a local resource I had read about in an email last year: the Parenting Support Line. I was curious to learn more about the kind of services the Parenting Support Line’s coach, Roz Levy, provides, so I decided to give her a call.
Tell me a bit about how you got into the parenting support business.
In the 1980s, I worked in a battered women’s shelter on the North Shore, where I created a parenting program for parents living at the shelter. I learned that no matter what parents’ socioeconomic issues are, every parent wants to be a better parent. I started the support line around 2002, after getting involved with Families First Parenting Programs and doing some of their parenting workshops. They stopped that service but I really wanted to continue with private coaching. Now, I work with families from all different backgrounds but have found that most of my coaching calls are from professionals—about 99 percent of clients are college educated, and many with advanced degrees. I get calls from many families with two working parents, single parents and divorced parents. Regardless of family structure, families are often struggling with similar parenting issues.
What are the most common questions people ask?
Parents call for a variety of reasons, from the issues raised by different parenting styles to concerns over bedtime battles with toddlers to teenage relationships and self-esteem issues and just getting children to listen. What gets a parent to pick up the phone is stress and frustration, and the inside button that says, “Enough is enough; I need some new, positive parenting strategies because I am stuck in what I am doing.” A parent often feels that what they’re currently doing no longer works for them; they feel that they’re going nuts! We all feel that way sometimes; parenting can be exhausting, frustrating and stressful, especially when our plates are full. Some new, positive parenting strategies can lighten the load and make a huge difference.
Have you noticed any changes in the issues parents struggle with over the years?
The significant changes are issues around managing the Internet and screen time, as well as bullying and the effect it has on our children. The Internet plays a big role in what parents are dealing with around bullying and monitoring how children are communicating. It’s important to keep the lines of communication open despite our busy schedules and many distractions.
Do you have any overarching advice to parents of young children?
Remember that you’re the role models for your children; they learn how to speak to you from how you speak to them! Just as important, parenting should be enjoyable; make time to take care of yourself and your family. Remember to have fun with your children and find things to laugh about together every day.
Roz Levy is the Parenting Support Line founder and has facilitated parent education workshops and seminars at schools, community centers and shelters for over two decades. A former teacher, she has engaged in private parenting support sessions with mothers, fathers and grandparents. As a counselor at Help for Abused Women and Children, she worked with mothers and their children. She also facilitates parenting workshops for Families First Parenting Programs in Cambridge.