Priscilla Behnke. Photo by Mason Callejas

By Priscilla Behnke

It is important for parents to be involved in their kids’ lives, especially teens. Here are three ways to connect and why.

  1. Eat dinner with your kids around the table at least once a week. Talk to them about their day, their successes, their challenges and your expectations.

Why it matters: The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University has been researching substance abuse and prevention policy for over a decade. They have found teens who always have dinner with their families are less likely to drink, smoke and use drugs than the teens who don’t. It’s a simple prescription.

  1. Join a parent teacher organization (PTO). You can join with other engaged parents to organize fun events for families as well as raise much-needed funds for your child’s school.

Why it Matters: With all the focus on the new state grades assigned to local schools, it’s important to remember parent involvement is part of the equation for student success. According to Alicia Coatney, a parent of Maricopa Unified School District students and president of the Maricopa Elementary School PTO, there is a huge benefit to being involved in your local PTO. It isn’t just about funding: “There is plenty of research that links parent involvement in schools to improved academic achievement and reduced absences. Students with involved parents typically earn higher grades and test scores, as well as exhibit better social skills and markedly improved behaviors. Parent involvement provides support for children who might face academic hurdles or other challenges with friendships or extracurricular activities.”

  1. Mentor a student who needs individualized attention. Often, students who need it can’t always get it due to home situations and class sizes. You can help. Be Awesome works with the MUSD to provide students with screened, trained and caring mentors. For one half hour a week you can meet with a kiddo and let them know they matter and help them navigate through their challenges at school with friends, teachers and academics.

Why it matters: Decades of empirical data shows children who have mentors are more likely to perform better in school, graduate high school, be less likely to attempt suicide, commit crimes or engage in substance abuse. It’s a simple a solution to an array of problems currently plaguing our youth. Unfortunately, the time commitment is a challenge for working families, which has led to a long waiting list for kids who could benefit right here in Maricopa. If you or someone you know could help, contact us; we’d love to connect you.



Priscilla Benhke is program director for Maricopa CAASA and Be Awesome Coalition.

This column appears in the January issue of InMaricopa.


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