‘The Power of Three’
Local moms empower parents of teens

“The Power of Three,” mothers Laura Lewis Marchino, Carrie Whitley and Nadine Ontiveros, plan the next “Be in the kNOw” forum recently at a local coffee shop. Be in the kNOw was startd as a way for parents to learn how to communicate with and understand their teen-agers better./Photo by Christine Rasmussen

by Christine Rasmussen

In a day and age when kids are so electronically connected, how can parents keep up? How can they know what’s going on in teen-age circles?

The “Be in the kNOw” group is helping to answer those questions. When Durango moms Laura Lewis Marchino, Carrie Whitley and Nadine Ontiveros gathered at their sons’ soccer game last spring, a discussion ensued about the challenges of raising teen-agers. “We started talking about all the different things we deal with; we’ve been humbled many times over,” said Whitley. “We wondered why parents don’t talk openly talk about these things, because other parents are probably more helpful to us than anyone else out there.”

That was the push that got the ball rolling, and within a week, the “Power of 3” moms organized the first “Be in the kNOw” forum, which took place last May. With the goal of helping parents navigate “the toughest job in the world,” the event drew more than 100 parents. The second forum took place earlier this month at the La Plata Boys and Girls Club and hosted more than 60 parents.

Panel topics in the November forum included “The Law and Your Juvenile,” “Keeping Your Teen Safe from Themselves,” “Signs and Trends around Substance Abuse” and “Be a Parent; Friendship Can Happen Later.” Panel members included therapists, doctors, a La Plata County Sheriff’s officer, members of the Durango Police Department, and an attorney experienced in juvenile cases.

Before the session began, the three moms – who have seven teen-agers between them – introduced themselves and explained their motivations for the “Be in the kNOw” forums. “I had an ‘a-ha’ moment when I pulled into the fairgrounds parking lot,” recalled Whitley, “and as I’m sitting there waiting for my kids to come out of the high school, I glance over at a car and there are a bunch of kids smoking pot. It made me uncomfortable with how out in the open it was.”

Ontiveros said her “a-ha” moment came when another adult told her it’s “normal” for all kids to do drugs in Durango. “Something in me snapped at that point. I thought, I am not buying that. We have a small town of teen-agers who have a lot of connections with each other with cell phones and texting. They can all find out within 10 minutes where Spice (a legal synthetic drug, also known as K2 or fake weed) is available. Our goal is to educate each other and say no to this idea that all kids have to be in that situation.”

Hence, the “no” is capitalized in “Be in the kNOw” to emphasize the fact that it doesn’t have to be a certain way with all teen-agers in Durango. “It goes back to that conversation we had on the soccer sidelines,” said Whitley. “We were seeing some good kids with good parents on straight and narrow paths being diverted. Why is this happening in our community? Because it’s normal, and it’s what everybody does? Well then, let’s change the culture.”

Marchino added that parents can be more proactive than reactive when armed with information: “Kids get so much education with the health classes and speakers in the schools, and they have their networks. It’s really important to provide opportunities to make sure parents are knowledgeable – it’s simple stuff, like knowing what a bong looks like. I came from a very naïve perspective, and boy you learn a lot.”

Being in a small community can sometimes be misleading, according to Marchino, as it creates a sense of false safety. “And with our tourist economy, kids are seeing people visiting and letting their hair down, partying, and a lot of the downtown events are alcohol-based. You can’t prevent them from seeing the irresponsible behavior that goes with that, and it becomes more of a norm.”

The feedback on the recent forum was positive overall: “We all heard the same comment that parents wanted to attend more than one session,” said Whitley.

Janine Althany, a family mediator who offers a class called “Personal Responsibility Parenting,” spoke during the panel discussion “Be a Parent; Friendship Can Happen Later.” Althany fielded numerous questions about setting appropriate consequences for teens and ways to effectively communicate with them. “The last time Janine spoke, she connected with three families who used her mediation services, and several people took her parenting class,” said Ontiveros. “These forums are like a springboard for parents to take action if they need to. If we help one family, it’s worth it.”

At the “Signs and Trends” panel, Axis Health Systems therapist Sara Hunt showed photos of different drugs, plants and prescription pills that turn up at some teen-age parties. She also shared common lingo used by teens, for example “Robotripping” is code for the abuse of the cough medicine Robitussin. Hunt informed parents of web sites that kids are using to get their information about drugs, including where to buy them. The “Keeping your Teens Safe” panel topics included internet safety, signs of suicide and why adolescents engage in self-harming behaviors.

As parents asked Althany questions about their specific situations, others nodded in agreement, saying they were going through the same thing. Such opportunities for parents to connect and share can be really helpful, according to Ontiveros. “When Laura and Carrie and I met, we shared that sense that although we are not perfect families, we are trying our best to parent, and we were all feeling on our own. We want other parents to know they are not alone.”

“Be in the kNOw” will likely become an annual forum held in May. There will also be two upcoming forums, one in Bayfield and one in Durango. To receive notifications or to suggest topics, e-mail beintheknowdurango@gmail.com..



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