Friday, March 12, 2010

Otsego holds first Dialogue Night for Jr. High students in county

So often, parents and teens don’t know how to talk to each other. Simple discussions quickly turn into arguments and confrontations.

Dialogue Night is an activity funded by the Reducing Alcohol Abuse in Secondary Schools (RAASS) grant from the Wood County Educational Service Center. Traditionally offered to high school students and their parents, the program was offered to middle school students in the Otsego school district on March 9. More than 80 people attended the event.

The goal of the evening was to teach parents and youth how to talk and listen to each other about a variety of subjects in a calm, respectful manner.

During Dialogue Nights, parents and their children are separated into different groups so they each have the opportunity to speak freely about the subjects. Each group has both a youth and adult facilitator to ensure all parties feel listened to and their opinions are valued, not challenged.

Topics are chosen by the youth, as well as by adults from the community. Some of the topics discussed at the Otsego Middle School Dialogue Night included whether junior high students should have cell phones; whether junior high students should date; and the pros and cons of Facebook and MySpace.

It is the goal of Dialogue Night that a conversational comfort level will be reached and parents and teens will consequently be more inclined to talk together in the future.

“There are no winners or losers,” said Debbie Marinik, the community organizer for the Reducing Alcohol Abuse in Secondary Schools (RAASS) grant through the Wood County Educational Service Center. It’s not about one person’s opinion being better than another persons’. It’s about being heard and leaving Dialogue Night feeling that their opinions have been valued.”

“One of the things we know is that parent opinion is very important to teens when they are making decisions that can effect their whole lives,” she continued. “Yet so frequently, teens and their parents have a very difficult time trying to broach important topics without pushing each others buttons and starting a major disagreement.”

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