Parent University tries to untangle confusion

Program aims to get parents involved in children's education


One minute a teenager could be happily texting with friends. The next they're raging at their parents. And before mom and dad can blink, the teen is back to cracking jokes in the group chat.

Was what just happened typical teenage mood swings, or something more serious?

Kristen Giltinan, a psychiatrist with the Colorado Psychiatry Center, walked a room full of Douglas County parents through the differences between bipolar disorder, borderline personality disorder and their treatment options during a Feb. 12 event in Lone Tree.

The goal was to help parents tell if their children may have a more serious condition or are just experiencing the unpredictable moods swings common among teenagers.

Numerous factors can influence a teen's behavior, she said. Anxiety, lack of sleep, stress from school, social pressures and, sometimes, a behavioral health condition.

Hands shot up when Giltinan asked how many parents in the room struggled getting their children to go to bed at a good time. Bipolar disorder can affect sleep patterns, but so can the daily pressures on kids in life and school.

“Teenagers are moody by nature because they're having lots of things happening. Their hormones are going. It's not easy being a teenager in this world,” she said.

Giltinan's lecture was the second of five seminars being offered to the community for free this school semester as part of what's called Parent University. The program is a partnership between the Douglas County School District and Sky Ridge Medical Center.

Parent University aims to get parents and caregivers involved in their children's schools and education — and generally help them navigate parenthood. The seminars put them face-to-face with experts on various topics, some focused on raising children and others focused on education.

“We hope to provide the resources and the opportunities for parents to engage with their children at school and after school,” Communication Coordinator Stacy Blaylock said of the school district.

This semester has already covered responsible driving and teen mood swings. Upcoming seminars will address responding to signs of suicide, preparing students for college and careers and gifted education.

Nearly 100 people registered for the Feb. 12 seminar on teen mood swings. Blaylock said the most popular or well-attended seminars have covered teen vaping, driving, and the Feb. 12 seminar on moods.

“As a district we've been doing quite a bit of exploration and emphasis in social emotional learning, and everyone understands that it's more than just grades that make a successful student,” Blaylock said. “In many ways we're trying to tailor it to what parents need as well.”

The program began a couple years ago and is still in its infancy stages, Blaylock said. Organizers are gathering feedback from attendees to see what was helpful and what they're hoping to learn from seminars. In the future they may look at incorporating early childhood development resources for parents of children younger than high school.

Kristi O'Neill, a nurse at Sky Ridge, attended to learn about more resources available for the community. She's attended two seminars and felt the information was helpful to parents trying to determine what behavior is “normal teenage angst.”

“I just think it's a really good resource for parents. For anybody in the community. Parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, anybody who has a child in their life,” she said.


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