CEDAR RAPIDS — Tanager Place is inviting area parents and guardians to the Cedar Rapids Public Library Thursday to encourage discussions on mental health and broach other difficult subjects with children.
Family Engagement Evening will be held at the downtown Cedar Rapids Public Library 5:30 to 7 p.m.
The intention is for any parent, guardian or professional who works with young children or adolescents to connect to resources and learn how to discuss difficult topics with children, said Joan Hackbarth, Tanager’s director of advancement.
The event is the first of its kind for Tanager, a mental health and behavioral treatment center for children and families, and coincides with its commitment to mental health and its emphasis on discussing trauma-informed care. It will conduct a trauma-informed care symposium in May, Hackbarth said.
“The conversation around mental health even when I was growing up was uncomfortable,” she recalled. “That’s really inaccurate.
“It’s important that we have that total-health concept. Through professional engagement, mental health can be treated in such a way that is successful and is a piece of something we know how to live with ... or we can say that’s a season in my life and I surpassed it.”
Part of encouraging conversations on mental health is to engage parents, said Abby Seyfer, clinical supervisor at Tanager. Seyfer oversees Tanager’s school-based therapists, who work with students in districts across the Cedar Rapids Metropolitan Area.
“I think there’s a lot of new discussion about trauma in the brain and how parents can connect with kids through relationships,” Seyfer said. “We thought this was the best platform to get that out.”
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Parents can attend the 20-minute sessions on Thursday that cover three topics, the first of which is about connection-based parenting.
“It’s a different lens through which to view the parent-child relationship, and it challenges the more authoritative way of parenting,” Seyfer said. “The presentation has roots in new research with brain and trauma and how kids are able to respond to structure.”
The second session will detail how parents can “set appropriate structures and expectations” for children’s use of electronic devices in a world in which technology is continually emphasized.
“It’s not that we’re telling parents to take it all away,” Seyfer said. “There’s more healthy ways we can go about it.”
The third session will center on how parents can talk to children about difficult topics. It’s a timely discussion as more violent acts reach juveniles, such as the mass shooting at a Florida high school last week, Seyfer said. However, discussion also will cover how parents can broach the topic of bullying and other difficult subjects.
Child care will be available at the event with crafts and activities, Seyfer said.
Other community groups and businesses will have booths to offer more resources, including Foundation 2, Waypoint Services, St. Luke’s Children’s Specialty Programs, Jane Boyd Community House, Bridgehaven Pregnancy Support Center, and Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, also known as PFLAG.
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