Building Relationships Between Karen Parents and Teenagers

KOM staff Julyna Loo leading a parenting training class with Karen parents

“In April 2017, the Karen Organization of Minnesota hosted parenting training for Karen families, and I decided to attend this training to improve my parental knowledge and learn how to appropriately discipline my children in this country. I was very grateful for this opportunity, and I gained a lot from this training,”  said a participant  from our parenting training classes that we started offering last year.

Our parenting training program is a culturally specific program designed to help parents with adolescents navigate the unique challenges they have encountered in parenting their teenage children here in America.  Many parents were finding that when they were facing difficulties in parenting their teenagers there were not any resources available to help them. This program was designed to fill this need.

Professor Sarah Hoffman from the University of Minnesota had noticed the difficulty refugee parents were having in parenting their adolescents, so in partnership with KOM’s community health program she conducted a study on the best way to help Karen parents. From this study, our parenting program was developed and last year we began offering classes led by Julyna Loo, KOM Community Health Educator.

Ever since the parenting program began, it has been very beneficial to Karen parents. Parents were recruited and quickly filled up the weekly class we offered at KOM. While taking the parenting class, they attend three sessions that cover a variety of important topics related to parenting teenagers. These topics include: healthy adolescent development, cultural differences in discipline, the American education system, risky behavior, communication, and recognizing signs of substance abuse. Parents found these subjects to be very helpful and the majority of families that participated in the class saw improvements at home.

We interviewed parents who took the class along with their teenage children to see if the class was really helping families. One of the parents who took the class said “This parenting training was very helpful for me. Some of the challenges that many Karen parents are facing are their teens using drugs, being rebellious, and being involved in gang activities. This training provides various resources and aid with reaching out to different services when we are having family problems. This training should continue to be offered to families because it is very important for every Karen parent to learn parenting skills in this country and be acquainted with rules and regulations regarding child discipline”.

That same parent’s teenage daughter talked about how she has seen the class help her family, “To me, the parenting class that my mom attended was very helpful. She shared the information she learned in the training. She is involved with my school more than before, and she understands me when I have to stay late for after school. My mom supports me and always encourages me to go to school, study hard, and get a good education so I can get a better job and have better life in the future.”

Thank you to everyone who has made this class possible. We look forward to continuing to help parents, teenagers, and families through this program.

This project is funded by the University of Minnesota’s Clinical and Translational Studies Institute grant.

For more information about KOM’s parenting classes, contact Julyna Loo.

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