It Takes a Village: Using the Power of Community to Raise Resilient Teens
Parents do a better job raising teenagers when their community steps up to help them.
In this Q & A, Allison Gilbert, Senior Writer for the Center for Parent and Teen Communication, talks with CPTC’s new Executive Director, Dr. Jillian Baker, about why stronger communities raise more successful teenagers. They also discuss how the positive influence of strong communities on families is too often overlooked.
Allison Gilbert: Much of your research explores the best ways to improve the health and well-being of individuals and families. How can communities better support parents?
Dr. Jillian Baker: One way to help families is to go to the source – go to their community, gather information, find out what they require. Communities are where families live. It’s where we will find out what parents need to support their teenagers. It’s important to determine what resources might work specifically for them.
AG: In what ways can parents come together to build better communities for young people?
JB: Getting involved in your children’s school is wonderful. Being a participant in the Parent Teacher Association is helpful. Parents can make their voices heard. This involvement is useful for the school and empowering for parents.
AG: I’d love to learn of other opportunities. Is there more you can suggest?
JB: Yes! Another great idea is for parents and children to participate in book clubs together. I also think volunteering is important. Finding causes parents and teens both care about is an excellent way to build relationships and better communities.
AG: Your work has focused on the active community involvement of fathers. Why dads in particular?
JB: Fathers are often left out of discussions regarding the well-being of families, in particular children. Yet fathers are as influential to their children’s decision-making and overall health as mothers. However, mothers are often the first people thought about in schools – they’re contacted first if something is wrong. Fathers may struggle with the feeling that they don’t matter. Fathers do matter.
AG: You’ve identified specific community spaces that are critical (yet too often overlooked) in making sure individuals and families receive potentially life-saving information. What kinds of places are you talking about?
JB: A few years ago, I helped develop a health promotion program in Philadelphia for African American fathers and their sons based in barbershops. Barbershops are hubs of information, particularly among African American men. They are historical communities for Black families. My husband goes to the barber every single week. So, we used the power of the barbershop community to provide resources to fathers to help them communicate better with their teen sons.
AG: You’re the new Executive Director at The Center for Parent and Teen Communication. What are your goals for this year and beyond?
JB: One of my first goals is to ensure that every caring adult has the knowledge and skills to support teens as they grow. Equally important to me is helping families raise adolescents with key character strengths that will help them to thrive. I’d like to continue our work and expand it in the long term, especially with community-based organizations.
AG: You’re also a parent of tween-age twins! How is this new role shaping yo ur perspective about the tween and teenage years?
JB: A shift has certainly occurred! I know I have to instill resilience in them as much as possible. As a parent, that’s been my priority. As Executive Director of the Center for Parent and Teen Communication, my focus is to help everyone’s children get up when they’re knocked down. I’m excited to dig in and begin this critical work.