Rebuilding relationships

Rainbow House offers class for adults who need help
Wednesday, May 23, 2007 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 5:48 p.m. CDT, Monday, July 21, 2008
Heather Windham, shelter clinical coordinator for the Rainbow House, teaches a class to help parents in abusive relationships with their teenagers.

The local Rainbow House does more than help and protect abused and neglected children: It now offers a class to help parents who are in abusive relationships with their teens.

Parenting With Love and Limits is a six-week class offered by Rainbow House that helps parents deal with teenagers who may be violent, disrespectful, suicidal, drug addicts or habitual runaways. The sessions began in late February. The next session is scheduled for mid-July.

Confronting conflict

Heather Windham, shelter clinical coordinator for the Rainbow House, offers these tips as a basic guide for avoiding arguments and other conflicts with you teenager. • Know your buttons. Teens are good at pushing buttons and know triggers to make a parent angry. • Take a break. When discussion gets heated, take a break instead of pushing buttons back. Most arguments happen when both sides continuously push buttons. • Be unpredictable. Use humor in the situation or walk away from the argument all together. The person who wins the argument isn’t always better, it’s the person who directs the mood and can change the direction of the argument. • Don’t threaten a consequence you can’t follow through on. Teens need structure and their rules and consequences need to be spelled out for them. Do not say you will punish them if you have no intention of following through. • Remember: Tough love is great. Never forget that this is your child. Speak kindly and softly and show them love and affection. Be prepared and know that they still may push you away or say, “I hate you.” Don’t take it personally. Spend time with them. If you are busy and stressed, make time to just talk, listen or laugh with them.

Seeking help

To understand defiant, disruptive and aggressive misbehavior from teenagers, parents can call these agencies for help and support: • Rainbow House: 474-3558 or 474-6600 • Mid-Missouri Crisis Hotline (free and available 24 hours): 888-761-HELP • Burrell Services: 800-494-7355

Heather Windham, shelter clinical coordinator for the Rainbow House, started the class in response to calls from parents who were frustrated with and concerned about their children’s behavior.

“There were hardly any classes in Columbia that weren’t involved with the juvenile justice system,” Windham said. “This class is for parents who may or may not have crossed that line yet but still need help.”

The class focuses on helping parents understand the reasons behind defiant, disruptive and aggressive misbehavior. The class also offers ideas on how parents can handle certain situations so they can build effective contracts with their teens to stop the behavior, end power struggles, troubleshoot future issues and reclaim the lost love with their child.

“One of the most important things for parents to know is to be familiar with their own buttons. Teenagers are very good at button-pushing and know triggers that will make a parent angry,” Windham said. “A lot of parents also feel that teenagers don’t need as many rules as they did when they were younger, but that’s not always the case. They still need structure, rules and consequences to be spelled and written out for them. One important thing this class teaches parents is to never threaten a promise or consequence that they can’t follow through with.”

Windham also said parents should support each other in the class.

“A lot of parents felt that the class was very helpful. Some of the methods we discussed they already knew but had not tried at home. It was also very helpful for them to see that other parents were experiencing the same problems, and that they were not alone,” Windham said. “I think by the end of the class, they were feeling like they had more power and control.”

During class, Windham shares stories from her adolescent experience and describes the mistakes she made.

“Sometimes parents forget what it’s like to be a teenager and that it can be natural and normal to question and challenge authority,” Windham said.

Windham is impressed with the parents’ attitude and hard work.

“I always learn a lot from the parents in these classes: I’m impressed with their resilience and their daily challenges and willingness not to give up,” Windham said. “They are also very creative and always coming up with creative consequences and solutions for their situations.”

The Rainbow House serves families in crisis, houses foster children and assists parents who need placement for their children during a family crisis.

For more information on the Parenting with Love and Limits class, contact The Rainbow House at 474-6600.

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