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VCE parenting classes share tools to improve communication with children and teens

Parenting classes offered by the Virginia Cooperative Extension of Prince William focus on communication tips and tools that parents can use in order to develop better relationships with their children.

The extension offers three different classes at locations across the county, said Rozlyn Giddens, the extension’s parent education volunteer coordinator.

“Systematic Training for Effective Parenting” is a seven-session class to help parents understand their children’s behavior, build self-esteem for the entire family, implement effective discipline practices, encourage cooperation and improve family communication.

“When Families Get Angry” helps families deal with the powerful emotions that can come from internal and external factors. Anger can motivate people to overcome obstacles and achieve their goals, but it can also cause people to hurt themselves or others. The three-session class helps people understand and deal with their anger by focusing on how to manage anger between parents, anger between siblings and anger between parents and children.

The eight-session “Juvenile Justice Parenting Program” is aimed at parents with children who are at risk of becoming involved in the criminal justice system. The issues that come to the attention of courts and schools can often be better dealt with at home. The class offers parents the chance to enhance their parenting skills to help their children sharpen their decision-making skills. 

All of the classes teach people how to deal with the outside influences that affect families. Those outside influences can be powerful in their bombardment of children, Giddens said. “Parents have the greatest influence, but, looking at the boundaries of that influence, there is a lot more that is influencing kids today. When parents communicate with their children in a respectful way, in terms of hearing their perspective and their point of view, it helps children share their point of view and concerns.”

Extension Agent Paige Thacker said reflective listening, which is taught in the classes, teaches parents to repeat what their children tell them in conversation and then acknowledge their children’s feelings to help foster communication. The techniques are proven to work. “Our techniques aren’t new and revolutionary. They’re tried and true practices. They’re foundational.”

Julie Stiles, an extension administration support assistant who has taught the effective parenting class, said reflective listening offers parents an effective tool to help with their children. “Instead of shutting them down and saying, ‘No, you can’t do this because I said so,’ it keeps that line of communication open so that parents are a resource. Kids know that they can still come to their parents and talk to them. The parenting classes empower parents with tools and techniques that they can use at home.”

Giddens said that people who attend the classes are happy with what they learned. “More than 90 percent of our attendees report that they have used the tools they learned to improve family situations.”

Parents are also glad to learn that their families are not necessarily unique in their problems. “They appreciate the opportunity to be there and learn that they’re not alone,” Giddens said. “It’s reassuring. They find a connection and a camaraderie. It becomes a very supportive and productive group that’s built over those weeks,”

The classes run Monday through Thursday, usually from 7 to 9 p.m., and are generally offered at the Dr. A.J. Ferlazzo Building in Woodbridge and the Sudley North Government in Manassas. People can choose a night and location that suits them, Giddens said. “We know that it is a commitment; however, we try to remind parents that the results can have a positive, lasting impact on their children and their family.”

Visit or call 703-792-6288 for English and 703-792-5940 for Spanish and for more information and start dates for the next round of classes. “The best thing is to visit the website to find out when the next classes start. Classes are regularly added to the schedule,” Thacker said.

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