This week I was cleaning out some old documents and came across a letter I had written many years ago when asked what being a Parents Anonymous Group Parent Leader meant to me. Here is the reply in response to the question:
What does parent leadership mean to me?
When this question was recently posed to me I was taken aback because I could not answer. I have been a Parents Anonymous® parent leader for a number of years but had to consider carefully what it means to me personally.
Having been brought up in the old southern culture I was reluctant to speak out, ask questions or disagree openly no matter what the issue. When school issues were interfering with the relationship I had with my daughter I knew something had to change. I had to speak up and I had to ask for help. That was my first real leadership role and that got me to my first Parents Anonymous® meeting.
At the first Parents Anonymous® meetings I learned from the other parents that to change our situation would require me to meet with school officials to advocate for my daughter and ask for change there. This also meant I had to disagree with school officials and again speak up for my daughter’s needs.
The encouragement and support of the members of my Parents Anonymous® group helped me take on a leadership role in my family and community to affect change. Our family life improved and my daughter flourished because of the changes I made happen.
Parent leadership means doing something to make things better where you are.
Over the last fifteen years I have taken on many leadership roles in various arenas locally and nationally, to get a job done, to effect change, to teach and to speak out about Parents Anonymous® and prevention to parents and professionals alike. Those roles include: taking calls from prospective parent members and professionals about the groups, speaking to the media, testifying to the Governor’s Task Force on Child Abuse and Neglect, assisting with workshops and training, volunteering on the Parents Anonymous® Family Helpline, visiting legislators, writing letters to politicians and professionals in the field of child protection services, advocate for parents and children, writing and editing outreach materials and fliers, reviewing and editing printed materials, reviewing accreditation applications and requests for funding proposals, enlisted the help of a translator for Spanish materials, and been a member of and treasurer for the Board of Directors for Parents Anonymous® of New Jersey and as a member of the Citizen Review Panel I looking into various issues that affect children.
Now it is my turn to pass the challenge on to each of you; as parents, as professionals and political leaders to step up to the plate and take on leadership roles when the opportunities arise, to effect change and make things better in your families, schools, communities and beyond. Do something.
Jackie, Freehold Parent Leader
Now, years later, I could certainly add to this message but truthfully, parent leadership means something different to everyone. While giving the opening comments for the group I attended I often said that if you get up, get dressed and get yourself to the group then that makes you a parent leader – that takes commitment.
The effort it takes to make a decision to change a situation – and then to carry it out – takes determination, strength and sometimes courage. Change is not easy, for some it can be frightening. Taking part in a Parents Anonymous group and opening up to other struggling parents means that a person is taking responsibility for their actions and committing to make change happen – that is a parent leader.
Here in the Reminder I have bragged many times about parents – mothers and fathers – who are dealing with very difficult circumstances and through their commitment to force change to take place , miracles happen and lives improve. I did not do it for other parents – the parents themselves caused their lives to take positive directions and that is who a Parents Anonymous Parent Leader is.