Seminar lets teens shed light for parents on ways to improve communication Youths talk of pressures faced, how adults can help


For Stacy Bajus of Annapolis, every day with her 17-year-old triplets is a struggle to make sure her daughters are not getting into any trouble.

But after listening to a panel of six teen-agers Thursday night at a youth seminar at Anne Arundel Community College, Mrs. Bajus has a different perspective of being a mother.

"I've come to the conclusion that I can't control everything they do," said Mrs. Bajus, whose daughters are seniors at Broadneck High School. "I'm going to support them and let them know I'll be there for them."

Mrs. Bajus was one of about 120 adults who sat in the community college cafeteria to hear teen-agers discuss the daily pressures they face and what parents can do to strengthen relationships with their teen-age children.

The meeting was the last of a three-part seminar on understanding today's youth. The first two events, organized by the Broadneck Evangelical Presbyterian Church and Camp Blaze, a nonprofit organization that sponsors family activities, were for adults only.

Thursday, teens were given a chance to have their say.

Walt Mueller, the guest speaker and an author of two books on teen-agers, asked questions adults had formulated a week earlier.

Why, one adult wondered, did teen-agers feel more comfortable talking to their friends than to their parents?

"I think parents sometimes don't understand what we're going through," said Angela Rivas, 16, a junior at Glen Burnie High School. "With someone our own age, it's easier to talk to them and relate to them because they may have gone through what we're going through."

Kim Davis, a junior at Severna Park High School, suggested parents gently encourage their children to talk to them about problems and concerns.

"If you ask, 'Do you want to talk?', they'll talk," said Kim, 16. "But if they don't want to talk, back off wait an hour to talk to them."

Several teens on the panel said sex is a huge concern for students.

"Nobody thinks about AIDS," said Shannan Shutt, 17, a senior at North County High School. "It's scary because people worry about being pregnant before they worry about getting AIDS. Being pregnant is bad enough, but it's even worse to get a disease like AIDS."

Applause greeted Angela's proclamation that she wouldn't engage in premarital sex.

"I know I'm worth waiting for," she said.

The students also said they felt pressured to drink and to use drugs.

"I think a lot of people in any school do it to fit in," said Cale Johnson, 12, a seventh-grader at Severna Park Middle School. "Some do it once or twice, and then they can't stop."

One of the biggest mistakes parents can make, the teens said, is setting their expections too high.

"Each child is different, and they have their own ambitions," Angela said. "You have to realize that you can't make your children something you want them to be."

Terressa McCree, a senior at North County, also cautioned parents about assuming that their children don't want them in their lives.

"Teen-agers always want to know that [their parents] are there," the 17-year-old said. "You don't have to show it, but we want you to be there, asking us about our day, when we're coming back home."

Many adults said the panelists helped them better understand their children.

"I hold to the philosophy that we don't have kid problems. We have parent problems," said Dorothy Kouroupis of Pasadena. "This is a good start to strengthening family bonds."

Said Mr. Mueller, "If one family talks to their teen-ager about any of their problems or concerns, then the four-hour drive from Pennsylvania to here for the past three Thursdays is well worth it."

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