Humor And Support Key Tools In Handling Parental Stress


Norm Bossio, pictured with Newtown Parent Connection co-president Donna DeLuca, presented his program “Ah, Parenthood! How To Burn The Candle At Both Ends Without Burning Out”at Newtown High School on September 20. Mr Bossio was the kick-off speaker for this season’s Newtown Parent Connection forums. -Bee Photo, Crevier


Newtown Bee By Nancy K. Crevier

In a machine gun delivery that pierced the audience’s armor of reserve, motivational speaker Norm Bossio had the crowd of more than 200 people at Newtown High School reduced to tears of laughter and poignant sadness within moments of beginning his powerful speech aimed at helping parents understand the impact they hold over their children and the ways in which they can choose to deal with the stresses of parenting.

Throughout his personal anecdotes gleaned from raising three boys on his own and his recent leap into grandparenthood, Mr Bossio peppered his talk with tips. The tidbits of information, directed at the audience in what would have been capitalized boldface italics had they been in print, were punctuated by pauses on either side to allow the listeners to truly absorb what he was saying.

For a very few, his words seemed to pass right through, but for many more, their faces reflected deep emotions as the words struck home.

“Being a parent is a roller coaster ride,” said Mr Bossio. He illustrated his point by sharing a hilarious interpretation of his own trip to Cedar Point Roller Coaster Park in Sandusky, Ohio back when his three boys were young – a situation he got himself into by promising them he would go and ride the Magnum there in return for chores done at home. The boys kept their part of the bargain, and Mr Bossio found himself driving not-so-fearlessly to the huge roller coaster park one summer day to hold up his end of the bargain.

“Keep your promises,” he warned parents. “Kids learn values from you. You affect your children. You teach values and don’t even know it.”

Pacing rapidly up and down the aisles, interacting directly with reticent parents and pulling a few from their comfortable seats to help him demonstrate a point, Mr Bossio drove home his points.

“You can’t be their friend,” he said of the parent/child relationship. “The hardest thing to say is ‘No.’ It’s okay to argue with kids. The worst part is if you don’t talk afterward.”

He challenged those present saying, “How dare you let your children do something when you have a ‘feeling’ in your gut. Listen to your gut feelings. And when your kids come to you, you listen. You don’t get angry. Don’t judge too quickly.”

Some parenting styles are what Mr Bossio referred to as “slush balls.” This is when a parent’s primary need is to be loved. At the other end of the spectrum is the “SOB” style of parenting, where parents are in their child’s face, where “Because I said so” is the rule. “Use both,” he urged, to the surprise of many present. “Kids need you to be a slush ball, and they need you to be an SOB. But,” he admonished, “kiss them goodnight. Be a slush ball when they go to bed at night.”

The child/parent relationship is difficult, at best, Mr Bossio admitted, especially in the high school years. He stressed the power of love when confronting problems at home. “When they drive you nuts, you love them anyway. The more you love, the more you worry about your kids. Children are unreasonable, illogical, self-centered. Love them anyway.”

Is there a relationship between stress and productivity? Certainly, said Mr Bossio. “Pressure gives good, short term results. We don’t want to put pressure on kids. We think they have too much going on already. We think, ‘No news is good news.’ No, no news is not good news,” he stressed. “Parents, put pressure on your kids; and then back off. You can’t keep the pressure on.”

Mr Bossio had words of consolation, as well, for parents who worry about making mistakes. “People change. Kids change. Good parents have bad problems. If you screw up, you get up and do it over.” If you want to build a relationship with your children, Mr Bossio had an interesting suggestion. “Forgive your own parents. Kids are watching how you deal with your relationships.”

Ultimately, there are two things that keep parents of teenagers on an even keel, said this vivid speaker. “The number one way of dealing with the stress of parenting,” he said, “is a sense of humor. There are people in this world who enjoy being miserable,” he went on. Don’t be surprised, he said, if “you don’t like your job and they don’t like school. If you don’t like your boss, and they don’t like their teachers. Kids are watching you, whether you like it or not. If you don’t keep your sense of humor, you will go crazy.”

The second key to handling parental stress is to have a support system. Parents, kids, and schools all need to support each other. “You don’t need to agree, you don’t even need to like each other,” said Mr Bossio.

Gesturing to the half-filled auditorium, Mr Bossio said, “Next year, let’s fill this auditorium. Wouldn’t it be great to see every teacher in the district, every high school kid, every principal, every parent, the superintendent – all of them – filling this room? You need to support each other. Take care of each other, your schools, your kids.”

After an hour and a half of non-stop, in-your-face showcasing to deliver his many positive points, Mr Bossio ended with this quiet reminder, “Parenting is never easy, but it’s so important. You have an amazing impact on your kids.”

(Norm Bossio is an independent management consultant, trainer, and public speaker from Massachusetts. Formerly he taught at public schools and he has also been a principal and superintendent. His talk, “Ah, Parenthood! How To Burn The Candle At Both Ends Without Burning Out,” on September 20 was the kick-off to the Newtown Parent Connection’s 2005-2006 forums season.)

Norm Bossio, pictured with Newtown Parent Connection co-president Donna DeLuca, presented his program “Ah, Parenthood! How To Burn The Candle At Both Ends Without Burning Out”at Newtown High School on September 20. Mr Bossio was the kick-off speaker for this season’s Newtown Parent Connection forums. Used with permission Copyright © 1999-2004 Bee Publishing Company

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Dorrie Carolan and her husband raised their four children in Newtown, CT. Starting the Parent Connection was never part of her plan.

The issue of substance abuse became personal when her eldest son, Brian, became addicted and subsequently died at age 28 of a prescription drug overdose. Through the struggles caused by Brian's addiction, Dorrie became aware that this was an issue that affected many others in the community. She founded the Parent Connection in 1993 in an attempt to network with other concerned Newtown parents. It was the impetus behind many policy changes in town and within the schools.

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