Bill Spencer has heard a multitude of stories from anxious moms and dads.
Some are barely scraping by with several jobs or trying desperately to find work. Others need help controlling their rebellious teens or want to know why their children are acting out, he said. But such reactions by children are not unusual when parents bring their stress home, said Spencer, a volunteer for a new helpline that assists parents.
Parents do feel stress over a lot of things and financial is probably way up there now, Spencer said. And in these times, maybe they cant afford to see a counselor or therapist. Its not that were taking the place of that, but we ... can help them work through solutions to some of their problems.
Spencer, who has taught parenting classes in the county for 20 years, is one of a handful of local parents who signed up this spring for training to listen and give advice and referrals to distressed parents.
The helpline is part of Parent Connection of San Luis Obispo County, a Web-based resource center launched last year in the midst of the economic crisis after a group of parents, local professionals and teachers identified parent support as a critical need in the county.
Parent Connection, which received funding from the states Mental Health Services Act and the nonprofit San Luis Obispo Child Abuse Prevention Council, provides resources, including a list of parenting classes and referrals to programs for children with mental illness.
In the last year, Ive had 81 calls on the resource line asking for parenting classes, and thats just the tip of the iceberg, said Michele Gordon, education coordinator for Parent Connection.
So far, calls to the helpline have been sporadic, with calls coming in every day some weeks and fewer in others. But the desperation in the callers voices suggests that many parents feel helpless, Spencer said.
I have talked to parents who are having financial issues, and they just feel so overwhelmed, and sometimes, they just feel like giving up, he said. They dont have enough money to do this, or theyre trying to find a job or working several jobs. Some are single parents. With all those things, unless parents have ways to effectively deal with the stress, then parenting will be tough for them.
While the goal now is to assist parents confidentially by phone, face-to-face sessions may be offered in the future, depending on the communitys willingness to adopt that approach.
Were giving parents some hope, Spencer said. Just because things are tough now doesnt mean they will be in the future.
Help for parents
Parent Connection of San Luis Obispo County, 543-3700 and www.sloparents.org.
Parent Connection Helpline, 904-1411