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Butte-Silver Bow Health Department

The Butte-Silver Bow Health Department is located at 25 W. Front St.

Parenting is hard.

That understatement of the century is something inherently known to every parent. Parenting takes adulting to the next level — it’s a status crammed with exhaustion and worry, a condition that prompts a multitude of do-overs and what-ifs.

Much of parenting is performed via instinct, a gut feel for what direction to take.

And it’s a life-long commitment.

I made available to myself as I parented two daughters over the years a variety of resources — books, websites, my mother, my mother-in-law — all of the “what to expect when you’re…” tools one seeks out as the parenting unfolds.

But, alas, much of my parenting was performed via instinct — a virtual gut feel for which direction to take.

My two girls are grown and have flown the proverbial coop. They’re wonderful beings, so I guess I — we (it takes a village) — did OK.

Unavailable to me during the days that I parented kids through the elementary and high school years was a resource called ParentingMontana.org. It quite literally is one of the best resources on parenting I’ve run across, and Montana parents are lucky to have it.

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The free website was launched after the Addictive and Mental Disorders Division (AMDD) at the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services in 2017 engaged the Center for Health and Safety Culture (CHSC) at Montana State University to conduct a survey of Montana parents about underage drinking. The survey was sent to about 6,400 households throughout the state.

The survey showed that most parents in Montana make efforts to reduce underage drinking — most of those parenting say underage drinking is unacceptable. “Most believe parents should not allow high school age children to drink in their home, parents should establish clear rules and consequences about not drinking, and parents should discuss their children’s future personal choices about alcohol to prepare their children for when they turn age 21,” according to an executive summary on the study.

But there was room to grow. Post-survey, with funding from the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, AMDD and CHSC partnered with the Prevention Resource Center in Helena to launch the website. While the root of this work lies in alcohol prevention strategies, the site offers a wide range of parenting advice for children ages 5 to 19.

Those subjects, at age-appropriate levels, include anger, back talk, bullying, chores, confidence, conflict, discipline, friends, homework, listening, lying, meltdowns, peer pressure, reading, routines, stress, and rules and mixed messages related to alcohol.

There are in-depth resources on parenting for children’s success, intentional communication, social and emotional development, healthy risk-taking, alcohol and the teen brain, discipline for skill-building, logical consequences, and more.

The site also offers a variety of community resources, including a text line offered to teens 24/7, with professional counselors standing by; services for Montana children and families; addiction and mental health services; treatment services and facilities; and prevention resources (the site steers parents to prevention specialists in southwest Montana who are mostly employed by Butte’s prevention organization, Butte Cares).

The site is interactive — an area for input is available for parents who are interested in an issue but don’t see it on the site.

Again, parenting is hard. ParentingMontana.org is an incredible free resource that might just make the parenting journey a little easier. I highly recommend it.

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Karen Sullivan is Butte-Silver Bow Health Officer and Director of the Health Department. Her column, The Public's Health, appears weekly on The Montana Standard's health page.

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