Empowered Parents, Empowered Kids

veteran health educator offers guide through adolescence

Katie Larson

Tom Kidd
Tom Kidd

We’ve all done it as parents, teachers, aunts, uncles, or grandparents (well, maybe not as grandparents because they get the “fun jobs” associated with raising kids): getting into a power struggle with a young adolescent. It doesn’t matter if the struggle is won or lost or by whom, because the end result is typically the same: Someone is always left disappointed or guilt-ridden. But what if raising a kid through the stages of adolescence didn’t have to be this way? That is what Tom Kidd explores in his interactive workbook Raising Pre-teens? Don’t Freak ... Tweak and Empower Them for Life. 

As a veteran teacher of health education in the Osseo, Fall Creek, and Eau Claire communities, a training specialist at a rehabilitation center, and a professional speaker over the past 33 years, Kidd knows that pre-teens have a lot on their plates. From dealing with peer pressure associated with drug and alcohol abuse, having to make choices regarding sexual activity, being able to navigate feelings associated with anxiety and depression, or battling the reality of being bullied, it is clear that pre-teens have difficult hurdles to overcome before they even enter high school.

“I want parents to know the skills so that they can teach their preteens how to make decisions, problem solve, and be assertive.” – Tom Kidd, author and former health educator

As Kidd observed the shifting of American teen culture, he also realized parents need of some help engaging, empowering, and building meaningful and trusting relationships with their children as a way to create a more positive home environment. He believes the idea of modeling assertiveness, proper problem-solving techniques, and good communication skills to pre-teens could eventually lead to a happy, healthy lifestyle in later years.

What if, as a parent or guardian of an adolescent, you don’t feel comfortable approaching the tough subjects or know how to ask the even tougher questions? Kidd’s book offers several discussion-starting, brainstorming, and goal-setting activities to help parents approach these sensitive topics while empowering their kids to make the choices associated with their desired lifestyles. As Kidd put it, “I want parents to know the skills so that they can teach their preteens how to make decisions, problem solve, and be assertive.” If teens are taught these critical skills, then they will be more likely to use them as difficult situations and decisions arise.

But – and Kidd couldn’t stress this enough – it shouldn’t end in a discussion. The process of adolescent development calls for action – mainly in the form of communicating and interacting with their pre-teen, including goal setting. As a teen flounders through the abstract early adolescent years starting around age 11, the importance of learning how to set goals (whether educational or personal), writing them down, and troubleshooting on how to achieve them becomes crucial for future growth. Kidd writes that a person is 50 to 100 times more likely to accomplish his or her goals if they are written down. Making a goal visual – something only 3 percent of us do – helps the teen attain and accomplish more throughout a lifetime. What parent wouldn’t want to encourage that?


Educator and author Tom Kidd offers in the following advice adapted from his new book. Read more in the January-February issue of Chippewa Valley Family.

Every parent loses his temper. But in a situation in which a tough conversation between you and your child needs to take place, it is important to remember to keep your voice calm, to look them in the eyes intermittently, and to sit at the same level as the person you are speaking to. If appropriate, it is also good to sit fairly close to them and touch them as you talk. Practice and use the “communication skill” which includes using phrases such as:

• I feel ...
• When ...
• Because ...
• What I need/what I want/would you consider ...
• Thank them!

Tom Kidd, A.S. B.S. ME-PD, is a former health educator with more than 30 years of experience primarily working with middle school-aged teens. He works as a consultant, trainer, facilitator, adjunct university professor, author, and professional speaker. His book is available at Amazon.com or createspace.com. His website is kidd4kids.org.