The following is from Jane Wolery, MSU Extension, Teton Co Agent:
Jane Wolery, MSU Extetension Agent, Teton Co. (Photo:Kelly Gorham/ MSU)

I am very excited to share with you that an educational program called, eParenting, is now available through MSU Extension.  

One of the great things about MSU Extension and Extension in general is our network.  We serve 56 counties and 7 reservations in the state of Montana.  Also, because we have Extension in every state in the nation, we can partner on opportunities like eParenting.  The eParenting program was developed by a team of colleagues at University of Wisconsin Extension.  I attended a national conference last fall where the eParenting program was presented.  I very quickly and enthusiastically volunteered to bring the educational program to Montana. 
So what is eParenting? Originally the program was delivered through a 2-hour in person class, but, what Wisconsin learned, and what those of us parents know, is that between work, home, school, church, volunteer, community and youth schedules, there does not seem to be time to take 2 hour classes!  University of Wisconsin heard from parents that they needed the class reformulated to be something they could access any time and in small portions.  The eParenting  program is now set up to be delivered for about 5 months through weekly email messages.  The emails give a lead in and then a link for more information.  Several school districts around the state are partnering with MSU Extension to deliver the program through their parent email contact lists.  If others schools are interested, they can contact me to learn more.  But, we also wanted to invite families from the 4-H program to join in, which we did through our 4-H network.  However, we wanted even more parents in Montana to be able to access the program.  MSU Extension IT and Communications department worked with us to establish a free subscription process that would allow parents from across the state to self-select to receive weekly educational emails. 
Often, when it comes to technology, the educational programs focus on only the negatives such as cyberbullying and predatory behaviors.  Since technology is part of our world, Extension wanted to focus on how parents can use technology to positively build and improve relationships with their teens and preteens.  What is great is that the messages take about five minutes to read, and then if you want more content you might spend 15 minutes or so reading additional materials.  Parents of teens and preteens are typically a pretty busy group of people.  It is nice to think that you can have the information sent straight to you, read it when you have a moment, maybe while you’re waiting to pick your child up from an activity, and have tools ready to enhance your parenting relationship. 
My children attend Choteau schools and they are partnering with MSU Extension in sending the messages. Even though I have already previewed the content, last week a message came about social networking.  My oldest daughter who is 15 was allowed to get an Instagram account.  It was a bit of a reward for her for meeting some other goals that demonstrated her responsibility.  The eParenting message delivered that week happened to be on social networks and reminded me that I needed to finish downloading the app myself and work with her to set up both of our security parameters and to follow each other through the social media.  One of the eParenting messages is about allowing youth to be in the teaching role, which at their age and stage, builds confidence and allows the parent-child relationship to take on a more collaborative tone in some areas. 
I also think the eParenting could be particularly useful for parents who do not live in the same residence as their child, whether deployed, away for work or divorced.  Using the tips eParenting offers on connecting using technology could be very beneficial.  It may also be useful for relatives … grandparents, aunts and uncles.  Another caring and positive adult is always helpful in the lives of youth.
It is easy and free to sign up for eParenting.  You can subscribe or unsubscribe at any time.  The first message has already been sent, but an archive is listed on the subscription page.
I hope parents across north central Montana and our Canadian neighbors take advantage of this parenting training opportunity. I don’t know about you, but as a parent, I need all the help I can get!
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