Sat | Aug 19, 2017

An unconventional approach to parenting

Published:Saturday | July 30, 2016 | 7:00 AM
Kerri-Ann Coombs and her son, DeShawn Christensen.

By her admission, self-employed business development manager Kerri-Ann Coombs adopts a flexible but unconventional approach when it comes to parenting her teenage son.

Before returning to Jamaica in 1999, Coombs, who lives in Gayle, St Mary, spent almost a decade in the US and believes that as far as her maternal duties are concerned, the biggest problem she faces is trying to maintain her son's contentment.

Coombs, 33, told Family and Religion: "Ultimately, what I want for my son, more than anything, is for him to be happy. That is my priority, and I tell him that as long as he is doing things that make him happy without infringing on anyone else in a negative manner, everything will be alright.

"I think I have an unorthodox approach to parenting, possibly because I am close in age to my son and remember what it was like growing up and wishing that adults would be more open about what was going on.

"I try to always understand from his perspective and deal with any issues by coming to an amicable understanding because it's important that he knows that the decisions and choices I make are based on me thinking about his well-being," she said.

"Not enough kids are being taught the value of taking care of themselves. When you look at the way people treat the environment and the types of foods they are consuming, it's clear they don't really know how to take care of their health.

"Things like that worry me, so I try to tell him to focus on taking care of his body because those are the things that are really going to matter when you're older. Yes, you will want money and all that type of stuff, but when you don't have your health, you can't have anything else."

Coombs' son, DeShawn Christensen, is grateful that his mother has taken such a progressive parenting stance. The 16-year-old Tacky High School student said: "For me, it's a good thing that my mother takes that approach because it helped me to have a happy childhood, and I thank her for that.

"I would like to see more parents and adults take a similar approach, but I don't think they will because they don't really like to listen to young people. I don't have much faith in older people because they don't like to see things from the children's point of view. I think quite a lot of relationships between adults and children could be improved if adults were just more open-minded."

Coombs agreed: "I think communication is the key to parenting. Always be willing to sit down and have a conversation. It's not always about being a dictator because everybody likes their voice and opinion to be heard and counted, so when you are more inclusive, in my opinion, you'll get a better response from your child, and that fosters a better environment for you to actually get your point across," she said.