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Compassion Counts aims to help parents and teens communicate better

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OLD SAYBROOK, Conn. (WTNH) – A unique program is taking place Wednesday night to help parents and teens communicate better.

“It’s challenging. It’s challenging to parent in this day and age. It’s a challenge to be teenager,” says one of the event’s organizers Alicia Farrell, a cognitive psychologist.  “In addition to the influence of technology in their lives which is entirely new we also are being faced with this cultural shift and the pressure to be perfect.”

So, Gilead Community Services is hosting Compassion Counts: Weathering the Adolescent Storm In A Pressure-Filled World.  The free program consists of four skits showing positive and negative examples of communication.

“The skits are really rich so they’ve been written to incorporate a lot of different issues that we all deal with as families,” says Farrell, giving cell phone use and unrealistic expectations as examples.

“We want it to be an experiential process, like when you go to the movies and bond with the characters and experience those emotions as opposed to someone reading a script and lecturing to you,” says Andy Buccaro, Director of Project Courage and also an event organizer.

14-year-old Aidan McMillan is taking part and sharing his experiences.

“I don’t have any social media,” he says.  “I try to stay off it because it distracts a lot of people.”

A few years ago, 30 providers throughout Middlesex County came together to create Compassion Counts, a collaborative effort to de-stigmatize mental health issues and offer community support surrounding trending issues.  The group hosts about two events a year.

“What we’re trying to do is to get people to come out and be vulnerable and recognize that we’re all struggling in very similar ways and we need each other,” says Farrell, who hopes the program inspires parents to talk less, listen more and learn the beauty of imperfection.  “Through the course of being imperfect and failing and figuring things out, you build resilience and grit and that’s at the heart of what we want the kids to have when they leave the house.”

Compassion Counts takes place Wednesday night at 6 p.m. at the Old Saybrook High School auditorium.  There’s still plenty of room.  Register online or just show-up.  The whole family is invited.

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