Sometimes it’s hard for a mother to know what to do—especially when it comes to raising teenage boys. To help the mothers of its youth beneficiaries to better cope with communication and other challenges at home, the Russeifeh Sons Association for Social Development, a Youth:Work Jordan (YWJ) implementing partner, is piloting parenting classes.

Youth:Work Jordan is a five-year initiative of the US Agency for International Development, the International Youth Foundation (IYF), and the Jordanian Ministry of Social Development. Working in partnership with the public, private, and civil society sectors, YWJ seeks to create an enabling environment for disadvantaged youth through improving youth employability practices and policies, strengthening the capacity of youth-serving organizations, and engaging youth in developing their communities.

On a Wednesday afternoon, five mothers seated on plastic chairs form a semi-circle in a windowless room on the second floor of the Association. At the front of the room, Mohammad Al Quraan, a social worker, listens thoughtfully as the mothers share their frustrations.

“I don’t like that my son smokes,” says one. “I tell him it’s bad for him but it doesn’t do any good.”

“The schools failed our children,” says another, adding that her son, like many youth, quit school because he knew he’d never have enough money to afford a university education.

“My son sleeps all day or stares at the Internet before going out at night,” says a third.

Mohammad listens carefully to each, offering practical suggestions for how to strengthen their mother-son relationships. “We’re teaching them [the mothers] skills to enhance their self-knowledge,” says Mohammad, so they realize they have a choice in how they act. Children will mirror their parents behaviors, he adds, underscoring how important it is that parents listen carefully and calmly. Mohammad encourages the mothers to take time every afternoon or evening to inquire how their son’s day went. 

Part of the parenting training involves a relaxation exercise, where the mothers are instructed to close their eyes and quiet their minds. “The exercise helps clear them of built up negative energy,” says Mohammad, who holds a master’s degree in education. “I teach them that their behavior sets the example. If they shout and get upset, their sons are apt to follow. It’s important to create a safe environment for clear communication."

“Young people grow up in families and in neighborhoods,” says Samar Dudin, a specialist in creative arts and education programs for youth in Jordan and a YWJ advisor. “You can’t address their needs in isolation… It [YWJ] is working to build social capital around youth by strengthening the emotional supports they depend on.”

Aiesha Abdul Aziz, Director of the Khawla Bent Al Azwar Charitable Society, a community-based organization and YWJ partner in Zarqa, agrees that engaging parents is essential to achieving the program’s larger goals. “Part of our responsibility as youth-serving organizations is to raise awareness among parents of how they can best support their children.” To sensitize families to its work through YWJ, Khawla Bent Al Azwar staff invites the parents of program beneficiaries to graduation ceremonies, communicates with them by phone, conducts home visits, and offers awareness-raising sessions on its premises.

Says Aiesha, “In some cases, youth trained in anger management and communication techniques are becoming the teachers of their parents.”