Teenagers — quick, wrestle this away from your parents. Don’t let them read it.

Is it just us, now? Good, because here’s the deal: Have you ever wished someone could teach you how to manage your parents? A teen health conference is attempting to do just that.

“Equipping Teens for Life: A Health and Wellness Conference for Young People and Parents” is a one-day conference designed to help teenagers and their parents navigate their relationships and the myriad challenges of being a teenager in the 21st century.

Taking place in Edina on April 8, the conference will be headlined by bestselling author and Minneapolis native Peggy Orenstein, who will discuss her latest book, “Girls & Sex,” and the insights she gained from researching it.

Other sessions will offer advice on dealing with depression, creating healthy relationships, handling academic stress and — yes! — how to manage parents. And don’t worry about your parents listening in so they can plot a strategy to counteract you. This session is for teens only.

One of the people leading the lesson is Scott Volltrauer from TreeHouse, an organization devoted to helping at-risk teens. He said “managing” parents is not so much about manipulating them as it is appreciating the position they’re in and the responsibilities they have.

He suggests that teens start by realizing the things their parents have done right.

“Even ‘bad parents’ have some good intentions or strategies, even if you disagree with them,” Volltrauer said.

The conference is spearheaded by Janet Anderson, director of Christian education, youth and family life at Edina Morningside Community Church, and Karin Miller, one of the church members. It grew out of a discussion about all the hurdles teenagers have to deal with in terms of relationships and family, said Miller, the mother of three teens.

Inspired by a church in St. Paul that hosted a one-day retreat on spiritual writing, they started to put together a program to help teens and their parents.

Some of the sessions, like the one on “managing parents,” are for teenagers only. Others are for teens and adults together, and a couple are just for parents.

The planners wanted some of the sessions to appeal specifically to teenagers so they could speak more freely, without their parents present, Miller said.

The conference has been in the works for almost a year, with organizers reaching out to local schools and nonprofits for help.

Volltrauer said he got involved because he wanted to share what he’s learned as an employee at TreeHouse.

“I’ve been part of TreeHouse since the 1980s, and I have been an eyewitness to thousands of life transformations,” he said. “I hope to bring some of our insights to empower their stories so that the conference attendees increase the positive trajectory of their families for generations.”

Volltrauer said he plans to highlight specific principles he’s learned as an employee and as a parent, including advice on how to “teach your parents to parent you.”

“When my kids were teens I had to ask them how to parent them the way that would work best for them,” Volltrauer said. “I needed their insights, but they also had to choose to be honest.”

Even though the church is hosting the conference, there will not a spiritual aspect to any of the presentations, Miller said. The church had the space for the meetings and a kitchen (lunch is provided). Plus, it was a chance to provide what they see as a much-needed service.

“The reason we wanted to do this as a church is because we care about the community,” she said.


Kelsy Ketchum is a University of Minnesota student on assignment for the Star Tribune.