The Best of Parenting Teens in Fernie

Parenting is literally the best of times and the worst of times. There are days you hate your life and every other person living under your roof, and there are moments you just cry because it’s so beautiful and you wish your kids would stay young forever. The work of being a mom or dad is non-stop because human needs never quit. Those young mouths need to be fed many times a day, and when they aren’t busy eating they could be arguing with you and/or their siblings. 

What’s great about raising teenagers in Fernie?
So many things! Number one on most lists is ‘community.’ Parents here report that they know their neighbours and have many interconnected relationships around the Elk Valley. Your best friend might be your son’s teacher. And your daughter’s favourite playmate could be the child of your doctor. That’s life in a small town, and it creates a social safety net for families. 

Then there’s ‘nature.’ We are in the middle of it! Our friends and family in other parts of the globe tell us how lucky we are to live here. From snowshoeing to skateboarding, and hunting to hiking, there is a world of activity for teenagers. We’ve got an incredible night sky - you can’t enjoy that in the city! - and four unique seasons. 

When it comes to their children, moms and dads also experience a sense of safety in Fernie. You know your teen usually isn’t too far away, and you likely know where all their friends live. It is an ideal place to learn to drive!

What’s not great about raising teenagers in Fernie?
You’re probably familiar with the Snow Globe Effect that happens in Fernie, where it can be dumping here but not a single flake is falling in Sparwood or on the other side of the tunnel. We know Fernie is a bit of a paradise, with the mountains and river and Teck supplying many well-paid jobs. But sometimes we forget there is another reality outside this little bubble. 

Raising young people in a community that feels warm and friendly is a gift, however we pay a price if we don’t expose our kids to diversity. There is a risk of our children being scared of people who are different, and a risk of them believing stereotypes. Expand their minds as much as you can; you will benefit from this as well!

I am white, athletic, and slightly above the median age in this city, and when I look around it’s easy to see folks like me. Let’s not forget our community is also home to people who are transgender. It’s home for folks who are gay and bi and black and brown. There are families who don’t speak English in their homes and there are parents who skip meals so their children can eat. And open your eyes - even though we don’t have a Downtown Eastside there are plenty of drugs to go around. 

Making the best out of the good and the bad.
Fernie is a pond. There are advantages and disadvantages to growing up in a small pond. Your young person (or you!) might be an ‘only’ in their class or in the community, and that can feel hard. The only Jew. The only person who uses a wheelchair. The only adopted kid. Notice where your teenager is the same and where they are different from their peers, and acknowledge it. Talking about these things makes them easier to make sense of. 

In Fernie there are sports we can’t practice and arts we don’t have. Ballerinas and champion chess players won’t hail from Fernie. But mountain biking heroes? You betcha.

Do we drive our teens to track in the Crowsnest Pass on Tuesdays and Thursdays and to Cranbrook for volleyball on Wednesdays and Fridays? Something’s gotta give! Maybe we are a basketball family, and that’s it. Or a skiing family. We could do so many things, but remember: we can’t do them all.

Watching my son and his friends grow up in this special little city on the unceded territory of the Ktunaxa Nation is something I will cherish for the rest of my life.