April 30, 2016


Moms, girls, to connect at retreat

Joe McIntyre/staff photographer
From left, Mimi Thomas, Mary Dykeman and intern Katie Hebert reminisce over past mother-daughter retreat photos in this 2013 file photo. Dykeman will be a facilitator in the May “Mother-Daughter Retreat on Growing Up,” which is sponsored this year by Cortland Prevention Resources.

Living and Leisure Editor

Mary Dykeman said girls’ lives today are more complicated than ever.
The educator plans to tackle issues like girl fighting, body image and self esteem, as well as puberty, at the annual Mother-Daughter Retreat on Growing Up in Cortland next month.
“I think we spend more time with social issues than just the facts of puberty,” said the prevention specialist with Cortland Prevention Resources, who is responding to a shift in emphasis over the 20 years she has led the event.
Geared toward girls in fifth and sixth grade, the retreat will take place May 14 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the United Presbyterian Church, 25 Church St., Cortland.
“It was a lot of fun,” said Sommer Bleck of McGraw, who attended last year with her daughter, Paris Allington, now 12. “We learned a lot about each other. I am pretty open. I have worked with teens for years,” she said. “With your own kid, you forget to be open ... It was getting her into the mind set of, ‘This is life. This is what we talk about.’”
Bleck said she’s grateful for the bond the retreat fostered and would recommend it to others.
Dykeman led the retreat for 20 years in her former post as an educator at the county Health Department, from which she has retired.
A prevention specialist since January at Cortland Prevention Resources, she has expanded the focus of the retreat to include education on preventing pressure to drink and do drugs with co-facilitator Linnay Harmer, prevention specialist at CPR.
The educators want girls to be prepared for any pressure they may face in their teen years.
Dykeman said the social issues to be covered include bullying, girl fighting, developing self esteem and girls accepting their bodies as they are.
“Those are the big ones,” said Dykeman.
Space is limited for the event, sponsored by Cortland Prevention Resources. Sign up by May 6. Fee. Call 607-756-8970, ext. 254.
Regina Ferro of Cortland brought her daughter, Michaella, then 12, to the event four years ago.
“My daughter and I have a very close relationship. What we brought from it was communication skills that help us talk to each other about things that mothers and daughters have been talking about forever,” she said.
“It was so well done. I know other people who have gone to it ... so many people,” she said. “No one ever walked away with a negative comment.”
Dykeman wants girls to learn to work with other girls who may not be their own best friend.
“We can’t be strong women if we are attacking other women,” she said.
And as girls go into puberty, their bodies are changing — they are adding weight and getting curvier, Dykeman said.
“Girls need to celebrate what they look like, not compare themselves to what’s on TV and in magazines, because that’s not real,” Dykeman said.
At the event, daughters will interview their moms to find out what it was like for them at this age.
At another point, Dykeman and Harmer will sit with the girls to discuss their life in fifth and sixth grade in a “fish bowl” exercise with moms watching and not being able to talk. “They don’t know what school is like for their daughters,” said Dykeman.
“For every exercise, there is a five-minute chat between moms and daughters after a teaching segment.”
That way one or the other can share more information in privacy.
Dykeman is doing a number of education events at CPR: a Snapchat series on teen health called “Ask Mary” at Every Friday, she answers a question on Snapchat on healthy relationships, sexuality and decision making. Teens can send their questions to
“It’s been awesome,” said Dykeman.
“How do I break up with someone?”; “How do I talk to my parents?”; and “How do I know if I have a sexually transmitted disease?” are sample questions. Dykeman has193 followers.
“It gives kids a safety net. They can be anonymous. They can ask questions that are important to them,” said Carol Tytler, director of marketing and development at Family Counseling Services, of which CPR is a division.
“We are so excited to have someone of Mary’s caliber join our staff. Her ability to communicate with people, whether teens, moms or daughters struggling with parenting issues, just has been tremendous.”
“She is already experienced with this retreat in her prevention role with the county. There are few people that have the comfort level talking about these issues,” Tytler said.
Dykeman also hosts a Trivia Night with disc jockey Bradford Allen for the older crowd on sex education, called “Sex. Drugs. Rock and Roll.” It takes place next at 9 p.m. May 4 at Central City Bar & Grill.
“Mary Dykeman is a treasure in this community,” said Ferro. “She’s phenomenal how she educates our young people, so non-discriminately, so respectfully.”

To read this article and more, pick up today's Cortland Standard
Click here to subscribe