QUINCY -- As a parent, Shelia Bell wants to do the best she can for her kids -- and for her foster kids.
"I've been parenting for a long time," the Quincy woman said. "I just need some new ideas, fresh ideas, especially with the technology, the social media and all that the kids are faced with. It's different than my first round with parenting."
Bell picked up some tips, and some encouragement, Wednesday night at a free parent night at Quincy University, provided as a prelude to Quincy Conference.
Jesse W. Jackson III focused on the importance of parents and how parents can help their children be successful in the classroom and beyond.
"I want parents paying attention to detail, talking (to their children), getting in their business, staying in their business," Jackson said. "You will never regret an over-investment in your children."
With six children between them, Anngelina Chasteen and Matthew McAneny already invest plenty of time but want to learn more to help their kids.
"Any kind of knowledge that we can add to our own personal knowledge base as far as parenting and educating our children and supporting them through their education, we're all about getting involved," she said.
But Jackson, a nationally known therapist and best-selling author, understands it's easy for parents to get distracted often by problems in their own lives.
"I've never met a person who does not care about their children. I have found a lot of people ill-equipped to serve their children," he said. "Parenting is about having something to give, and you cannot give what you do not have. When parents have their own deal going on, their children suffer."
Jackson's perspective offered a "new and necessary" message for the community and the school district, said Macy Ferguson-Smith, chairman of the Quincy Human Rights Commission, which sponsored the program with Quincy Public Schools and Quincy Conference.
Heather Lair said, "I'm an educator, plus I'm also a mother of a child in Quincy Public Schools. As a classroom teacher, I'm trying to make those connections with parents. I wanted to see what he has to say that might be different than what I've heard before."
Parents need to be aware of the pitfalls and problems facing children -- including outside influences.
Jackson said, "It's very important to be aware of who they are hanging with, talking about. We always say trust but verify. Sometimes something is going on they are not aware of."
Parents try to draw the line from interfering too much in their children's lives, but "you only get one chance with your kid. You want to protect them," Jackson said. "We live in a different time. It's not about the theory of right and wrong. This time we live in is mandating that you do it for their own safety."