Break Through Teens' Shells and Let Them Know You Love Them


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Mood swings, coursing hormones and sharp sarcasm can make spending time with a teenager a test of parental mettle. Teens experience an intense and wide range of emotions. They may be happy one minute and on the verge of tears the next.

Knowing when to strike up a conversation with a teen can be just as key as knowing how to. By analyzing a clip of his day, you'll pinpoint triggers for mood distress:

On the trip from his bed to the front door, and ultimately to school, your teen will wake up irritated at his inability to sleep in, lumber into the bathroom and grimace at the sign of impending acne. As he looks in the mirror at the hairstyle that's dodged recent haircuts, his mood begins to shift. On the verge of cheerfulness, he pulls on his favorite T-shirt, which happens to be the same one you criticize him for wearing four days out of seven. The trip down the stairs to breakfast has the potential to make or break the next five to seven minutes the two of you will share.

As you hear him heading down the stairs, you call, "Good morning. How did you sleep?" Such a blatant attempt to pry into his private life abruptly alters his mood. The chance to talk about his biology exam or where you might go for dinner later that week vanishes before you have a chance to realize it's gone.

Expressing unwavering and unconditional love for the child who now refuses to do more than grunt at you when he passes by with a bagel wedged in his mouth requires a strategy often uncommon to parents. Whether you're entering into uncharted waters, or heading into a storm you've faced before, understanding the importance and impact of letting your teen know you love him — even when he makes it difficult — will help you all navigate your way back to calmer waters.

Make your feelings known

Remembering to overtly express your love can easily get lost in the mix when you're busy wondering if you're getting through about the dangers of drinking and driving or the importance of taking a prep course for the SATs.

"At least once a day I have a teen in my office vowing how much their parents hate them," says Margaret Ryan, a guidance counselor at a private high school in Houston, Texas. Ryan has spent almost 10 years working with students who question their parents' honest feelings. "Since this is such a difficult phase for both sides, it can be tricky for parents to definitively express love when they're worried about teen pregnancy, substance abuse and keeping their children safe. Many teens don't relate their parents' caring and concern to feelings of love," she says.

Revisit your youth

If possible, would you go back to your teen years? Would you go through middle school, puberty and high school all over again? Feelings of vulnerability, insecurity and revolving emotions aren't something most experienced adults would willingly revisit, yet we expect our children to sail through this time unaffected.

Ed Dean knows he put his parents through their paces. "I was moody and used to do things just to be irritating. I can't believe they didn't lock me in my room just to shut me up!"

Although Dean can joke about his teenage antics, his parents didn't always share his perception. "There were so many times when Ed would make it so tough to be around him. Between his moods, his sullen attitude and his penchant for making his sisters cry, we wondered if we'd ever get through his teen years," says his mother, Veronica.

Do whatever it takes

Veronica recalls a defining moment in their parent/teen relationship. "Ed was trying to push us away as he looked for his independence. One morning I stopped him before he was out the door for school and hugged him for nearly two minutes. I kept telling him how much we loved him and wanted him to always know we were there for him." Much to her surprise, Veronica's son countered her unexpected affirmations by tearfully responding with, "I love you too. I'm sorry I don't make it easy for you to love me."

As a new father facing another round of the teen years, but this time from a parent's perspective, Ed plans on taking his cues from his parents. "They never gave up on me, and no matter what, I'll persevere through my daughter's teen scene as well," he says.

"I'll have at least one teen in the house for a span of 21 years," sighs Liselle Vizza, a busy single mother of six children. This feisty mom chose a different path to break through her teenager's turbulence. An experienced trial lawyer, Vizza knows a few tricks that get her point across.

"I threatened my oldest son that if he didn't stop to let me give him a kiss goodbye on his way out the door, I'd show up at his school with a sandwich board professing my love for 'my little boy.'" While she didn't need to make good on her threat, she did capture her son's attention.

Consider what they hear you say

It's amazing to hear the heartwarming stories parents share about their teens. Sitting in the grandstands of a football game or catching up with neighbors while working in the yard, parents speak of their teen's accomplishments and growth with unending amounts of pride. Unfortunately, many teens and tweens do not hear these glowing proclamations.

Instead, they may routinely hear: "You need to clean your room," "If you're going to use the car, please put the keys back where I can find them" and "You used to be so even-tempered." These frequent phrases can replace the spontaneous avowals of affection you once bestowed upon him as a child.

Find creative options

Heidi Bishop, with a master's degree in social work, encourages parents to explore ways to express their feelings to their teens. Among her many ideas, she recommends families create a neutral zone in their home.

"Designating a spot where everyone feels comfortable to express themselves, regardless of the connotation of the message, eliminates some sporadic mood swings," she says.

Journaling your thoughts in a diary that you pass back and forth with your teen gives you both a private way to convey personal sentiments. Setting a time to tune into your teen once or twice a week lets you both share your feelings, concerns and affection without boundaries. Establishing that you can hug him in the house or finding a code word that signifies "I love you" when you're in public offers him security to spread his wings while reinforcing your unconditional love.

When your teen realizes you are able to balance his need for privacy with your need to remain a loving and vital part of his life, he'll recognize your unending love for him.

Gina Roberts-Grey is a health and lifestyles writer as well as a licensed clinical social worker.

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November 2019

Our seventh annual food drive will be held during the month of November. All donations benefit the Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina (www.foodbankcenc.org). We encourage you to get...

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During harvest time, farmers often helped their neighbors to get hard work done during communal gatherings such as corn shucking. Learn about this fall tradition and make a corn husk doll to take...

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We will be conducting a food drive during the month of November. All donations benefit the Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina (www.foodbankcenc.org). We encourage you to get involved...

Cost: FREE. Registration is not required.

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Road
Raleigh, NC  27603
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Telephone: 919-856-6675
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Open Arts
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Open Arts
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Wilson Park Shelter
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Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Road
Raleigh, NC  27603
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Bynum Front Porch
950 Bynum Rd
Pittsboro, NC  27312
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November is a time to be thankful! Celebrate the natural world and where our favorite Thanksgiving foods come from. Investigate corn under microscopes and hand lenses, learn the difference between...

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Crowder County Park
4709 Ten-Ten Rd
Apex, NC  27529
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Durham Bulls Athletic Park
Blackwell St.
Durham, NC  27701
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Fall Family Cookie Decorating. Enjoy a family outing…. Come learn a variety of cookie recipes suited for decorating. Then practice piping and flooding sugar cookies for the perfect look....

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The Studio School of Durham
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Durham, NC  27713
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Search for salamanders, owls and more. Equipment provided. Ages 10-13. Register online. Choose course #128019.

Cost: $8/resident, $10/nonresident

Where:
Stevens Nature Center/Hemlock Bluffs
2616 Kildaire Farm Rd.
Raleigh, NC
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Telephone: 919-387-5980
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See horses compete and enjoy food trucks, children's activities and more. Admission is free; Saturday evening Grand Prix tickets are $10/person. Proceeds benefit Duke Children's...

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Gov. James B. Hunt Horse Complex
4601 Trinity Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27607
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We will be conducting a food drive during the month of November. All donations benefit the Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina (www.foodbankcenc.org). We encourage you to get involved...

Cost: FREE. Registration is not required.

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Road
Raleigh, NC  27603
View map »


Telephone: 919-856-6675
Website »

More information

Our seventh annual food drive will be held during the month of November. All donations benefit the Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina (www.foodbankcenc.org). We encourage you to get...

Cost: FREE. Registration is not required.

Where:
Crowder County Park
4709 Ten-Ten Rd
Apex, NC  27529
View map »


Telephone: 919-662-2850
Website »

More information

Red, yellow, orange, and brown – leaves come in all different sizes and colors. Practice your color and shape recognition through centers, songs, and stories. For ages 18 months to 3 years (adult...

Cost: FREE. Registration is required.

Where:
Crowder County Park
4709 Ten-Ten Rd
Apex, NC  27529
View map »


Telephone: 919-662-2850
Website »

More information

See horses compete and enjoy food trucks, children's activities and more. Admission is free; Saturday evening Grand Prix tickets are $10/person. Proceeds benefit Duke Children's...

Cost: Free

Where:
Gov. James B. Hunt Horse Complex
4601 Trinity Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27607
View map »


Website »

More information

Show More...
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Our seventh annual food drive will be held during the month of November. All donations benefit the Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina (www.foodbankcenc.org). We encourage you to get...

Cost: FREE. Registration is not required.

Where:
Crowder County Park
4709 Ten-Ten Rd
Apex, NC  27529
View map »


Telephone: 919-662-2850
Website »

More information

We will be conducting a food drive during the month of November. All donations benefit the Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina (www.foodbankcenc.org). We encourage you to get involved...

Cost: FREE. Registration is not required.

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Road
Raleigh, NC  27603
View map »


Telephone: 919-856-6675
Website »

More information

Kids hike, make projects and engage in nature activities. Ages 5-8. Register online. Choose course #127196.

Cost: $9/resident, $12/nonresident

Where:
Stevens Nature Center/Hemlock Bluffs
2616 Kildaire Farm Rd.
Cary, NC  27518
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Telephone: 919-387-5980
Website »

More information

Catboy, Owlette, and Gekko will delight fans of all ages with live performances featuring world-class production, toe-tapping tunes and a whole lot of super fun as they go into...

Cost: $28.50 and up

Where:
Durham Performing Arts Center
123 Vivian St.
Durham, NC  27701
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We will be conducting a food drive during the month of November. All donations benefit the Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina (www.foodbankcenc.org). We encourage you to get involved...

Cost: FREE. Registration is not required.

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Road
Raleigh, NC  27603
View map »


Telephone: 919-856-6675
Website »

More information

Our seventh annual food drive will be held during the month of November. All donations benefit the Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina (www.foodbankcenc.org). We encourage you to get...

Cost: FREE. Registration is not required.

Where:
Crowder County Park
4709 Ten-Ten Rd
Apex, NC  27529
View map »


Telephone: 919-662-2850
Website »

More information

See Happy Dan perform magic, comedy and more.

Cost: $5/person

Where:
Renaissance Centre
405 Brooks St.
Wake Forest, NC  27587
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We’ll enjoy poetry written in honor of the many holidays that occur around this time of the year. Following questions and discussion, those attending will have the opportunity to share by reading...

Cost: Free

Where:
Orange County Main Library
137 W Margaret Ln
Hillsborough, NC  27278
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Sponsor: Orange County Public Library
Telephone: 919-245-2539
Contact Name: Libbie Hough
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We will be conducting a food drive during the month of November. All donations benefit the Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina (www.foodbankcenc.org). We encourage you to get involved...

Cost: FREE. Registration is not required.

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Road
Raleigh, NC  27603
View map »


Telephone: 919-856-6675
Website »

More information

Our seventh annual food drive will be held during the month of November. All donations benefit the Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina (www.foodbankcenc.org). We encourage you to get...

Cost: FREE. Registration is not required.

Where:
Crowder County Park
4709 Ten-Ten Rd
Apex, NC  27529
View map »


Telephone: 919-662-2850
Website »

More information

Join us in the Kidzu Front Yard Garden for a special off-season Junior Gardeners in honor of Chapel Hill Arbor Week. Get hands on and explore trees, and all the things they provide including...

Cost: Free

Where:
Kidzu Children's Museum
201 S. Estes Dr.
Chapel Hill, NC  27514
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Take the fast track to nature in this hands-on study of ecology. Ages 8-12. Register online.  Chose course #127203.

Cost: $9/resident, $12/nonresident

Where:
Stevens Nature Center/Hemlock Bluffs
2616 Kildaire Farm Rd.
Cary, NC
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Telephone: 919-387-5980
Website »

More information

The word philanthropy means love of mankind. From the earliest days, human civilization has depended upon kindness directed towards strangers. Explore the history of giving, then help to cut out...

Cost: FREE. Registration is required.

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Road
Raleigh, NC  27603
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Telephone: 919-856-6675

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Join us to learn about 4H and then enjoy fall activities and crafts!  No registration is required. Grades 3-5

Cost: Free

Where:
Orange County Main Library
137 W Margaret Ln
Hillsborough, NC  27278
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Sponsor: Orange County Public Library
Telephone: 919-245-2539
Contact Name: Libbie Hough
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Join Cary Lifestyle Magazine for a wonderful night of charity, fashion, decadent food and drinks and shopping. Proceeds go to Saving Grace NC,non-profit animal rescue, that since its inception in...

Cost: $75.00

Where:
Hilton Garden Inn
131 Columbus Ave
Cary, NC  27518
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Sponsor: Carolina LifeStyle Magazine
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Enjoy a family-friendly movie and a slice or two of pizza. Doors open at 5:30 p.m. Purchase tickets online.

Cost: $5/person. $2 for ages 2 and younger

Where:
The Halle Cultural Center
237 N. Salem St.
Apex, NC  27502
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Ages 11 and older with special needs help support the Town of Cary's annual toy drive by donating an unwrapped toy for a child in need. Make cards for the holiday cards for these...

Cost: $2/resident, $3/nonresident

Where:
Cary Senior Center
120 Maury O'Dell Place
Cary, NC  27513
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Website »

More information

Transformative stories through the mists of time adapted from "1001 Arabian Nights" and performed by Emerson's 10th grade class.  Recommended for audiences age 10 and up. For...

Cost: $5-$12

Where:
Emerson Waldorf School
6211 New Jericho Road
Brown Wing
Chapel Hill, NC  27516
View map »


Website »

More information

It’s the summer before the 1904 World’s Fair and the three Smith sisters are filled with anticipation. But the year brings turmoil as family life interferes with their newfound chances...

Cost: Adults: $15 Seniors: $10 Students and children: $5 Family 4-pack

Where:
William Peace University, Kenan Auditorium
15 E Peace St
Raleigh, NC  27604
View map »


Sponsor: William Peace University
Contact Name: Charles Machalicky
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

We will be conducting a food drive during the month of November. All donations benefit the Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina (www.foodbankcenc.org). We encourage you to get involved...

Cost: FREE. Registration is not required.

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Road
Raleigh, NC  27603
View map »


Telephone: 919-856-6675
Website »

More information

Our seventh annual food drive will be held during the month of November. All donations benefit the Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina (www.foodbankcenc.org). We encourage you to get...

Cost: FREE. Registration is not required.

Where:
Crowder County Park
4709 Ten-Ten Rd
Apex, NC  27529
View map »


Telephone: 919-662-2850
Website »

More information

Celebrate collards at the State Farmers Market.

Cost: Free

Where:
State Farmers Market
1201 Agriculture St.
Raleigh, NC  27603
View map »


Website »

More information

Come share the excitement as Park West Village hosts Winter Wonderland in The District. Kids of all ages will enjoy our Magical Winter Lights Paintscaping, featuring colorful holiday lights...

Cost: Free

Where:
Park West Village
Village Market Place
Morrisville, NC  27560
View map »


Sponsor: Park West Village
Contact Name: Conner
Website »

More information

Talented dance students perform the lavishly staged holiday ballet alongside guest artists from Carolina Ballet. All ages. Purchase tickets online.

Cost: $12-$27

Where:
Fletcher Theater, Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts
2 E. South St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Website »

More information

Deck the halls at Waverly Place and welcome the holiday season with their Eighth Annual Tree Lighting Celebration! The festivities kick off on Friday, November 22 from 6:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. and...

Cost: Free

Where:
Waverly Place Shopping Center
302 Colonades Way
Cary, NC  27518
View map »

More information

Transformative stories through the mists of time adapted from "1001 Arabian Nights" and performed by Emerson's 10th grade class.  Recommended for audiences age 10 and up. For...

Cost: $5-$12

Where:
Emerson Waldorf School
6211 New Jericho Road
Brown Wing
Chapel Hill, NC  27516
View map »


Website »

More information

The Triangle Youth String Orchestra and Youth String Sinfonia present a joint concert of their fall repertoire. All ages. Purchase tickets online.

Cost: See website for fees

Where:
Cary Arts Center
101 Dry Ave.
Cary, NC  27511
View map »


Website »

More information

It’s the summer before the 1904 World’s Fair and the three Smith sisters are filled with anticipation. But the year brings turmoil as family life interferes with their newfound chances...

Cost: Adults: $15 Seniors: $10 Students and children: $5 Family 4-pack

Where:
William Peace University, Kenan Auditorium
15 E Peace St
Raleigh, NC  27604
View map »


Sponsor: William Peace University
Contact Name: Charles Machalicky
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Our seventh annual food drive will be held during the month of November. All donations benefit the Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina (www.foodbankcenc.org). We encourage you to get...

Cost: FREE. Registration is not required.

Where:
Crowder County Park
4709 Ten-Ten Rd
Apex, NC  27529
View map »


Telephone: 919-662-2850
Website »

More information

We will be conducting a food drive during the month of November. All donations benefit the Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina (www.foodbankcenc.org). We encourage you to get involved...

Cost: FREE. Registration is not required.

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Road
Raleigh, NC  27603
View map »


Telephone: 919-856-6675
Website »

More information

Give rugby a try. Take part in tag rugby pick-up games every Saturday morning at Baileywick Road Park, near the Second Shelter.  No experience necessary. All ages. 

Cost: Free

Where:
Baileywick Road Park
9501 Baileywick Rd
Second Shelter Field
Raleigh, NC  27615
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Sponsor: Raleigh Redhawks Rugby
Contact Name: denise travis
Website »

More information

Ages 5 and older move through yoga poses and show gratitude by writing a thank-you note for someone special. Registration required online. Choose course #127447. 

Cost: $19/child

Where:
Middle Creek Community Center
125 Middle Creek Ave.
Apex, NC  27539
View map »


Website »

More information

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Cost: Free

Where:
N.C. Museum of History
5 E. Edenton St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Website »

More information

Join dozens of ethnic communities at the Global Holiday Festival and Market to celebrate and honor holidays and traditions from around the world.  Sample traditional dishes, view free dance...

Cost: Free

Where:
Moore Square, Downtown Raleigh
Raleigh, NC


Website »

More information

Talented dance students perform the lavishly staged holiday ballet alongside guest artists from Carolina Ballet. Show times are at noon and 5 p.m. All ages. Purchase tickets online.

Cost: $12-$27

Where:
Fletcher Theater, Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts
2 E. South St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Website »

More information

Want to get inside Historic Yates Mill? Join us for a half-hour tour (starting at 1, 1:30, 2, 2:30 & 3 p.m.) to view the main power drive and milling machinery while exploring the mill's history...

Cost: $5/Adult, $4/Senior (60+ yrs), $3/Child (7-16yrs), Free/Child (6yrs & younger)

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Road
Raleigh, NC  27603
View map »


Telephone: 919-856-6675
Website »

More information

Participants develop their naturalist skills and understanding of local nature. Ages 5-8 with parent. Register online. 

Cost: $8/resident, $10/nonresident

Where:
Stevens Nature Center/Hemlock Bluffs
2616 Kildaire Farm Rd.
Cary, NC
View map »


Telephone: 919-387-5980
Website »

More information

Talented dance students perform the lavishly staged holiday ballet alongside guest artists from Carolina Ballet. Show times are at noon and 5 p.m. All ages. Purchase tickets online.

Cost: $12-$27

Where:
Fletcher Theater, Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts
2 E. South St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Website »

More information

Come share the excitement as Park West Village hosts Winter Wonderland in The District. Kids of all ages will enjoy our Magical Winter Lights Paintscaping, featuring colorful holiday lights...

Cost: Free

Where:
Park West Village
Village Market Place
Morrisville, NC  27560
View map »


Sponsor: Park West Village
Contact Name: Conner
Website »

More information

East Cloud Kungfu hosts a Parent's Night Out event, featuring a safe environment for kids as they about the wide world of kungfu.   Check it out!...

Cost: $25 first child, $20 each additional child

Where:
East Cloud Kungfu, LLC
5655-A Western Blvd
Raleigh, NC  27606
View map »


Sponsor: East Cloud Kungfu, LLC
Telephone: 252-646-7053
Contact Name: Imari Colon
Website »

More information

Transformative stories through the mists of time adapted from "1001 Arabian Nights" and performed by Emerson's 10th grade class.  Recommended for audiences age 10 and up. For...

Cost: $5-$12

Where:
Emerson Waldorf School
6211 New Jericho Road
Brown Wing
Chapel Hill, NC  27516
View map »


Website »

More information

It’s the summer before the 1904 World’s Fair and the three Smith sisters are filled with anticipation. But the year brings turmoil as family life interferes with their newfound chances...

Cost: Adults: $15 Seniors: $10 Students and children: $5 Family 4-pack

Where:
William Peace University, Kenan Auditorium
15 E Peace St
Raleigh, NC  27604
View map »


Sponsor: William Peace University
Contact Name: Charles Machalicky
Website »

More information

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