This is discussion about Parents Forum.
The notion of using parents who have been trained to work with other parents is a particularly good idea. Parents who are experiencing difficulties with bringing up their children feel very vulnerable and risk feeling condemned by professionals who, no matter how skilled or highly trained they are, may come across as experts who themselves would never have the kind of problems the parents are experiencing. This can be discouraging for the parents. However, when those who are helping are themselves parents, the parents on the receiving end feel more as if they are sharing difficulties with peers or friends.
I would hope that the project will do all it can to include fathers as well as mothers, also step-parents or others in a parenting role. Erini Flouri and Ann Buchanan's 2001 ESRC research on the England National Child Development Study found that fathers were crucial to outcomes for children, boys and girls, and their involvement led to improved educational outcomes and better emotional health.(mail to:firstname.lastname@example.org)
Thank you for these two observations. We define Parents Forum as being parent peer support. Participants in our workshops comment favorably on the non-judgmental nature of the discussions. This must be modeled of course by the groups' facilitators.
It is a challenge, culturally, to engage fathers in parenting education activities but, as you write, this is key. The July 2009 issue of Pediatrics reported that 70% of adults who harm babies by shaking them are fathers and the article emphasized that educational program for new parents must include dads.
'Doing Better for Children,' a report released 9-1-09 by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, urges the U.S. to 'shift more public spending to its youngest children, under age six, to improve their health and educational performance.' But the report does not mention parenting services, which I see as a hallmark of family support in other developed nations. We have our work cut out for us! Changing the terms of the dialogue on child well-being to include parenting resources has to be the place to start.
I certainly applaud the work of Parents Forum, for kids, moms and specially dads. I am particularly sensitive to this issue as a formerly divorced dad facing spending time with two baby children on my own. I had to learn on the job! Thankfully those kids are now in high school, I have remarried and have four year old to practice on with my second wife.
The work of the Forum also supports what I am doing at THE GOOD MEN PROJECT, a foundation that hopes to spark a national conversation about manhood and supporting programs for at-risk boys. So much of what men talk about in our format is being a father and a son. It is at the very core of who we are as men. So we need help from organizations like Parents Forum all the more!
Speaking as one who has been there, I believe it is important to tell parents that caregiving for their elders, who are now living longer, especially in developed nations, due to improved medical care, must not distract their attention away from giving their own children the support they need to grow up and have happy lives. Parents Forum is well-positioned to share this wisdom with the "sandwich" generation: people who have children and dependent elders at the same time.
I do not say to reject the call to care for an elder. Caregiving can enrich the whole family's experience of family life, and enrich the experience of the changes of roles in caring for each other. It can model healthful caregiving to younger members of the family, which can benefit the caregiver when he or she may become a dependent elder. But with a word of wisdom, the caregiver may be able to see the need for balance, and for adapting the caregiving to allow enough energy also to effectively care for and protect his or her own children.
The Parents Forum provides a wonderful structure for allowing parents to help other parents through tough parenting challenges. Since so many parents can use help, providing a way that parents can help each other is a great concept.
In Seattle, there is a Changes Parent Support Network (http://www.cpsn.org/). There are several support groups where parents struggling with difficult teen behavior can get help. I've heard many parents rave about the importance of these support groups in changing their parenting behavior to better handle their teens.
I was involved with PARENTS FORUM about eight years ago, and I still use the communication skills I learned when working with the organization. Although not yet a parent myself, the workshops really helped me when dealing with my family, which can be difficult at times even as an adult because my parents are divorced. The organization is led by people who really care about families, and I think that they are poised to make a real difference in many communities. I would definitely continue going to workshops if I still lived in New England!
Hello, I am just relaying a comment for Parents Forum that came through the Changemakers pipeline and am posting on their behalf.
"I have got quite far in the Parents Forum handbook 'Where the Heart Listens' and am finding it very useful and interesting in its specificity and empathy. Your principles emphasize my recurring teaching point about the necessity for increased attention and attentiveness to children in our care. Congratulations for this generous contribution to the practice of caring for children". -Olatoun Williams, Sponsor A Child
[Sponsor A Child was created in 2003 and is focused on the relief of poverty, distress and sickness and the educational advancement of orphans and other children at risk in Nigeria. To advance our goals we train child caregivers in institutions. We are a UNICEF partner and child rights form the basis of our activities.]
“Thanks for a great entry! Your initiative’s specific focus on parents of children with mental health issues as the organization’s main focus is quite innovative. Would you mind providing more information on how you plan on measuring impact? Also, while you focus on emotional awareness, could you tell us more about this approach and how it’s unique?”
- Naveen Shakir, Ashoka’s Changemakers