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Mom and Dad go Back to School : Parenting Education

Anybody who has been there knows this is true: nothing about our life experience prior to becoming a parent adequately prepares us for the job. There are training programs for nearly everything on the planet, from art classes to flying lessons to how to contact grandma in the great beyond, but few of us know where in the yellow pages to look for parenting help. Most of the time we call our own mother, which may or may not be the most credible source of wisdom (remember the time she blew cigarette smoke into your ear to help with your ear ache?), or more likely we just wing it, we make it up as we go along, just like dear old mom and dad did (before the cigarettes got to them). But the pressures of modern life, not to mention the diversions and temptations, make this an increasingly risky proposition. Parenting is the polar opposite of that old saying we used to whisper behind our teacher’s back: “those who can do, those who can’t teach.” Might work for history class, but when it comes to preparing our children to face the realities of life in an increasingly complex world, a little tutoring sounds like the best idea since Dr. Spock went out of style.

The good news is that parent education is the hottest thing since remote control television. And it’s a good thing – rates of domestic abuse are at an all time high, which means that child abuse in those homes if 15 times more likely, and 12 to 14 times more likely for the abuse to include a sexual element. With these numbers, everyone in house needs the support of friends, family, and the community. The goal of parent education is as straight-forward as it is imperative: to empower parents to make better choices where their children are concerned, which is almost always a product of making better choices for themselves. The key is providing alternatives to choices that lead to violence, neglect and emotional abuse, and programs include not only education, but the availability of immediate resources when the pressure builds to the point at which someone in the home is at risk.

Programs can be general, or they can target a specific aspect of the parenting challenge. Some teach the fundamental principles and skills of parenting – everything from changing a diaper by the book to CPR and home tutoring – which means they are as appropriate for non-threatened homes as they are for homes with issues. Some focus on specific parental challenges – alcohol, drugs, sexuality, discipline and social issues. Other programs define themselves by the needs of the parents they serve – single parents, same sex parents, low income parents, parents with addiction issues, and others. And then there are programs that target specific children – the disabled, the orphaned, even the gifted. Sometimes the lines between the programs blur, which means the nature of the support has common elements, all of them based on the nourishing of the child’s needs in context to the meeting of the parents’ challenges.

Just like another old saying – you can never be too good looking or have too much money – it’s true that you can never learn enough about how to be a great parent. And luckily for today’s parents, there are resources to which you can turn to get that education and support.

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