Parenting support and education classes come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes. Some are as informal as a few mothers gathering weekly as part of a neighborhood parent-toddler group. While the children spend some time playing with each other, the mothers share stories about their child's development, discipline, or information from new parenting books, over cups of coffee or tea. Other groups may meet regularly in a central neighborhood location such as a family center, recreation center, or church or synagogue but will still have an informal approach and may possibly follow a curriculum or program that may support a specific value system.
The group will likely include a facilitator with education or experience in parenting. Still other groups may be more structured, use a parenting curriculum or other child development resources, be part of a national organization, and may require a time commitment and "homework" from the parent. In some cases, attendance at highly structured parenting classes is mandatory for parents who are at risk of losing custody of their children. Highly structured parenting education classes, facilitated by a parenting education professional, are usually mandatory for parents who are interested in becoming foster or adoptive parents.The value and purpose of each level of a parenting support and education class depends on the needs of the parents and their child's stage of development. However, for a parent who is new to the community or is seeking a class that will be responsive to a specific purpose or need, finding the right program can be difficult, because many of the groups do not advertise. Among the locations in a community that can be expected to keep information on both informal and structured parenting programs in the community are the local library, local religious organizations, recreation centers (such as the YMCA), maternity or pediatric units of local hospitals, local Cooperative Extension offices, local preschools, Head Start, regional child care resource and referral agencies, and local school districts. Contacting one or more of these groups close to one's neighborhood is a good first step toward finding a parenting group.
Parents may also be successful in finding a local parenting program by contacting one of the national groups that supports or provides curricula for parenting programs. While many of these programs have a general parenting focus, others are focused on a specific developmental stage or parenting issue, and still others may incorporate a religious or values-based doctrine into the program. Nationally organized parenting programs include the following:
Parents Anonymous: Parents Anonymous, Inc., was founded in 1970 through the efforts of a mother seeking help to create a safe and caring home for her family. Working with a social worker, the mother launched a national movement to bring help, support, strength, and hope to millions of families all across America. Their vision inspired other parents, professionals, and community volunteers to establish Parents Anonymous® groups throughout the United States. Parents Anonymous, Inc., is dedicated to strengthening families with strategies that encourage mutual support and parent leadership. Parents Anonymous® groups are free of charge to participants and provide an opportunity for positive growth and change for all parents. Anyone in a parenting role can join at any time and can attend for as long as he or she wishes.
Parents Anonymous, Inc.
675 W. Foothill Blvd., Suite 220
Claremont, CA 91711
Families Anonymous: Families Anonymous (FA) is a 12-step, self-help support group for relatives and friends of those who have alcohol, drug, or behavioral problems. They share their experiences and hopes with each other. Many participants have found peace and learned better coping skills, despite unresolved problems with their loved ones, by working the 12 steps used in Alcoholics Anonymous. The change in the participant often helps the member find recovery.
Mothers of Preschoolers (MOPS): MOPS exists to meet the needs of urban, suburban, stay-at-home, working, teen, single, and married moms. Participants are women who share a similar desire to be the very best parent that they can be. MOPS is dedicated to the message that "mothering matters" and that mothers of young children need encouragement during these critical and formative years.
P.O. Box 102200
Denver, CO 80250-2200
Children and Adults with Attention Deficit Disorder (CHADD): CHADD is the national nonprofit organization representing children and adults with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (AD/HD). Founded in 1987 by a group of concerned parents, CHADD works to improve the lives of people with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder through education, advocacy, and support.
8181 Professional Place, Suite 201
Landover, MD 20785
Telephone: 800-233-4050 or 301-306-7070
Parent Effectiveness Training (PET): Gordon Training International sponsors the Parent Effectiveness Training (PET) program that is widely recognized as the first skills-based training program for parents. Taught in 43 countries worldwide, PET contributed to the widespread parent training movement in the United States.
Gordon Training International
531 Stevens Ave. West
Solana Beach, CA 92075-2093
Telephone: 800-628-1197 or 858-481-8121
Girls and Boys Town: Developed by the staff at the familiar Boys Town (now known as Girls and Boys Town), the Common Sense Parenting curriculum provides a series of comprehensive parent training sessions by adapting Girls and Boys Town's effective child care methods to help today's families grow stronger in constructive and appropriate ways.
Girls and Boys Town
14100 Crawford St.
Boys Town, NE 68010
Parents as Teachers (PAT): PAT is a nonprofit parent education and family support organization. It has a network of more than 2,600 local programs and approximately 10,000 PAT trained and certified parent educators working with parents to provide them with parenting support and information on their developing child from the prenatal stages through age 5.
Parents as Teachers
10176 Corporate Square Dr.
St. Louis, MO 63132
Center for the Improvement of Child Caring: Established in 1974, the center is a nonprofit community service, training, and research corporation dedicated to improving the overall quality of child rearing and child caring in the United States. The center delivers a variety of parenting classes, seminars, and curricula in cooperation with local schools, religious institutions, corporations, hospitals and clinics, and civic, community, and cultural organizations.
Center for the Improvement of Child Caring
11331 Ventura Blvd., Suite 103
Studio City, CA 91604-3147
Once a parent has identified some parenting programs within his or her community and is thinking about participating, parenting experts from groups such as the National Parenting Education Network (NPEN) suggest that the parent ask the following questions, which a responsive parenting support or education program should be able to answer (DeBord et al., 1999, p. 3):
* What is the basic objective of the program, and is the leadership trained?
* Is there a cost and a time commitment?
* What is the program's philosophy?
* Does the program use methods that will facilitate learning between parents?
Of course, if parents are unable to find parent support or education programs in their community with which they are comfortable, they may wish to start their own group. Many parents have started less formal parenting support groups, such as a play group for their similarly aged children, and watched the group gradually become more structured based on the changing needs of the families or children. Fathers' groups often start as Saturday morning recreation groups for fathers and their children. The fathers and children spend an hour or so playing together, and then the fathers break to meet and discuss discipline issues or concerns. By working with other parents and community leaders, parents can not only build support for their parenting abilities and family, but also build support for their community.
For more information
Parent Education and Support Programs
Preventing Child Abuse and Neglect through Parent Education
A Guide to Creating a Parent Center in an Urban School
Parent Information Centers
National Parenting Education Network
Child Care Aware
National Association of Child Care Resource and Referral Agencies
DeBord, K., Heath, H., McDermott, D., Wolfe, R. (1999). Family support and parenting education. Chicago: Family Resource Coalition of America.
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