Hot tips from facilitators who have run Parenting Children and Parenting Teenagers Courses around Australia
1.What have you seen has been the greatest benefit to parents and carers who attend the course?
- Seeing that other parents are facing similar challenges, and sharing these over the weeks. “I’m not the only one?”
- The “Love languages” content has been particularly helpful in recognising differences and individual children’s needs.
- Parents were very encouraged by what they already know. The course affirmed their parenting skills but also challenged parents to try new strategies or look at their parenting goals from a new perspective. For example; to really listen to their teenager, to move from being a controlling parent to a more consultative approach, to be firm with important boundaries but ready to negotiate on others and how to pass on information and parental values regarding drugs, alcohol, sex and the internet.
- The greatest benefit of the parenting course is that parents can share their own parenting experiences and difficulties with other parents during the group discussion times. They can exchange parenting ideas and support for each other, and they know that they are not alone in facing some parenting struggles. Also, the teachings provided from the DVD are solid and very informative which bring objective perspectives to parents.
- When this is run for a school, it is often the first time parents have experienced a programme like this. From the combination of videos and discussion with facilitators and other parents, ideas from the room and tips and techniques, they go away with confidence in their parenting skills.
2. Where and how have you promoted the course?
- Church noticeboard
- Notices in local school newsletters
- Email invitations to contacts
- Community notices on the local radio station or in the local newspaper
- Local child care centres
- Sign or banner outside the church
- Local gyms, libraries, cafes and shops.
“We have promoted the course through our church community and their word of mouth to friends and families as well as the local secondary college. The latter allowed us to advertise in their school notices but were not willing to allow us to facilitate a course onsite. We have had parents attend from the local school who have no church affiliation.” Course leader
3. Running The Parenting Course in schools
If you would like to run the courses in a local school the most effective connections we know of to date have been through headmasters and school chaplains. Parent teacher associations are also often influential. It takes time to build relationships with school communities. Be upfront about the Christian content and clear that your intention is not to indoctrinate parents but to support them and give them practical parenting tools. Experience has shown values that parents would like to build into their families are universal. Things like honesty, integrity and respect.
4. What advice or encouragement would you give to other churches considering running The Parenting Course?
- Get as many parents in the church as possible to do it (although not necessarily in the first course – you want church parents involved as participants on every course)
- You don’t need to have all the answers to lead or facilitate on the course, just a desire to see families strengthened.
- Run a bookstall, highlighting further reading that deals with the particular issues.
- Have as many people from church as possible involved in some way during the running of the course (we had different bible study groups volunteer to cater each week).
- Previous attenders can be the best recruiters for the next course.
- Once we tried a parenting forum with a Christian paediatric specialist speaking and answering questions. The forum was held midway through the course and opened up to others. In hindsight, it may have been useful to have held it maybe 6 weeks before the course as a way of promoting the course further.
- Just give it a go. You don't have to be a psychologist or a parenting expert! Find parents of teenagers who would be willing to lead a small group discussion during the course and perhaps support parents who may be doing it tough. We have also invited our youth minister to come and chat with parents on the last session of the course and answer any specific questions they might have. Questions have mainly focused on the internet / media and technology as parents today are struggling as digital migrants compared to our teenagers who are digital natives!
- The course provides a great support to your church members who are parents and will need this course. Secondly, it provides a great channel to reach to your local community. While the parent is attending the course, the kids or teens can join other programs like youth or Sunday school, so the children also have opportunity to benefit.
5. How to get started?
- Try running a pilot course first. We encourage churches to trial it with a small group of parents prior to opening it to the wider public. Invite parents with a children who are a range of ages. Include people who might become part of the team or people who have a lot of contacts in the church and the community.
- Read the Leaders’ Guide which comes with the DVDs. It is like the recipe book. It tells you everything you need to know about session structure and timings, setting up the room and creating atmosphere.
6. Try adding an extra week at the end with a panel of experts
- Some churches have added an extra session. As part of the first session facilitators ask parents if there is one thing they want to learn from the course, one question they could have answered, what is it?
- Then with this list of questions look at anything that will not specifically be answered by the course and invite some experts in specific areas to be on a panel on week 6 to answer these questions. e.g a nutritionist - eating issues, energy drinks, school counsellor, chaplain, psychologist or youth worker - emotional issues, legal issues - police officer, lawyer. This way you also link parents with people they can go to for help if issues arise.