By Julie A Cajigas
Parenting can be lonely work. Even if you have lots of family support, it’s rare to have family members whose children are going through the same ages and stages. Sometimes you or your child may have unique struggles that members of your personal network aren’t well equipped to respond to.
The good news is that you don’t have to feel isolated.
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“Having other people to help you remain grounded, to help lift you in the times when you’re down, share resources, and being able to share thoughts and feelings without the judgment that you may receive in other settings…it’s so important,” said Kristin Hafford, a parent adviser coordinator for Akron Children’s Hospital.
Sarah Ferraro, online groups and membership manager for MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) International describes the uncharted waters where parents go from taking care of themselves to taking care of other human beings.
“You haven’t done it before you’re in it, and especially with parenting, we can feel isolated or lonely and think that we are doing everything wrong,” she said. “Being able to come together and realize that all of the feelings I’m feeling, everyone feels the same; being able to collaborate and learn how to be the best parent you can be, that’s pretty critical.”
Many people in the parenting community cite COVID-19 as a key stressor for parents in 2020. “We are seeing a great surge in anxiety and depression with COVID-19,” said Liz Maseth, BSN/RN IBCLC at Akron Children’s Hospital. She encouraged moms feeling that way to reach out for help. “Your physical and mental health plays an important part in your baby’s development.”
Though many of the supports available to parents look a little different during the pandemic, there are still many places offering support for parents and guardians from all walks of life. From support groups and helplines to podcasts and apps, the parenting community in Akron and across the country has a lot to offer parents looking for help and support.
Over the next 10 weeks, we will take an in-depth look at some organizations and services offering support for parents and guardians.
Support is on the way.
SOS: In Search Of Support
Part 1: Parent U
If you took childbirthing/Lamaze classes at the hospital where you delivered and that was the extent of your parenting education, you are not alone. Whether you are a first-time parent or a veteran, the parenting journey has a way of throwing curveballs. You may find yourself wondering why there aren’t places offering a sort of continuing parent education during the early years.
Turns out, there is — our very own Akron Children’s Hospital.
Akron Children’s Hospital has a program called Nurturing Families, where parent(s) with children from birth to age 5 can take classes on topics including stress management, discipline, attachment, safety and more.
There are no special qualifications to register other than having a child from birth to 5 years of age.
“Parents come to our program in all stages of the parenting journey,” said Ameeca Holmes, community health supervisor for Akron Children’s Hospital. “Some have older children, some are first-time parents, some are fourth-time parents.”
Holmes explained that people learn parenting from their own experiences with their parents and then choose to model or improve upon what they learned.
“We are not teaching parents how to parent,” Holmes said. “Instead, the main focus of our program is helping to build parental confidence and to offer tips and tools that parents can use at home to make parenting easier.”
One of the biggest things Nurturing Families helps parents do is get into a routine with their children.
“This is that age when their brains are still adapting and they are learning what we teach them,” Holmes said. One of the things she loves about leading the program is hearing positive parent feedback when they try a new routine.
“I love hearing, ‘Hey, I tried that bath routine, and now things are going smoother,’” Holmes said. “It’s wonderful when parents try things they may not have thought about on their own or tried without encouragement.”
Another source of parental stress that comes up frequently among parents and leaders in the program, according to Holmes, is concern about different rates of development. “We always say that every child is different,” she said. “Some kids are walking at 9 months, and some don’t walk until 15 months, and that’s OK.”
The program also offers activities for children to stimulate brain cognition. “We give a lot of home literacy activities that parents can do,” Holmes said. “Quick, five-minute activities that will stick with kids and help increase their vocabulary.”
Families who complete the program also receive incentives and helpful safety supplies. Some of the items parents will receive include gift cards to stores like Target and Giant Eagle, gas cards, children’s books, toys and a child safety kit that includes outlet plugs, cabinet locks, toy choking testers, digital thermometers and more.
In non-COVID times, the program offers community-based sessions where parents attend with their children and other parents as well as in-home sessions. During COVID-19, the program is being offered virtually via video conferencing.
“Parents are their children’s first teacher. What you model and do is what they learn,” Holmes said. “We have great success with this program, and parents enjoy it.”
Julie is a mother of three and Professor of Practice at The University of Akron. Her hobbies include singing in the Cleveland Orchestra Chorus, Instagramming her kids and sleeping standing up.
Photo: Akron Children’s Hospital