Young mother holding her baby sitting under a tree

Supporting Families through Parenting Groups

Parenting can be rewarding, but that doesn’t mean that it’s easy. In fact, it’s the toughest job you’ll never get paid to do. That’s especially true when families are struggling with homelessness, mental illness, unemployment, poverty, special needs and legal concerns, all of which disparately affect families from cultural and ethnic minorities.

One of the ways that we can support families as they work to find stable lives is through resources that can help parents succeed. Parenting groups – and the natural networks of peers that form when parents learn and grow together – can be an important source of support and learning. With this in mind, the Kofi Services team at Wilder recently coordinated a parenting group with funding from the Ramsey County Community Mental Health Collaborative (RCCMHC).

Practical Skills for Parents

Ten parents and their kids committed to gathering for three hours each Tuesday afternoon at Linwood Monroe Arts Plus School for 10 weeks. Most joined because they wanted extra support and techniques, like conflict management, positive discipline, and communication to improve their parent-child relationship. By strengthening their skills, parents can not only improve their family life today, but also influence their children’s lives for years to come.

We used the Strengthening Multi-Ethnic Families and Communities curriculum, which was developed by the late Dr. Marilyn Steele and three collaborators. I was trained by Dr. Steele as a Master Facilitator of this curriculum over 15 years ago, and have spent years facilitating this curriculum for families in recovery, first time parents, and parents struggling to maintain custody of their children. I have seen first-hand the impact that this program can have in the lives of parents, kids, and families, and it is my passion to make it available to any parent who seeks it. I believe that the hands-on, interactive, and customizable nature of the program makes it a perfect way to engage parents and get them equipped with skills they can actually use, right away.

Parent Response

Parents are the best judges of whether a curriculum is successful. We were encouraged by positive responses from parents, who reported that they:

  • Are “much calmer, don’t let things upset them the way they used to” as a result of their ability to “think differently about child’s behavior/thinking” and use “new methods” in their approach to parenting.
  • Learned “that discipline is to teach, and that loving them should come from that” and that “there are other ways to communicate with your child without physical discipline or being aggressive.”

One participant said that the Strengthening Families course at Linwood offered the “most helpful skills/tips/lessons on parenting I’ve received out of all classes, groups, info I’ve been to/heard, and have had A LOT from several resources.”

We are excited to offer three more parenting groups this spring for Wilder families and the general community, with groups offered in Frogtown, Dayton’s Bluff, and North End. We’re also building relationships with other agencies that serve parents and families to explore options for future groups. Every parent wants to succeed for their child, and we want to give them the tools they need to succeed.
Vicky Fitzgerald is a grant and contract coordinator for school-linked mental health services at Wilder. She has over 30 years of experience as a parent educator and facilitates the Strengthening Multi-Ethnic Families and Communities parent education curriculum.