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Healthy Kids: Parenting support groups offer valuable benefits

Parenting classes can benefit families and provide support. (SBG photo)

Parenting can be challenging, and no one is born knowing how to do it—it’s something you learn. But it’s not something you have to navigate alone.

Parenting education classes and support groups offer moms and dads useful information about raising their children through different stages of development. These groups are also a good opportunity to connect with other parents in the community.

Katie Werner is an active participant in the Terrific Twos class at Parenting Now! in Eugene.

Each Thursday evening, while her 2-year-old son, Maxwell, plays with other children in a supervised classroom, Katie gathers with other parents to talk about the ups and downs and the ins and outs of raising a toddler.

“We have working parents in the group, we have parents who stay at home, we have a mix of cultures and a mix of growing-up experiences that we can all learn from and glean from,” Katie says. “And it’s two hours of uninterrupted time each week that I can focus on me and how to be the best mom I can be.”

Parenting educator Sarah Lame leads the 10-week long Terrific Twos class and engages parents in a weekly discussion on a variety of topics, including development, behavior and effective communication. Parents get to know each other, share information, and they can lean on each other for support.

“So that 2 a.m. moment where you’re just pulling out your hair and you don’t understand what is going on—you’re able to come to class the next day and laugh about it or have someone say, ‘That totally happened to me, too, and it passed,’” she says.

The Terrific Twos group has helped Jason Shannon and his wife, Allison, feel more confident about raising their 2-year-old son, Jacob.

“Even if you’ve read a bunch of books and you know this is a common milestone, this is a common thing that happens, to hear other families say, ‘I’m doing that, too,’ or ‘That’s happening to us, too,’ you think: ‘Wow, I’m not alone.’”

Participating in a parenting support group is one of the best things moms and dads can do for themselves, says pediatrician Dr. Pilar Bradshaw with Eugene Pediatric Associates.

“It’s been shown that people who participate in parenting groups generally tend to rate their experience as a parent higher,” she says. “They feel better about their child and most importantly, abuse rates and neglect rates are a lot lower for parents who can get plugged in and engaged in a community.”

“To learn how children’s brains are working, to learn about the emotions they’re feeling—which emotions they can and cannot differentiate between—and then learning to recognize those and recognize our own reactions to them is extremely helpful,” Jason says. “It gives us more tools for how to deal with behavior and how to best teach our son.”

“Parenting is great and hard, so to leave this class and be rejuvenated with new information is really great,” Katie says.

For parenting resources in the community, click here. And check out these resources for medically fragile children, multiples and bereavement support.

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