Free parenting session offered in Putnam

By Denise Coffey - Staff Writer
Putnam - posted Mon., Jan. 7, 2013

A free 10-week parenting series will be offered to parents of infants, toddlers or preschoolers at Day Kimball Hospital on Friday mornings beginning Jan. 11. Coordinator Laurel Garry of the Nurturing Families Network said one of the most important things the sessions provide is information on child development.

“Studies have shown that parents who have inappropriate expectations of their children or don't know what to expect behaviorally from their children get frustrated easily,” Garry said. Those frustrations can build up, leading to power struggles and difficult parenting styles. “We let parents know what to expect,” Garry said. “We try to give them an understanding of where their children are developmentally at certain ages. We show them ways to help their children express themselves in more positive ways.”

Garry has been with the Nurturing Families Network for seven years. She estimates that in that time, more than 2,000 new parents have taken advantage of the program. The 10-week sessions are offered three times a year. The program is free and childcare is provided for those parents who need it.

The Children's Trust Fund, an independent state agency, has provided funding for more than 180 family service programs statewide since 1997. The Nurturing Families Network is one of those programs. According to the CTF Executive Director Karen Foley-Schain, the evidence-based curriculum used provides information to help parents work through issues they might be having.

“It really helps the parents come up with solutions to questions and issues they have,” Foley-Schain said. “It helps them have appropriate expectations of their child's development. If parents overestimate or underestimate where their kids are, then they are going to be out of sync. This program helps them understand what their children need. It helps them come up with effective ways to discipline their kids without causing any harm.”

One of the things the program focuses on is sleep and setting up routines. “Establishing some nurturing routines such as feeding and sleeping are important for kids,” Garry said. “Schedules let them know what to expect. Setting routines can be difficult especially for parents bringing a new baby home.” Facilitators talk parents through the process to help them get regulated into a routine. “Sometimes they just need to know that it does pass,” Garry said of certain behaviors.

Parents of all ages are welcome, though there are sessions focused specifically on teen parents. And Garry said that the program tries to include everybody who is involved in the parenting of a particular child. For those young parents who are still living with their parents, this can be tricky.

The program has been very popular. It has been offered in 20 places across the state. “We found it reduces parental stress,” Foley-Schain said. “Parents walk away with a lot of information about their kids and their kids' development that they can use.” She said the program is available to any parent who has concerns or wants to be a better parent. For more information, call 860-928-6541.

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