I say Parenting Course and you think what?

•”What you trying to say? That I’m shit at parenting!”

•“Oh god, sitting around with strangers talking about what I do wrong, don’t think so”

•“I’m all good thanks, I don’t need it. My parenting is great”

I am a parent of 3. They range from sassy 11year old to complicated 9 year old to stubborn 5 year old. I have worked with families and parents and challenging children for the last 13 years.

Here’s the thing: parenting courses are hands down the best tool there is to anyone looking after children. Honest.

Let’s tackle the whole ‘a course means I’m shit at parenting’ thing. That is not what a parenting course says or suggests. We all know, and probably quote, the idea that when you become a parent no one hands you a manual to tell you how to do it. Kids don’t come with an instruction booklet. We parent for near on 2 decades and that time takes us through so many stages of need, ability and behaviours. We often have to do this parenting lark with more than one child at a time (and therefore tackle different stages at once). If we’re lucky enough to do this parenting shizzle with a partner in crime then it’s not likely that you are both around all day every day to offer support to one another or tag team. We may or may not have a great family network around us and ideas on hand but equally with every generation we are facing new struggles and barriers to parenting successfully (social media anyone?) and this can’t be encompassed in the sage advice from grandma.

In addition life throws us curve balls; life events, different children’s personalities, trauma. These things can have a huge impact on our ability to parent effectively.

Research into children’s mental health shows that the main positive impact for primary aged children living with a mental illness is for the parents to go on a parenting course. It’s not so much about whether you feel ok with parenting or feel you know your stuff, our kids may need something different and that we won’t know without learning.

So, far from parenting courses shouting in your face about your crap-ness, they actually are an  empathetic arm around your shoulder, calmly stating ‘This parenting stuff is hard right? I’m happy to listen and share some ideas”.

I admit there is some sitting around with strangers (initially) and it will be hoped that you talk about your deal at some point. But hang on; a chance to sit down for a couple of hours, once a week, with no interruptions from little people and biscuits and tea on tap, Urrrrrrm I’m well up for that. And hopefully what you’ll gather is that when it comes to talking, other people will come in having had a shitter of a week with a stroppy pre-teen slamming doors or have been bought to their knees by a mini sleep terrorist and you’ll find it hard not to join in with a “oh man, tell about it. The other day when my little one……..”

For those of you who really can’t stand the thought of public sharing or who fight the anxiety on a daily basis; you shouldn’t be pushed to talk and you should be able to attend with someone. I would never make a shy or anxious individual talk unless they wished. It would be my job to make you feel as comfortable as you could and in my groups attending with your best mate is encouraged.

For those thinking “I don’t need it” well, OMG what is your secret????? No really, tell me. Because I haven’t got through a decade of parenting all smoothly and I bow down to anyone who has. I’d also wonder where you’re at with parenting right now. Has it been great with your pre-schooler but now you’re wondering what to do with the older ages? maybe you’ve sailed through baby and now you’re toddler is beginning to press some buttons? There’s always another new, fascinating and frustrating phase to gear up for right?

I think the way parenting courses are marketed is often half the battle. They come across as stale or old fashioned or as a negative consequence. But I’m beginning to think that parenting courses are not that dis-similar to the wonderful parenting blogosphere that’s taking over my social media these days. Instagram offers me many different parents shinning the light on their parenting wins and fails. I can share my own days of parenting the shit out of life or admit my woes. I can make contact with this parent community and ask for help or receive support and I always feel better for it. I don’t feel shame at my bad days. I don’t judge the others admitting the hardship. I feel a wondrous sense of celebration and fist pumping and high five emoji’s. I’ve experienced this same sense of comradery from parenting courses. They really are an instant #parentingwin.

Like my social media usage of an evening, a course offers parents some time out, time to express and think, or just drink tea. It’s a much needed break when raising little people.

On top of this, every course is written by people who know their stuff. They have studied and read a lot. They have broken down the immense and hard research articles into bite size bits of information that even the sleep deprived parent brain can process. We can get ideas to take home to try out. We get to practise our parenting skills and we all know practise make perfect.

I have delivered parenting courses to every kind of person, every background, single parents or those coming together, parents of toddlers through to teens, foster parents. And I have run courses for many who have arrived initially nervous that they won’t fit in or who’ve been sent on the course and feel loudly pissed off with this.

I have not yet had someone attend a course and then leave by the end, saying it was a negative or that they learnt nothing. And as a parent, despite being the facilitator, every time I run one I gain. I am reminded of what I want to be doing and it gives me a purpose to go away and re-try it.

This doesn’t mean I’ve become some parenting goddess, all ethereal voice and floaty hair. That will never happen. But, overall I am a calmer parent. I feel more in control, most of the time because I have more tools in my belt.

There’s definitely an issue with the wording though. ‘Parenting Course’ just sounds so dull and too much like hard work. My husband said “it sounds too much like a speed awareness course doesn’t it?”; something you get told to do as a reprimand. Any ideas? I was thinking along the lines of ‘Parenting tips with a cuppa’. That more likely to get you signing up?

Please, from one parent to another, whatever your situation, consider giving this a go. Take along a friend or your partner and have an open mind. You don’t have anything to loose. Except some time (that’s child free. With tea. And biscuits. Oh hang on?…….)

(More to know is that most areas have courses running all year round and they are FREE!!!!! Many will offer a crèche and there’s courses to suit you and your kids ages.)

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