Many working families find it difficult to participate in the traditional parenting classes due to conflicting work schedules, time commitments and cost. To help remove these barriers, SMIF launched Parenting Matters: A Workplace Education Program in 2012. Parenting Matters engages parents and caregivers where they spend a majority of their time: the workplace. Research suggests that parents who involve themselves in their child’s early education experiences develop trusting and lasting relationships with other parents. This involvement increases the likelihood that parents and caregivers will be involved in their children’s future educational experiences.
When Parenting Matters first started, there were four classes that were focused on social and emotional development. Just recently a fifth class was added: literacy. “Achievement gaps in literacy start before kids even know how to read,” says Teri Steckelberg, SMIF’s Early Childhood Director . “Children from lower-income backgrounds hear fewer words and can also miss out on the social-emotional ties that come from sitting down with a caregiver for story time. Research is increasingly showing how important reading to kids at an early age is for long-term success. When you’re working full-time, it can be tough to make this a priority, so we hope to offer useful tips to parents through this new training session on just how valuable early reading is and how to incorporate it more frequently.”
Three years ago, Parenting Matters sessions were first held at Jostens, headquartered in Owatonna. June 16 was the beginning of another round of classes taught by Ellen Haefner, a Parenting Matters workplace coach and licensed Parent Educator. She has been working with Parenting Matters and teaching classes since the beginning and was excited to be back at Jostens for another round of classes. In the first class, she focused on tips to emotionally connect with children, discussed how different children are wired emotionally, and gave caregivers advice on how to relate to their child whether they are eight or eighteen. “We all know teenagers are just bigger toddlers!” Ellen joked at the first session, underscoring that all tips and insights could be used no matter what age a child is.
The four caregivers attending were engaged, and by the end, all the parents felt comfortable enough to share and encourage the other participants in the session. Renee, one of the parents, was excited about what she learned at the first class. “In later sessions, I hope we learn how to communicate verbally with our children as far as what is bothering them and what is on their mind,” she said. She thinks open communication between parents and children is key to healthy development. “It’s important to know that someone is there to listen and that someone genuinely cares."
Nearly 300 parents and caregivers at 13 workplaces have benefited from Parenting Matters. These parents, with the help of Parenting Matters, will feel empowered to be their child’s first teacher.
For more information on Parenting Matters: A Workplace Education, including how to bring this training to a workplace, contact Teri Steckelberg at 507-455-3215 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit SMIF's Parenting Matters webpage: http://smifoundation.org/ec_development/ec_programs/parenting_matters.html.