Helping families to be 'the first place of Christian education'
(Blessed John Paul II)
Parents are the most important people in the world. In raising the next generation parents are prophets of the future, as Mgr John Wilson said at the final ceremony for newly trained parenting facilitators in the Wakefield deanery, parents 'bring forth the future'. Parenting is the single most important influence on a child's life. Most schools are designed to work with children who are ready to learn. Getting a child from birth to ‘ready to learn' is really not as easy as we might expect.
Clinics and hospitals run ante natal classes designed to prepare a mum (and a dad) for the experience of birth. And then follow the, sometimes terrifying, often exhausting, first days and weeks of your baby's life. These are days and weeks that are suddenly filled with seemingly unending minutes and hours in a perpetual spiral of time during which decisions have to be made, soreness has to be endured, food has to be made, mess has to be cleared and all the while you are attending to, and learning about, your new baby. This is when we realise that ‘they don't come with a manual'.
Parents are expected to feed, clothe, read to, play with, pray with and otherwise nurture the energetic, thrusting hungry new life whose needs, small as s/he is, nevertheless dominate all else in the household. Obviously we are here because our parents and forebears survived, or at least did enough to help us survive our earliest moments. They did not do it alone. It is almost not possible to give birth and survive alone. Usually there is an attendant for the birth and assistance from family and friends in the early days and in changing ways as the years pass.
Once we have survived the birth and the early weeks and months we are usually ready and willing, if not desperate, to get together with others like us, new mums, young mums, older mums, working mums, stay at home mums (and dads and grandparents with parental involvement or responsibilities). This is the best time to become acquainted with parenting as a relationship and a responsibility that requires skills that are universal and basic and can be learned.
Most of us are blessed with families within which we all learned the rudiments of our humanity and our place in the world: who we are and how we relate to others is fundamental to a good life and it is in this that parents are privileged to be our first guide.
What can a parent do?
Usually, we parent by ‘instinct', only it is not really instinct, it is a very sophisticated and complex set of skills that we need which allows us to recognise and respond appropriately to our new baby. These skills are both natural, most mammals have to spend some time ensuring the survival of their infants, and because we are human mammals, learned both ‘at our mother's knee' and as we continue to grow through life.
For most of history families themselves have inherited and passed in these intangible but essential skills of tuning in to our child and doing what comes naturally. Family life is now much more complex, intense and fragmented than at almost any time in human history.
Social, economic and political contexts can interfere with and severely disrupt the natural process of bonding and attachment that are so vital for child well being. Patterns of family life have to be fitted around demanding work and education. The time human parents once were able to spend with their children and their wider family has been stripped for so many of us by the demands of modern urban living. The benefits are increased health and wealth but the balance seems to have gotten out of kilter and the family home can be as stressed as some work places. When my children were young most mothers I knew went back to their paid employment as soon as possible and for most it was a relief. The office or classroom became a respite from the demands of a growing child with more energy than they knew what to do with.
So, what can we do for parents who want to do the best for their children and for themselves and have lost some of the ease and leisure we might once have had for rearing children?
Family, friendship and faith networks are the natural safety net and relief for stressed and frustrated mums and dads. Sometimes though we are still not sure if what we are doing is ‘right' or is ‘good enough'. This is when we can benefit from getting together with other mums and dads and following an enjoyable and enlightening and reassuring parenting programme.
HELP IS AVAILABLE!
For over 30 years Family Caring Trust (FCT) parenting programmes have been used in homes, schools, parishes, health centres, Sure Start and community centres all over the country as well as in many parts of the world www.familycaring.co.uk
HOW DO THEY WORK?
FCT parenting programmes are written by parents for parents and are
Easy to use
Based on the best educational practices
Grounded in a sound understanding of the need for both firm love and gentle love
An opportunity to hear lots of ideas and share best practice in a friendly supportive environment
Organised into manageable sessions (1 1/2 to 2 hours each)
Run over 6 - 8 weeks
Suitable in any cultural, gender, educational, faith, inter faith (or no faith) contexts
Suitable for granddads and grandmas as well as dads and mums
THEY ARE FOR
Use them to WELCOME families into your church community at
• FIRST RECONCILIATION AND COMMUNION
Use them to at SCHOOL:
Starting school and transition between schools
Call Breda on 0773 44 11 282 to find out how to become a parenting facilitator