Friday, December 9, 2011

At this graduation, the parents are the ones getting diplomas!

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Nhora presents a certificate to Silvia and little Költen
Guest Post by Nhora Rosero,

Community Outreach Specialist at the Montgomery County Family Center

At the Montgomery County Family Center, we welcome many walk-in clients who have come from all different countries. They arrive in the United States, and oftentimes they do not speak much English. They don’t have a supportive network, and much of their family remains in their home country. They have no idea what resources are available to help them.

Among these walk-in clients, I saw a growing number of people who were expressing concerns and questions about parenting. They were struggling to raise their children in a positive and nurturing way, especially since the cultures that the parents themselves were raised in may have had different methods of childrearing.

Group shot - members of the Parenting Education Program!
To answer this need, I started the Parenting Education Program – basically a parent support group. The goal was to educate parents on topics like nurturing as a lifestyle, rewards and punishment, family rules, and discipline. I developed a curriculum, but I decided to allow the class to steer the direction of our studies based on what they were experiencing at home.

Six months ago, our class gathered for the first time. Initially, the members of the group were strangers to each other. They felt shy at first, but they had one common, powerful goal: to become better mothers and fathers for their children. Now, it is like a different group altogether. It’s a beautiful thing! The members of the group have found a supportive network in each other. They share details of their lives with each other, and comfort each other through difficult moments. They even take their children to the playgrounds together outside of the group! And of course, in fitting with the mission of the program, the group has grown in their knowledge of themselves and in their ability to love and nurture their kids, whether infants, teenagers, or somewhere in-between.

Love the matching argyles on Carlos and his son!
The format of the program is very flexible and allows the group to focus on the issues that matter to them. We meet each Thursday at noon, and at each session, the group chooses a topic to discuss. They all offer their perspectives on the subject based on their own unique upbringings, or on what they have experienced themselves as parents. Then, we relate the issue to broader parenting concepts, whether it’s emotional development, family rules, discipline, etc. Because they contribute the topics we discuss, the members of the group really help develop the curriculum along with me, and the outcome has been simply amazing!

Keysha shows off her certificate to her proud family.
To celebrate the accomplishments of the class, we held a graduation ceremony last week. Each member of the class was recognized for her or his participation and received a certificate of achievement. The ceremony was very touching for me. We did so much with very little resources – just a room to sit in and a snack to share. And the members manage to be here, no matter what the weather is or whatever issues arise in their own lives. At the graduation, I could see in their faces the pride and satisfaction of accomplishment in completing the program. And I think this is the most important part – the program was able to make them feel like they have made a difference in their lives by learning something new and positive.

My personal goal is to continue offering to these parents a place and a space where they can keep growing as human beings and keep asking questions. We need a world with happy children, and in order to do that we must have happy parents. There is also a practical aspect. The members of the group have received a certificate for their participation in the program. This is something parents can mention on their resume if they wish to apply for a job, in addition to the skills they learn and incorporate into their lives.

The group will continue to meet every Thursday. I have asked each current member to invite someone new to join us; this way, we can bring in different perspectives to the program, and the community we are building here will grow. 

The Parenting Education Program will meet two more times before the holiday, then resume in January. Please contact Nhora for more information by phone at (301) 942-1790 or email 

Nhora mentioned that many of the parents must bring their infants and toddlers to class if they do not have a relative or neighbor who can babysit. She is hoping to find a volunteer to play with the children while the program is in session. Also, donations of art supplies for the children - crayons, paper, coloring books, etc. - and snacks for the children and parents would be much appreciated. Please contact Nhora if you are able to help!

Read on! Related posts on family and parenting: 
Rolling out the red carpet for our graduation 
Putting family first for 15 years 

Related posts on working with immigrants and refugees: 
We kick off World Refugee Day in a delicious way