Thursday, July 26, 2012

Sometimes even Mom and Dad need a little help

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Last Thursday Catholic Charities’ Parenting Education Class held an informal graduation, celebrating the group’s accomplishments and milestones. They’ve worked together to find solutions to parenting problems and resources to improve their children’s well-being. And for one mom, Ana, the group was a lifeline in helping her find her happiness.

One year ago, Ana was gripped with anxiety, sadness, and despondency. Originally from El Salvador, she emigrated to the US in 1989 to find work. She married, and she and her husband had five children together. Ana felt a lot of pressure to cook, clean and take care of her family. “I was trying to be a good mom and a good wife, but I felt like my family wasn’t appreciating me or helping me out at all.” 

But she had trouble communicating her needs to her family. Most times when she tried to get her family to help her, the situation would end in an argument – and with Ana getting even more frustrated. Her mental health worsened, to the point that she didn’t even want to leave the house. She experienced neck and back pains from the stress she felt.

Though embarrassed about her domestic struggles, Ana eventually opened up to a friend, who told Ana about Catholic Charities’ Parenting Education Class. “I went the next Thursday. The instructor, Nhora, was wonderful, and I felt like I learned so much. I asked Nhora if I could come again, and she said yes, our group meets every week. They’ve been seeing me every week since then.”

Participants in the program learn effective strategies for common issues like family rules and discipline while gaining a friendly network of support in their fellow classmates. “Most of the participants are immigrants, with most of their family and friends living far away,” explained Nhora Rosero, Family Support Specialist at our MCFC. “So the parenting group is their first supportive network in the United States. They are empowered here to engage with their community, to help their neighbors and to seek solutions for any problems they are facing.”

Ana’s classmates advised her on everything from potty-training her youngest son, Moises, to encouraging her older children to clean their rooms and help her with chores. She learned that she could not change her family – but she could change the way she handled different situations. “Instead of telling them I want something done now, I ask them to do it when they have time. That way, I am showing respect for them, and they respect me back. I don’t have to get angry and yell. That’s when they stop listening.”

Nhora, right, worked with Ana for more than one year
Nhora also encouraged Ana to focus on her family’s positive traits, and to tell her kids she loved them more often. “It’s not something I thought to do a lot. One day after the group met, I went home and hugged my kids and told them I loved them. They were asking me, ‘What’s wrong? What happened?’ That’s how I knew I hadn’t been telling them enough before. Now I do.” 

Ana found that by changing her own attitude first, her husband and children began responding to her differently. “I’m very happy with how my life has changed because of Nhora and this class. My kids and my husband are happier too. Life has been very good.” Her experience with the Parenting Education Class was so positive she’s attended for two full six-month sessions, now helping to mentor other parents in the group. “I’m glad to help people facing similar problems, so they don’t need to let it go to extremes as I did.”

No longer reluctant to leave her home, and no longer grappling with the mental and physical strain of her stress and anxiety, Ana volunteers time at her daughter’s school and at clothing distributions at the MCFC. She now looks forward to the next chapter of her life, when her youngest son begins preschool next year. She wants to learn computer skills and return to the workforce. “I’m excited to go out and start something new.” 

More Catholic Charities! 
The Parenting Education Class is just one of the many resources available to families at Catholic Charities’ Montgomery County Family Center. A full list in English and Spanish is available here.