Parenting to a tee

The paternal instinct seems anything but innate when faced with
a kicking, screaming child. But for parents who rarely interact
with other parents, it may be a surprising comfort to know that
kicking, screaming children maybe aren’t so uncommon after all.
The paternal instinct seems anything but innate when faced with a kicking, screaming child. But for parents who rarely interact with other parents, it may be a surprising comfort to know that kicking, screaming children maybe aren’t so uncommon after all.

Although many people associate parenting classes with court orders, a number of classes are available to parents who simply want to learn more about raising children.

Offered throughout the South Valley, parenting classes provide tips and tools for fostering open communication with children, setting age-appropriate boundaries and developing supportive relationships with other parents.

Many parents who take the classes come away feeling more confident in their ability to interact with their kids, said Maria Corona, supervisor of the San Benito County Health and Human Services Department’s Family Resource Center. The center offers two parenting classes: one for court-ordered cases and another for general community interest. Both are free and offered in English and Spanish.

“Many parents think their children are the only ones acting a certain way, but that’s often not true,” Corona said. “It helps to talk about it, because then they don’t feel so alone.”

While the 10-week court-ordered class focuses more on domestic violence and the legal aspects of parenting, the six-week community class is geared toward developing healthy family relationships, Corona said. Also offered is a class for new or expecting parents, which focuses on early-development issues such as how to read to children.

Another parenting class, offered in Gilroy, Morgan Hill and San Martin by Community Solutions, offers a five-week course for parents of adolescents and pre-adolescents that focuses specifically on drug and alcohol use.

The classes, aimed at low-income families, also are free and offered in English and Spanish.

At a Community Solutions class Thursday evening in San Martin, more than a dozen parents gathered for their first session in the five-week program. Many of the them said they attended the class because they wanted to learn how to talk to their kids about the difficult subject of drugs and alcohol.

“I’m aware that there’s a war, an attack on our children’s minds, and that war is called drugs and alcohol,” said Lilia Garcia, through a translator. The 32-year-old mother has five children, ranging from 7 months to 12 years. “I want to be able to prepare myself to combat that war.”

Lori Escobar, program director, said the curriculum addresses issues ranging from gateway drugs, which many parents don’t know a lot about, to anger management, as many parents feel angry when they discover their children are using drugs or alcohol.

Tackling such sensitive issues at an early age is one of the best ways parents can prevent their children from engaging in dangerous behaviors, Escobar said.

“It’s a lot easier to deal with those kinds of issues than be blind-sided if you find a cigarette on your child’s bed and wonder what’s going on, and how it could happen when they’re so young,” she said. “We think we’re safe at that elementary school level, but we may not be.”

In the third session of the drugs and alcohol course, parents are asked to bring their children so families can practice communication together via role play. Children also learn how to say no to drugs and alcohol.

Elisa and Raymond Arredondo have two children, an 8-year-old and a 3-year-old. The San Martin residents said they came to the class simply to get advice on parenting.

“We are here as a couple so we can become more educated on how to guide our children,” Elisa said through a translator.

At the resource center, a variety of parents attend the classes, Corona said, including those with young children and those with teenagers. Sometimes, the age difference offers parents a bonding point, as parents of teenagers can give advice and assurance to parents of younger children. Also, Corona encourages couples to attend class together.

“Parents have to be on the same page,” she said. “Children are the best thing that could happen to us, but there are also a lot of times when the child can manipulate the parent. It’s also important for parents to agree on how to discipline the child.”

Single parents are encouraged to attend as well, as they can learn how to maintain open communication with their children and how to find support in relationships with other parents.

A main objective of parenting classes in general is to encourage parents to provide their children with someone to look up to, Escobar said.

“We really try and encourage them to bring up with their children with strong, positive values, and then model those values for their children on a daily basis,” she said. “These days, no one wants to take responsibility – parents, kids, none of us. We all want to blame it on someone else, but this is the time that parents can really have an impact on their kids’ behavior.”

For more information about parenting classes at the Family Resource Center, call (831) 634-0686. For more information about the classes at Community Solutions, call (408) 779-6002.

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