Good parenting, like many things, doesn’t always come naturally. While many grow up with great role models and others have a genetic predisposition for nurturing and caregiving, others lack good parenting skills through no fault of their own.
When a lack of skills is coupled with stress, a shortage of support, poor childhood experiences and other challenges, child abuse and neglect can occur. Just as support, stability and care can positively impact development, abuse and neglect can have devastating effects — especially in the early years when brain development is rapid.
The Family Conservancy's Sabrina Boyd sees this firsthand, daily working with parents living in Kansas City, Kansas public housing. Boyd runs the Healthy Parents, Healthy Kids program, which provides weekly parenting education and family support. Class activities focus on helping parents learn how to manage their own health and stress, learn appropriate parenting strategies, form connections with their children and gain trusted information and services.
"Child abuse and neglect is due to lack of parenting in a positive way, often based on how we were parented or what we've seen. Education reduces child abuse and neglect. Children want to be loved, valued and understood. If parents express that, and take the time to understand their child's development and why they do certain things or act a certain way, it reduces aggressive and negative responses." comments Boyd.
Many of the parents in her classes face the struggles of poverty every day. The added stresses that come with poverty make positive relationships with their children imperative.
One strategy for fostering the parent-child relationship Boyd has taught her parents to implement involves dedicating 15-minute block of uninterrupted time, "What we have to learn as parents is when we have time with our child, we need to stay focused. In our class, we're teaching parents to restructure play time to 15 minutes of uninterrupted, focused time. It lets the child know that they're important."
Watch this video to learn more about the Healthy Parents, Healthy Kids program.