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Parent to Parent: Austin Aspires backs peer help

By Jennifer Lawhead

Austin Aspires Executive Director

“There is no such thing as a perfect parent. So just be a real one.” — Sue Atkins, Parenting Coach

One of Austin Aspires’ five aspirational goals states that, “Our community will support and enhance parents and mentors in their role as primary influencers of our learners.” We know that the work of parenting is challenging, rewarding, and critical in the development of our young people.

Parenting is hard work! Children don’t come with an owner’s manual, and every child is different every day. How can we learn to better parent our children? Austin Aspires has an amazing team of community volunteers who have come together to answer just this question. The vision of this group is to “create a cultural norm of continuously improving our wide, varied, and valuable parenting skills. All parents. All communities. All the time.”

Our team learned about a great model of parent coaching in place at the Parenting Resource Center. Staff at the PRC help to make connections between mentor parents and those wanting to learn about parenting children with special needs and facing the challenges of drug and alcohol abuse in the family. We wanted to take this mentoring model and expand it. Therefore, we have created a Parent to Parent network where moms, dads, and caregivers can come together each month to learn from each other about the issues in parenting that are most challenging.

Our first Parent to Parent network focused on ideas for surviving summer vacation with school-age children. Parents shared their favorite places to visit in and out of town, ideas for getting kids to activities when you are at work, how to maintain learning during the summer and several other topics. The best part of this time together was that parents were learning from their peers and making new connections with others in the community.

We read books, we talk to other parents, we follow parent educators on Facebook, but how do we know if we are positively impacting our children? We now have one source of data that can advise us. Students in grades five, seven and nine from Austin Public Schools and Pacelli Catholic Schools participated in a survey conducted by SEARCH Institute this school year. This survey focused on the five key concepts in the parent-child relationship. Scores on this survey ranged from 1-5 with “5” being the highest. For example, a “3” means sometimes and a “4” means often. Students in Austin were asked how often they experience the five elements of developmental relationships.

On an anonymous survey, students indicated at an average score of 4.27/5 that they know we care about them. This is such good news for those of us who are parents. This may feel like a small thing, but it is monumentally important in the social and psychological development of our children.

We want to build a culture of continuously improving our wide, varied, and valuable parenting skills. Please join us at our next Parent to Parent network at 10 a.m. or 6 p.m. on June 22 at the Austin Public Library. During these sessions we will learn from other parents about our best strategies for keeping our children safe on-line. We want to learn from you!