The video above was filmed by Chris Jacobs in 2011 and produced by David Helfand.
The idea that the minute our children are born or put under our care, we should automatically know how to raise them is pre-historic. Parenting skills are learned not inherited, and children don't come with an instructional manual. Whether you are from Evanston or Englewood, every caregiver can benefit from best practices in parenting education.
In 1994, while working as a therapist at a community mental health center in Chicago, I witnessed children and parents going through traumatic experiences; domestic violence, severe anxiety, and behavior problems, adolescents who had attempted suicide, and distressed well-meaning parents trying to care for them. But I also witnessed something else. In most of these interactions, many of these overwhelmed parents displayed unintentional harmful parenting practices that compounded, if not caused, their family dysfunction. That's why in 1996, I created Parenting Fundamentals, an evidence-based parenting education program taught in English and Spanish. Since then, over 13,000 parents have completed the course, raising over 26,000 children in the Chicagoland area and Puerto Rico.
Over the past 25 years, we have seen how Parenting Fundamentals has had a transformative impact on the parent-child relationship. Parenting Fundamentals takes education beyond the classroom into the homes, addressing behaviors and interactions that debilitate not only children but when left unchecked, society at large. Homes where the parent-child relationship is fractured, initiate a ripple effect that cripples academic aptitude and performance, causes learning disabilities, mental health problems, juvenile justice involvement, and violence (The Center for Disease Control ACR Study, 1998).
This is a public health crisis with a solution. Research shows that positive parent-child relationships are the foundation for a healthy adulthood. Enhanced parenting skills through education, shift parents from unknowingly hampering and harming development, into parents who empower their children. More than any other time in recent history, parents are under multiple layers of stress that cannot help but adversely impact their children’s development.
Important films over the years are to be commended for bringing to light the emotional damage and lifelong health problems that result from “Toxic Stress,” which includes child abuse and neglect, but we have ignored the elephant in the room. We have avoided discussing the need for universal parenting education for far too long. Not only are current parents seeking parenting support, but high school students also want to learn parenting skills in order to be educated and informed caregivers. In 2015 a group of students from ETHS started a club called C.A.R.E (Child Abuse Recognition Evanston) to build awareness around the importance of child abuse prevention. One of the groups for which the students volunteered, was a social service organization that taught Parenting Fundamentals. When the students learned about the program, they asked why parenting education wasn't part of the high school curriculum. Through an impressive presentation, the CARE club brought to the attention of the school administration the need for parenting education, and the idea was embraced. A subsequent year-long pilot took place in 2017/2018, where over 500 ETHS students completed a ParentABLE education unit developed by ParenTeach.
After taking the course, 88% of the students recommended that the unit be required for all high school students. Through the pre-pilot, The C.A.R.E. club members became thoroughly convinced that parenting education at the high school level can reduce child abuse and neglect and can break the cycle of unintentional abusive parenting. Lola Knight, the leader of the club states,” By reaching students in their teen years when their attitudes about children and discipline are still developing, ParentABLE teaches necessary behaviors and skills including empathy, resilience, patience, and decision-making.” Of the many testimonials, one student put it simply: “I will never look at my peers the same as a result of this class. It is very important to teach this in order to help the next generation.”
In 2019 HB4442 passed, legislating a two-week parenting education pilot, ParentABLE by ParenTeach, to be included as part of the wellness course requirement for all Illinois high school sophomores. Your contribution here will facilitate the creation of a groundbreaking documentary chronicling this epic shift in our societal education. These renowned filmmakers will bring alive the very first implementation of parenting education instruction required in a high school curriculum. The film will take us through the frank and sometimes painful process of recognizing adverse childhood experiences, and then show us how positive parenting helps caregivers raise children with encouragement, steadiness, and balance.
Like a small stone dropping in a pond, each of these classes will send multiple ripples out to families and friends, with newfound ways to effectively and patiently face the challenge of raising those members of our society that are the most impressionable and the most transformable, our children.
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