By Scott Hippert
President/CEO, Parents as Teachers National Center
Just over 30 years ago, Ferguson, Missouri served as fertile ground for the seed that grew into Parents as Teachers. Planted in this peaceful, child-focused community, Parents as Teachers (PAT) has become a model across the U.S. that puts the well-being of children first and foremost, and gives parents the knowledge and tools they need to foster engaged citizens and productive leaders.
Today, the Ferguson community is grappling with the aftermath of a tragedy that has deeply shaken it and sent ripples of unrest throughout the St. Louis metropolitan area and the nation. Clearly, there are serious issues about race that we must confront and find solutions to – across our nation and in the St. Louis area.
But that real work that needs to happen is nearly invisible, blocked out by news footage and pictures of rampant destruction and violence that much of our country now equates with Ferguson. Nearly all of the destruction has come at the hands of outsiders who have used the situation to steal from local businesses and tear apart a community in which they have no stake.
We know situations like this create toxic stress that affects people, especially young children, for life. Our work amid all the unrest is to continue to make sure parents and their children have the best support possible. So our parent educators, the trained early learning professionals who deliver parenting education and support to families through personal visits, are continuing to work with the families in the Ferguson and surrounding communities to keep them strong and centered.
Here are some tips from the PAT curriculum which you can use in your own families to deal with stress and trauma:
- Children thrive on routine. Try to keep regular mealtimes and bedtime. Spend quiet time reading each night to create calm.
- Turn off the TV and radio when children are around. Continually witnessing unrest can be very unsettling for children.
- What they need to hear most is that the adults around them will take care of them and protect them.
- Children aren’t little adults. Answer questions in an age-appropriate way and with only a few details. They should be in an environment that fits their developmental needs.
The PAT website has more information for parents and caregivers, along with helpful websites and other resources – click here to access it.
It’s time for everyone on all sides of this tragedy to put our families and children first.