Tag Archives: parenting

Helping Parents & Parent Educators in Times of Trauma

By Scott Hippert
President/CEO, Parents as Teachers National Center

ScottHippert_135x115Just 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.


Maryland mom tells it like it is

Valerie Ceary, mother of 3, talks to legislators about Parents as Teachers.

“We’re given a lot of information…and [parents] are kind of confused,” she says. Like many parents, she’s hesitant about raising parenting concerns with her pediatrician for fear of sounding like a nuisance or complainer. So “I really appreciate the one-on-one interaction with a Parents as Teachers parent educator in my own home where my kids are safe and in a natural environment.”

A tribute to dad

A remarkable thing happened on October 12 many years ago: Phil became a first-time father. As his firstborn, I take full credit for the event. 

Right from the start it was a match made in heaven. No other dad was as handsome, as smart or as fun to be with as my dad…at least until I turned 13! 

But Dad stuck with me. Through fried bologna steaks as I learned to cook, through the unexpected coming together of a telephone pole and the bumper of our small car, through piano recitals where I excelled and dance recitals where I didn’t. 

Grandpa and Julie

I’m sure I didn’t exhibit my gratitude at the time, but I repaid him in spades years later with two redheads who are the light of his life.

The impact of fathers on family life is hard to miss. More than 24 million children (that’s 1 out of 3 children!) live apart from their biological fathers says the U.S. Census Bureau. That number is even higher for African American children.
According to the National Fatherhood Initiative, children with absent fathers are five times more likely to live in poverty. They’re two to three times more apt to use drugs, to experience educational, health, emotional and behavioral problems, to be victims of child abuse, and to engage in criminal behavior.
Grandpa and Neil


But perhaps the most important influence fathers have is simply through their presence. Parents as Teachers emphasizes the importance of parents as role models for their children: we tend to parent the way we were parented.

A loving, respectful father engaged in a child’s life is an irreplaceable gift.
If you have one, thank him.
If you are one, thank you!

I’m a great kid and gosh darn it, people like me!

There’s something inspirational about children. Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to bottle all that innocence, imagination and enthusiasm for life? Or are you too close to your own children to see it?

Parents as Teachers helps parents learn to observe their own children, and appreciate the everyday pleasures of parenting…like this:

Have a great day!

Say it ain’t so, MO!

Money must matter more than minds. Unable to look beyond the immediacy of next year’s budget, or perhaps too impatient to wait for young brains to turn into income-producing taxpayers, Missouri is telling parents,  “Figure it out for yourself!” as it looks at Parents as Teachers budget cuts.

Doesn’t everyone know how to parent?
Several years ago this thought-provoking line caught my eye in one of Fast Company’s blog posts: “Have you ever found yourself taking for granted that everyone else knew exactly what you knew and didn’t begin to think that might not be the case?”

So it is with Parents as Teachers. But in the rush to balance budgets and pare costs, many Missouri legislators are slashing their own futures.

Behind every dancing baby is a role model

There’s a funny video making its way around Facebook and Twitter right now. It’s a baby dancing in front of a TV to a Beyonce video. It’s cute. It’s funny. And I admit I laughed when I saw it. But it’s scary how easily that baby imitated the video in front of him!

It got me to wondering if parents have any idea how much influence their behavior has on their children? Parents are the primary architects of their children’s early experiences. It’s how children learn to talk, to behave, to relate to other people. Being a role model is a huge responsibility. But it has huge rewards, too.

Parents are their children’s best first teachers. What will your child learn from you?

Worrying through the economics of parenting

For the past year or so my household has been part of a special census project. Each month we’re interviewed about something different, but always we’re asked, “Are you still employed and if so, how many hours did you work last week?” Last month’s special questions were sobering: “How much did you spend on groceries last week?” and then, “Do you feel you have enough to eat?”

Unemployment and poverty are on everyone’s mind right now. Last night my hairdresser (whose business is not off thanks to the graying of American women!) expressed what a lot of employed parents are feeling. She has two grown sons who each have families. “We’re doing fine,” she told me. “But I worry about my kids. What if we have to start supporting three families?” she wondered.

“Parenting becomes even more challenging when those economic realities are setting in,” Sue Stepleton, president of Parents as Teachers National Center told Missouri’s Senate committee last month.

Last year Idaho’s governor cut off funding to many of the state’s Parents as Teachers programs over a technicality in funding. Already this year a Parents as Teachers program in Washington has lost major funding and will run out of resources in June. In Bolivar, Mo. superintendent Dr. Steve Morgan “recommended reducing district expenses for the Parents As Teachers program, but as a caveat, added the district shouldn’t do that if the PAT program sees a cut in its state funding.”

An editorial in today’s Augusta Chronicle asks, “Have we given up on parenting? If any program deserves public funding, it’s Parents as Teachers, which teaches parents the skills they need and the responsibilities they carry to bring their children up as smart, engaged, healthy young citizens. “

How do decision-makers make those tough decisions?