Unrealistic expectations of parenthood, differences between what we want and what we actually have, a strained relationship with our parenting partner, too much to do and too little time, financial problems, pressures at work, problems with transportation, drug abuse, alcoholism, a history of being abused as a child are all examples of problems that can raise the stress our lives and contribute to taking out anger and frustration on our children. Even very loving parents can lose control and behave in a way they are not proud of.
What we need are more tools in our toolbox, so when we do become overwhelmed by life we have strategies at our disposal to use as we respond to the needs of ourselves and our families.
Our Parent Learning and Support Programs do exactly that. They provide tools to use to help better regulate yourself emotionally and also manage productively through difficult times. Our programming also promotes parents becoming leaders in their neighborhoods and communities. When parents are willing to lead, we can begin to address some of those life stressors at the system level. Some of our programs include:
To fully understand parent leadership, it is important to understand the principles and benefits of shared leadership. Shared leadership involves a true partnership between parents and staff members who share responsibility for the process and outcomes of the group or team. Specific leadership roles are carried out by different members of the group at different times.
Principles of Shared Leadership
- Parents and staff members are equal partners
- People plan and act together to make sense of the situations that face them, no one person has all of the solutions
- Mutual respect, trust and open-mindedness
- Collective action based on empowerment, shared vision, ownership and accountability
- Consensus building instead of a democratic process
Benefits of Engaging Parent Leaders within a Shared Leadership Model
Benefits to parents and their families:
- Builds knowledge and skills
- Increases sense of personal achievement
- Opens doors for employment and other opportunities
- Offers leadership role models for other families
- Models community involvement and empowerment for own children and family
- Prevents child abuse and neglect and builds environments where children and families thrive
Benefits to providers:
- Enhances relationships between families and providers
- Increases appreciation of diverse cultures
- Improves the quality of programs and services
- Improves the effectiveness of your program outcomes
- Develops a fresh and accurate perspective on how services should be delivered
Parent Involvement and Leadership at Every Level
The role of a parent leader is constantly evolving. Leadership roles can begin within a program, such as a parent support group, and evolve, with nurturing, support, and training, into leadership roles within the organization and the community. A parent leader may eventually advocate for systemic change on behalf of children and families. Some specific roles a parent leader may assume are listed below.
Within a parenting group, a parent leader can act as a:
- New member liaison. Parent leaders can take calls from perspective members, introduce new members during meetings and provide new members with program and resource information.
- Meeting space specialist. Parent leaders can arrange for space, make sure the room is set-up for the meeting and cleaned up after the meeting. They can also make sure resource materials are set-up for group members.
- Greeter. Parent leaders can make sure each member feels welcome by greeting each parent that comes. They can also start the group with opening statements, and end with closing statements.
- Transportation coordinator. Parent leaders can make sure everyone has transportation to and from the group meeting.
- Secretary. Parent leaders can take attendance and help with note taking for the group. They can also help with attendance of the children’s program, if applicable.
Within a program or the organization, parent leaders can:
- Review and provide input for development of parent materials
- Assist with training facilitators, parent leaders and children’s program staff
- Help with local events and fundraisers
- Mentor other families enrolled in programs
- Become members of task forces, advisory councils or board of directors
Within the community, parent leaders can:
- Generate public awareness about the importance of family support programs in the community
- Serve on community councils and advisory boards
- Volunteer in local events for child abuse prevention month and year round events
- Advocate for family support programs and prevention services
- Submit letters to the editor and opinion editorials on the importance of parent leadership and involvement with their children.