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Equipping parents in the UK
Alison Fernandes, Britain & Ireland Regional Development Manager, discovers the impact Passionate about Parenting is having
Passionate about Parenting is one of the Mothers’ Union Millennium Programmes designed to equip people to run parenting groups in churches, schools, children’s centres and more. Over the past 19 years over 350 people have been provided with the skills to facilitate groups as they enable parents to build relationships with each other and to share their learning. It is an accredited course which equips trainers to run a course which is usually 8-12 weeks long. Marian Pope has been our Lead Parenting Trainer for the past eight years; here she shares her insights with Alison Fernandes.
Why do people want to get involved with Passionate about Parenting?
Parenting is one of the most important jobs in the world and what motivates most people to get involved is a desire to support and encourage parents in this unacknowledged but vital role.
What sort of people train to be parenting group facilitators?
A real mix of people join our training – some people have been involved with Messy Church or in a toddler group, while others get involved because their diocese wants to support family life and offering parenting groups is a way to do this. Recently we’ve trained teaching assistants and family workers in Suffolk and Cambridgeshire schools.
What changes do you see over the course of the training?
Our training can run over five days or during a weekend residential with a follow up day. People really grow in confidence over the course of the training, as they realise that they don’t have to be perfect parents themselves to run a parenting group. It is not about giving instructions and guidance but rather is simply facilitating parents to share their experience and to discover different tools together. The training is designed to build the facilitators into a supportive and cohesive group, which will mirror what we would want to see in the parenting group that they form. I love to see relationships grow over the training as people start to support and trust each other.
What do participants enjoy the most?
People love to have a laugh while learning and that is what Passionate about Parenting is all about! We get messy with craft and play lots of games. Some people may be a bit nervous at first about their artistic abilities, but glitter and glue quickly breaks down barriers as people realise that everyone struggles with something and the group supports each other. We also have a trust walk activity, which people seem to love and this builds self-esteem and confidence as blindfolded participants must rely on instructions given to them in order to avoid various obstacles.
What is unique about the Mothers’ Union Passionate about Parenting Programme?
In Mothers’ Union we come alongside parents in all situations and support families in all their forms. We welcome any person who wants to improve their relationship with their children and we do not judge. While we tell people that we are a Christian organisation, our parenting courses are not faith promoting and we welcome people of all faiths. We know that some churches run parenting courses as a way to bring families into the church, but our way is to communicate that the church cares for the family. Some of the material we use has an optional spiritual session and although we do not push it, we find that most parents do come to this session as they are interested in discovering how to help their children develop spiritually.
In 2019, we are reflecting on our parenting work to date, celebrating our success and making sure that our programme will be relevant in supporting parents in the future.
Do you have a story about how Passionate about Parenting has been used in your diocese? Perhaps you’ve experienced Passionate about Parenting first hand and would like to tell us how it affected you and your parenting? Maybe you connect with families a lot and can see some gaps in the support they receive that you think Mothers’ Union could fill? Do you have thoughts about how we could do things differently and what we can improve?
We would love to hear from you so please do get in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’re excited to see how Mothers’ Union can continue to serve families in all their forms – please join us in this journey to give children and families the best start in life!