03/17/10 — Partnership expanding popular Incredible Years parenting program

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Partnership expanding popular Incredible Years parenting program

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on March 17, 2010 1:46 PM

A $96,000 Division of Public Health grant awarded to the Health Department is making it possible for Partnership for Children of Wayne County to expand its parent education program.

The Incredible Years program was already being offered for parents of preschool children with challenging behaviors. The latest funding will provide a similar option for parents of school-age children, specifically ages 6-12.

The Partnership was notified in January and given 45 days to implement the program, said Don Magoon, executive director of the Partnership.

"We're actually offering two sessions right now back-to-back with our preschool (sessions)," said Valerie Wallace, early care and education director. "The two classes are going on simultaneously for 16 weeks, until the middle of May."

About 25 parents of school-age children have signed up for the classes, and officials have begun recruiting participants for a summer session. A total of three classes will be offered over the coming year.

"It's for families that have children that are exhibiting challenging behaviors," Ms. Wallace explained. "The program provides them with tools and strategies on how to discipline your children appropriately."

The curriculum is basically the same as that of the preschool program, emphasizing sharper parenting skills -- spending time with children, not being as reactive, redirecting bad behaviors.

"I think parents are seeing that they have to focus on the positive behaviors of their children and not focus on the negative because all children have good behavior. That comes out a lot in our discussions," Ms. Wallace said. "There's going to be things that get on your nerves but picking your battles is so important."

Time constraints are also a big issue for families these days, she said. Between work, school, homework and other things vying for attention, quality time with children often takes a back seat.

Sometimes, Ms. Wallace said, it's simply a matter of getting creative.

"The older they get, you don't have those playtime moments, so just for a time set aside time -- to eat together, when driving down the road turn down the radio and talk," she said.

Incredible Years typically devotes several sessions to the element of play and the importance of being there to build a strong foundation with the child, Ms. Wallace said.

The sessions feature a variety of techniques -- role-playing, watching video vignettes as examples, discussion and homework exercises.

The overall program is structured in such a way as to provide accessibility, the officials said. In addition to the curriculum covered, child care and meals are provided and the latest grant even incorporated gas cards for parents attending each week, since transportation has been mentioned as a barrier.

But perhaps one of the biggest byproducts is the support the classes provide, from both those leading the sessions as well as other parents. Each participant is paired up with another parent, a "buddy" they did not previously know, to network throughout the program.

"It definitely is a shift in parenting," Ms. Wallace says. "I think the program, the way it's set up, it builds a strong foundation with the parenting skills."

"They build a strong camaraderie," Magoon said. "We'll have people come back to reunion sessions that started two years ago and they're still coming."

Other outcomes have included the formation of moms' groups, playgroups and social networking as the result of having bonded during the program, Ms. Wallace said.

"Not even anything formal, just (they're) comfortable enough to meet at the park, go to each other's birthday parties," she said.

It has also been beneficial for parents of children who haven't particularly exhibited challenging behaviors.

"I've had parents enroll, saying they want 'anything that I can do to become a better parent,'" she said. "We target it for families that have challenging behaviors but we don't exclude those who don't."

The state grant will cover five sessions of the classes -- two to be completed by the end of May, and three between May 2010 and May 2011.

"The Health Department is administering the grant to us as a subcontractor," Magoon said. "They'll make sure that we do everything we're supposed to do.

"We're grateful that they recognize that we're already doing this and doing it well and gave us an opportunity to expand it."

For more information on the Incredible Years program or to sign up, contact Ms. Wallace at 735-3371, ext. 231.