Last week, we introduced you to a family involved in our Exchange Parent Aide program. The family has a lot of stressors—young first time parents, financial strain (only one parent working at low wage job), an infant child who cries a lot, and lack of reliable support systems. After 3 months of service, we’ve been able to decrease our home visits from twice weekly to once week, with support calls in between as needed.
At the beginning of service, our agency asks parents to complete a standardized assessment. It’s a great tool for identifying information gaps that can increase risk to a child. For this set of parents, we discovered there is much they don’t understand about how children grow and develop. This goes beyond basic child care to a belief that a young child has cognitive abilities and “reasoning” that they don’t yet possess. Though our young parents love their son very much, this rigid belief carries danger of over-expecting and over-reacting to common toddler challenges….and this can lead to abuse.
Our job as an agency is to help parents fill in their knowledge gaps and equip parents to help their child not only thrive now but be prepared for the future. With this in mind, the Parent Aide and parents regularly watch and discuss a short DVD clip on such topics as bedtimes and creating nurturing routines. We supplement with information on child-proofing and offer behavior management tips that will come in handy when this little one throws his first tantrum. The Parent Aide checks in with mom in particular on self-care and help identify (and connect with) positive support systems. Though these parents are very much invested in our program, it isn’t always smooth sailing. Our life challenge this quarter was Dad’s layoff from a job he has had for a couple of years. Naturally, stress increased as they faced bills they couldn’t pay and it took a short amount of time for the heat to be cut off. The Parent Aide shared common sense tips for managing expenses that were new for parents (e.g. heating only a couple of rooms while shutting up the rest of the house). She also helped the family connect with some emergency community funds provided by another agency to help pay the past due gas bill and get the heat back on. Parents found some odd jobs to help meet some of their bills and Dad kept looking until he found another job. The family faced challenges and stress, but with their Parent Aide, they learned how to meet that challenge in a healthy way, to lean on each other, and still take good care of their child.