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Tips for Choosing a Parenting Education Resource

Good strong programs vary in specific and very important ways. Choosing a program that meets your specific needs will make the program more helpful.

Consider the format

Parenting education is delivered in a variety of ways for groups or individuals, which may include:

  • In-person parenting classes or workshops (one-time or several sessions)
  • Online (webinars, virtual classroom courses, individual classes, etc.)
  • Individual meetings/counseling (one-time or ongoing)
  • Facilitated parenting groups
  • Home visits
  • Books, newsletters, journals, magazines, blogs, websites, etc. written by qualified professionals in the field

Consider which format will make you feel most comfortable.

Think about how you learn best

Parenting education programs can:

  • Follow a fixed curriculum
  • Be loosely structured following the interests of the group.
  • Be based on the educator’s discretion.

Which structure do you feel will be most beneficial to your style of learning?

What specific issue do you want to address?

Are you looking to find help with a specific issue such as a baby not sleeping, an adolescent not coming in at curfew, how to discipline, or dealing with divorce?

Are you looking for a program that deals with a specific aged child such as a two year old or adolescent?

Are you looking for a general program on development and nurturing children? Or, are you looking for a program that teaches specific parenting and/or children’s skills?

In-person programs for parents and families are offered at various locations within communities which are vetted or approved by the provider of the programs. These may be at schools, faith communities, public health providers, agencies and healthcare providers.

There are also individual parenting educators who offer excellent programs. Many offer individual consultations to parents and families in their office or via digital technology.

Questions to Ask Potential Resources

When selecting a program, ask the parenting educator some questions that will help you assess the quality and effectiveness of a program and its professional leaders:

  1. What qualifications and/or experience are expected of presenters and what training and supervision do they receive?
    As mentioned previously, parenting educators come from a variety of professional backgrounds. It makes sense to ask about an educator’s credentials, how long she or he has been leading groups and whether comments or referrals from previous participants are available. Often graduates of a program are only too happy to speak with other parents considering enrolling in a program.

  2. How is the program conducted?
    You’ll want to know when the program is offered, how many sessions it has, what are its costs and where and when is it held. 

  3. What is the research evidence of the usefulness and reliability of the program?
    Many programs are extensively researched to assure desired outcomes result from parents’ participation.

  4. What kind of values is the program working towards and do they align with your own values?
    Cooperative children? Self reliant? Caring? Do you feel comfortable with the values emphasized? 

  5. Maybe the hardest to define and to assess in a program is its philosophy. 
    Do you feel comfortable with the approach to children that the program has?

    Are children viewed as:
  • …inherently good? bad? difficult? curious? 
  • …needing direction and opportunities to learn skills? Or, do they basically have these if given the needed food, shelter, and love?
  • …needing ample opportunity to express their feelings?
  • …needing time to play? Play is seen as a means of learning as well as having fun, often developing friendships and social skills.   
  • …needing guidance in developing social skills such as how to listen and how to resolve conflict?
  • …needing to follow adult schedules or be totally on the child’s schedule, or somewhere in between?
  • …needing to be comforted and cuddled as opposed to learning to self soothe in early infancy?

        Look for professionals who will support and empower you

        Your answers to these questions should help you choose a parenting education program and educator that will meet your needs. 

        Parenting educators often use a strengths-based approach to support and empower parents to be effective decision makers and change agents for their families. Look for professionals whose work centers on promoting positive parent-child and family relationships and family life.

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