How to Choose a Parenting Educator or Parenting Education Program/Resource

“Looking under the hood” of parenting education programs

Drivers ed is for everyone; shouldn’t parenting education be as well? What should parents look for in a program?

While there are other resources for parenting education such as pediatrician offices, blogs, websites, online programs, etc., many parents appreciate the opportunity to participate with other parents in programs that provide skills, companionship, and validation that they are not alone in their parenting challenges.

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.

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:

What research has been done on the program? Two terms are used in answering this question. An ‘evidence-based program’ has been tested, proven effective and replicated in various settings. An ‘evidence-informed program or practice’ is based on accepted principles of child and adult development but has not been extensively researched. These are defined by national registries headed by leading experts in family science.

Evaluations are, of necessity, fixed in time, and new programs emerge every year. Innovation is important for the vitality of any field. Without the automobile industry pioneers of a hundred years ago we would be discussing the latest horse-drawn carriages instead of comparing car safety ratings.

What qualifications and/or experience are expected of presenters and what training and supervision do they receive?   It makes sense to ask about a facilitator’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.

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. When parents learn skills that improve family wellness, have other parents that are supportive, each individual gains clearer insights and more energy for their day-to-day parenting.

How does the program take into account the importance of “un-learning”? A solid curriculum will make its applicability clear and a competent presenter will acknowledge the limits of his or her expertise. Sometimes, our childhood or co-parenting experiences affect our parenting. When needed, issues that require a therapeutic intervention or parenting education specialist in a particular area will be recommended.

Before you ‘drive off the lot’ with your shiny new parenting program, consider the above questions and perhaps a few others: What is the program’s focus? For whom was it created? Does it have a gender bias, or a cultural or sectarian one?

In addition, participating in a program with a friend or co-parent will build peer support into the experience and multiply its benefits for you, your family and, ultimately, for other participants’ children.

Lastly, as your children grow and develop, they’ll pose new challenges for you. Consider repeating or exploring additional parenting education resources so you can maintain and expand your strengths in becoming the best version of your parenting self.

If no parenting education resources are available, reach out to NPEN.org — https://npen.org/about-npen/contact-us — and we’ll do our best to guide you in advocating for or finding available parenting education.