Being responsible for a child’s life changes you in so many ways and can test your resilience like nothing else. Yet even with this huge new responsibility thrust on to our shoulders, many parents assume they should instinctively know everything there is to know about parenting! The fact is, no parent on earth has all the answers and it’s perfectly natural (and recommended) to accept support wherever you can find it.
So what kind of support can parents find? Friends and family can be a great support network in terms of providing advice, someone to talk to (and, of course, occasional free babysitters!). But parents can also find great comfort in the support that parenting classes offer. There is sadly still some stigma attached to parenting classes, since not everyone likes being told how to ‘parent’, but it is never the intention of these classes to tell parents the ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ way of raising a child.
Parenting classes exist to give parents the tools and strategies they need to become the best they can be and allows them to share their experiences with fellow moms and dads without fear of being judged. In this article, we’ll explore how these classes offer a supportive environment and how parents young and old can benefit from sharing their parenting ideas and insights with each other.
Why Is It Important to Take Parenting Classes?
Think back to your exams in high school – would you have taken them without studying hard beforehand? Probably not. While there is no magic exam paper that is going to help you master parenting and get a perfect score, parenting classes can offer you new knowledge and insight into the daily challenges you face. Parenting classes may not be for everybody, but if you simply want to improve your skills and have a closer parent-child relationship, then taking parenting classes may be one of the best decisions you ever make.
Some parents may prefer to consult textbooks or their own parents for advice (and many will look to YouTube for quick answers!), but there will always be more to learn about your child than you realize and parenting classes can provide this deeper well of knowledge. Sharing your concerns and inner worries with other parents who are going through the same thing can be hugely empowering and boost your confidence so that you can be a better parent to your child.
Still not convinced? Let’s look at the many benefits that can come out of taking parenting classes…
What are the Benefits of Taking Parenting Classes?
It’s not simply the tantrums or bad days that make parenting stressful – it’s everything in between. Children grow up in the blink of an eye and while your child is developing, you begin to face more and more new challenges as a parent.
Janelle Durham, parenting educator and designer of the Early Parent Support Program, suggests the ultimate benefit of taking parenting classes is understanding our kids better as they develop so fast: “Sometimes it’s hard to keep up. But taking parenting classes helps to give you a foundation of skills – a toolbox you can apply to each new situation.” Parenting classes also provide mom or dad with some personal benefits too!
Here are some of the awesome benefits you can expect from taking a parenting class:
- Extra source of support – being a parent can sometimes be quite isolating, which is why parenting classes can be a great way for many parents to flex their social skills. Through sharing your parenting highs and lows with others, you gain a new support network- and may even make lifelong friendships with some.
- Staying ahead of the game – parenting classes are run by childcare professionals, so if there are any recent studies or discoveries about the best parenting techniques, then they’ll know about it first! Joining these classes gives you the rare opportunity to have the latest scientific research on your side. What confused parent could ask for more?
- Building your confidence – it’s easy for parents to lose confidence in their parenting abilities, but parenting classes can give you the help you need to feel more at ease with yourself and your methods. A confident parent makes for a secure and trusting child, so building confidence can be one of the biggest benefits of taking a parenting class.
- Improving your child’s school life – parenting classes can teach you how to become more engaged with your child’s learning by showing more interest in their studies and attending more school events. Research has even found that parental involvement in a child’s school life can play a bigger part in their grade success than the schools themselves!
What Do You Learn in Parenting Classes?
The style and structure of parenting classes may differ slightly from state to state, and there may be different approaches for online parenting courses. Most parenting classes, however, aim to cover a wide range of topics on parenting, including the most important one of all – that you are not alone in your struggles! Here are some of the main things you can hope to take away from parenting classes:
- Relationship-building skills – how to feel a greater connection with your child by improving your listening and attention skills, ways of playing more effectively and how to have more one-on-one time with your kids (especially helpful for busy career parents).
- Tips for dealing with misbehavior – learning the most effective ways to discipline your child in positive ways. Learning to become firm and consistent with your discipline strategies and how to help them learn from their mistakes.
- Setting boundaries for your kids – how to create appropriate rules for your kids and ensure they stick by them. Parents are taught to be more assertive in saying ‘NO’ to their kids every once in a while and setting clear and obvious limits to encourage greater maturity and good behavior.
- Helping children become independent – kids grow up so fast and you want to ensure you are teaching them the best life skills to become independent adults. You may learn ways in which you can build your kids confidence and problem-solving skills more often.
- Keeping kids safe and healthy – this sounds like a no brainer, but parenting classes can address overlooked safety concerns for kids such as fussy eaters or kids who spend too much time on the internet. Parents can learn how to help their kids become more active and eat better to prevent possible risks of eating disorders or childhood obesity.
- Encouraging children’s social skills – if your child has trouble making friends or has a poor relationship with their sibling, parenting classes can provide tips on how to help them become more sociable, both at school and at home.
Why Might Parents Need Parenting Classes?
Parents may decide to apply for parenting classes for all kinds of reasons, including…
- To learn new skills – if you know very little about parenting and need somewhere to turn for guidance, parenting classes are the best place. You will be in a non-judgemental environment with moms and dads at all different skill levels, so you should never fear stigma for having little or no parenting knowledge.
- To improve existing methods – if you have your favorite methods of doing things like a certain feeding or bath time ritual but want to learn more/make sure you’re doing the best you can, parenting classes can point you in the right direction and just make sure that you are giving your baby or child everything they need.
- To control anger issues – parent educator Elizabeth Pantley explains:“Even though anger at our children is normal and common, it can stand in the way of effective parenting.” The toddler and teen years can certainly push parents to their limits, but if you or a loved one have concerns about your anger, parenting classes can be a great way of managing your emotions and teaching better ways of reacting to your children.
- As part of a court order – some parents may be asked to start taking parenting classes as part of a legal agreement following a divorce or separation from their partner. This could include both partners or separate classes depending on their co-parenting arrangement (see more about co parenting class benefits below).
Are There Any Benefits for New Parents?
Absolutely! Parenting classes are open up to parents at all stages in their journey from raising newborns through to the difficult teen years, but new moms and dads can especially find great comfort in these classes. And there is no one type of ‘new’ parent either. You could, for example, be raising your first ever child or starting a new blended family with your second partner. You may also be a single parent following divorce or bereavement and need extra guidance and support.
Depending on when you choose to receive support, you can start taking parenting classes as early as becoming pregnant. If yourself and your partner wish to feel better prepared for things like childbirth, for example, then expectant parenting classes can be ideal. These are the two types of parenting classes specially set up for new parents:
- Expectant parent classes – in these classes, parents-to-be have the opportunity to discuss childbirth topics with a trained medical professional to help ease the anxiety of going into labor and what to expect in terms of pain medication and the recovery process after childbirth etc.
- New parent and baby classes – once your bundle of joy has arrived, new parents can take classes on everything from breastfeeding advice to classes that teach you the best methods of bathing and feeding your baby, helping them sleep well and soothing them through things like the teething process.
What are the Benefits of Co Parenting Classes?
Parenting classes can be hugely beneficial for couples who are learning to raise their children separately from their partner and ‘co parent’ following a messy separation or divorce. Co parenting can invite a whole new set of challenges where trust and communication is concerned, so these classes can be in the best interests of your kids (whether the parents want to or not).
If you are learning to co parent, there are many benefits to consider from taking parenting classes, such as…
- Giving parents problem-solving techniques – having the coping mechanisms to get through a messy divorce or deal with a toxic ex-partner will benefit your children in the long run. And if you have the problem-solving skills to co parent successfully, this ensures your child has all they really need – to have both parents in their lives.
- Helping parents control their anger – parent’s feelings of anger and resentment toward each other can be powerful after divorce, but co parenting classes can help keep these feelings under control. Anger and hurt can blind you to the impact these interactions have on your child.
- Teaching children good morals and conflict resolution – kids look to their parents for cues on how to behave in certain situations, so if they can witness their divorced mom and dad resolving their differences, this can give them valuable life lessons in problem-solving. In essence, co parenting classes can help parents become better role models for their kids.
Do I need a parenting coach? A parenting coach is a lot like a modern supernanny – giving parents a one-on-one parenting class as often as they need (either in their home or remotely). A parenting coach can offer help with things like: aggressive behavior, sibling rivalry, adapting to transition (e.g. divorce, moving house or the death of a loved one), or how to help you cope with parental stress. If you feel you need immediate one-on-one guidance with any of these issues, then a parenting coach could be right for you.
How can I deal with parenting overwhelm? Parenting puts so much unnecessary pressure on us to be perfect that it leaves us feeling constantly overwhelmed, but you can learn to break out of this pattern with a few tricks…
- Stay consistent with your responses until they become routine
- Make time for self-care
- Be more forgiving to yourself
- Stop comparing yourself to other parents
- Accept help and get the support of friends
Read on here to find out how you can put these steps into effective action.
Does my child need therapy? All children go through ups and downs as they develop, but if you have concerns that your child has expressed more than the usual struggles and behaviors, they may benefit from speaking to a child therapist. These are some of the signs to look out for in your child for if you’re unsure:
- Expressing hopelessness
- Talk of self-harm/suicide
- Expresses worries about the future
- Disinterest in friendships and leisure activities
- Withdraws from activities they previously liked
- Poor appetite/sleep habits
Mike Zhang. Founder of FamilyLifeShare