At the start of 2020, one of our goals was to continue expanding education and support efforts for the parents of children we serve. As part of this initiative, in February, we started preparing for a parenting education program that would provide information and skill building opportunities to parents on relevant topics such as early childhood development, positive parenting and discipline, parent-child communication techniques, and raising children with special needs. In March, we adapted and developed program training material, recruited a counselor to support our work, and held an initial training for our teachers who would facilitate the parenting education groups.
Though we had to put our plans on hold for several months amidst the pandemic, we are pleased to report that last month in September, we were able to restart the program. Our first cohort of 72 nursery school parents participated in a two-week, interactive training program, which followed government Covid-19 infection prevention guidelines, such as taking temperatures, wearing masks, and holding meetings outside. In addition to educating parents on the aforementioned topics, we also built in flexibility to the session structure so that parents could raise issues that were important to them in the course of the training. In this way, the parenting sessions evolved into a sort of group counseling space where parents opened up about the experiences and challenges they are facing and which have seemingly been amplified during the pandemic.
Several mothers discussed intimate partner violence in their home, while other parents talked about specific challenges of raising children living with disabilities. One mother shared how the community's misconception of her lack of control over her child with autism led to her and her family being stigmatized. Other parents talked about how they feel they must use harsh/punitive parenting styles to protect their children given that they live in a high crime environment (in Kibera) where negative influences are many. This honest sharing allowed for frank discussions about the real-life issues affecting parenting styles and how parenting could be improved. Referrals were provided for parents in need of immediate outside services, including domestic violence.
Parents were excited about their participation in the program. One parent reported that following the training, she was eager to share what she learned with her neighbor and had even helped her neighbor to create family rules to help improve use within the household. Most parents shared that they had no shoulder to lean on and appreciated the training because it offered a space to discuss issues affecting them. The training also helped us, as an organization, to better understand some of the sensitive issues facing the families that we serve, which we will be able to translate into more effective and tailored support to our families in the future.