I’ve been running Time Out for Parents – The Early Years for many years now. I’ve found it such a great opportunity to help mums, dads and carers meet together and invest some time into thinking through how they can be even better parents. We look at the key areas of nurturing and discipline, and an important part of the course is about encouraging fun family time, play and building family traditions – helping parents not only survive, but thrive.
When many of us think back to our children’s early years, we have happy memories of playing with them on the floor and going to the park, but there are also tough times, when we find it exhausting and isolating. The day-in, day-out routines and domestic duties can sap parents of energy, and so often mums and dads can end up running on empty: empty of hope.
Hope keeps us going: the belief that there is something better down the line. When parents hear how others in the group have weathered the storms and overcome their particular challenges, they find hope knowing that they’re not the only one who is struggling.
Over and over again, I’ve seen that it often takes only simple, small steps for parents to renew or build closeness with their child. They are encouraged by having had a go and sharing a success with the group, and are given hope that they can help make changes happen for the better in their family.
Being able to speak honestly in a group without being judged is important for the parents who come along. They are given hope that others can see them for who they really are and many friendships grow well beyond the end of the course.
Growing up, I experienced a loving relationship with my parents that helped me flourish and gave me strong foundations. But not everyone is so fortunate. Some parents look back at their own childhood and feel they didn’t get the love they wanted and needed. Often there is hurt that their parents didn’t do as well for them as they might have done, and sometimes this can make it difficult for them to bond with their own child and build a close, enduring relationship.
In circumstances like these, the Time Out for Parents – The Early Years course can bring healing by helping parents see that although they can’t go back and change the past, they can make a difference for their children and themselves as they journey into the future.
In talking about her life, the writer Maya Angelou said, “I did then what I knew how to do. Now I know better, I do better.” I think this works with parenting too. As we learn new things and learn from our mistakes, we can go on to be the parents to our children that we want to be.
In running Time Out for Parents – The Early Years courses we are able to offer practical parenting advice that makes a real difference, and are also to help bring hope and healing for mums and dads who are hurting. It’s been a great privilege.