Peas ‘n’ Pods is a parent/carer preschool group in Gravesend, Kent. We’ve been running for 10 years, and after great guidance from Care for the Family’s Playtime conferences we’ve built a reputation as a friendly and accessible group with good toys and parenting courses.
About seven years ago, Peas ‘n’ Pods began to grow. We started out with just a few parents from our church, City Praise Centre, but our numbers soon rose and rose. We found that a lot of the parents we were attracting had felt isolated after having children. Many had gone from full-time work to stay-at-home parenting, and getting out for a cup of tea and a chat felt like a lifeline to them.
The moment I got the new Parentalk DVDs, I decided to gather a few of my close mum-friends from church and go through the course together. I found that it was easy to get my friends discussing the issues raised each week – in fact they usually had too much to say! I decided to approach the church’s Kids’ Pastor about running the course on a larger scale, inviting both church and Peas ‘n’ Pods members.
The course has been so successful and I wanted to share some encouraging hints and tips with you all.
The most vital preparation for us was gathering our helpers together to pray. Parentalk is accessible to all parents, although its principles are fundamentally Christian.
It’s also important to publicise the course as widely as possible in as many ways as you can think of. I decided to gather ideas from my friends and also searched for inspiration on parenting websites. I found some amazing tips on heymummy.tv, including the idea of the ‘Key Jar’ which we printed out ready for people to use at home. When we ask our children at the dinner table what they did at nursery or school today, it’s common to hear, “Nothing.” This jar will change that! It’s the key to unlocking your children’s thoughts, hopes, dreams, fears, and innermost secrets – truly holding the ‘keys’ to your child’s heart! It’s full of simple questions which, hopefully, won’t be answered with a “Nothing.”
Another important part of preparation was deciding when and where to hold the course. We’ve tried running ours in several different ways:
Set out drinks and biscuits before people arrive and prepare the room. We’ve found that having tables or chairs grouped in fours or fives encourages conversation – particularly from those who wouldn’t dream of talking in front of a larger group.
Know your material! Make sure you’ve gone through the DVDs before you run the course. It can also help to read the books that are referenced in the DVDs and jot down any of your personal experiences that link up with a particular session. For example, the first time we ran the new Parentalk course, we had an interesting discussion around The 5 Love Languages of Children and how not to ‘spoil’ a child whose is language is gifts. I was particularly interested in this, as I know that my daughter fits into this category. That night, I decided to write her a note, put it in a nice envelope and hide it in her bed. It just said how much I loved her and how proud I was of the effort she was putting into her schoolwork at the moment. The next day, I had a return letter telling me how much she loved me. This was a gift to her, it cost nothing and it certainly didn’t spoil her.
As well as preparing notes of personal experiences, make notes during the session itself, particularly if someone has a great idea – you can use it for the next course you run!
Running these courses continues to be a joy. The biggest challenge I’ve faced is in convincing people that it is a course for parents to share with and encourage each other rather than a traditional ‘do it this way’ parenting course. Because of Parentalk, we have been able to link with charities within our church which now run workshops during Peas ‘n’ Pods sessions. The church also runs marriage courses, which are easier to invite people to when they have already attended a Parentalk course. The biggest joy, though, will always be the sight of families’ lives changing as a result of coming together through the work of Peas ‘n’ Pods.