Raising kids is one of the most challenging and fulfilling jobs in the world yet, as any parent knows, it doesn’t come with a playbook. While sports teams use Xs and Os for offensive and defensive strategies to win a game, the Nurturing Families Program at Akron Children’s sees Xs and Os as part of positive parenting that helps children thrive in life.
“I signed up for the program and several others at the Ellet baby shower (sponsored by Akron Children’s Hospital Injury Prevention Program) because, as a first-time mom, I wanted to learn as much as I could about how to support my child and be the best mom I can be,” said Taneisha Bratcher of Akron.
The Nurturing Families Program, a partnership between Akron Children’s Hospital and Kohl’s Cares, is designed to provide families with the skills needed to make good, healthy lifestyle choices. The program focuses on the needs of children, ages birth to 5, by helping families with healthy parent-child bonding and nurturing skills, including stress skills, child development and parenting skills, social and emotional skills, as well as knowledge and confidence building.
The Nurturing Families Program typically offers in-person education sessions so families can learn and use the skills in the comfort of their home but, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the program and Taneisha had to adapt.
“We were able to conduct 2 in-home sessions before we had to transition to a virtual format so Taneisha could complete all 7 educational sessions,” said Monika Hale-Johnson, community health educator at Akron Children’s Hosptial. “Our virtual courses are guided by a live community health educator through a variety of platforms, including FaceTime, Google Duo, WebEx, MS Teams and telephone, and we conduct the evaluations, tests and worksheets online or via email. We’ve also adjusted session times to fit parents’ schedules since so many are juggling life, work and now at-home academics for their children.”
Taneisha appreciated the flexibility in scheduling, which allowed her to get through all of the sessions.
“The sessions helped me feel better prepared for how to care for my son now and later on… We went over things like understanding what different cries mean – being hungry or in pain from teething – so I can defuse the situation rather than getting frustrated,” said Taneisha. “I learned how to be look for other queues like drooling so I can rationalize why he’s crying and help him rather than get upset. At 6 months old, my son can self sooth and play independently, but he also lets me know when he just needs me…he’s a good communicator.”
Communication is an important skill covered in the program but, like many, Taneisha only had her own personal experience to go off of prior to signing up for the program.
“Communication wasn’t something we did a lot of when I was growing up, but now I know it’s good to talk about things. I know Jax is little, but listening to him and not being judgmental or angry with him now will help him feel comfortable talking to me as he gets bigger,” said Taneisha. “I still FaceTime my mom every day with a new question about Jax, but I think this program has given me some great insight on raising this next generation of children and what they’ll need as they grow up.”
Beyond the individual learning sessions, the program provides parents with a handbook and session materials, including videos and activities, to keep as reference, as well as additional resources like books, toys, safety items and gift cards as sessions are completed. At the end of the program, families get a framed certificate in recognition of their efforts and are connected to services that can provide car seats and pack-n-plays, if needed.
Taneisha and her son, Jaxson, are doing well and filling their time with lots of Xs and Os, especially the hugs and kisses type.
“I appreciate what I learned from the program and that I can give Monika a call if I have questions along the way,” said Taneisha. “Right now, I’m just enjoying Jax. He’s the happiest baby anyone has ever seen. His smile is intoxicating and it just makes your day.”
If you or someone you know is interested in learning more, the Nurturing Families Program is accepting families. Sessions are offered in a group or individual-based format depending on a family’s availability. Learn more by reaching out to firstname.lastname@example.org or calling 330-543-0736.