When Crystal Colbert became a first-time mom to her son, Cairo, she had a lot of parenting questions.
“I had a best friend who had gone through Akron Children’s Nurturing Families Program, and she spoke very highly of it,” says Crystal.
“The Nurturing Families Program, a program of the hospital’s External Affairs department, is a family-centered trauma informed initiative designed to build nurturing parenting skills,” says Monica Cunningham, program facilitator.
The program consists of 7, one-hour sessions and is geared to parents or caregivers who have children under age 5. The program focuses on the following nurturing factors:
- Improving stress management skills
- Identifying resources to develop a support system
- Enhancing child development and parenting skills
- Expanding knowledge and confidence to ask for help when needed
- Developing social and emotional skills
- Promoting healthy parent-child relationships
“All sessions are interactive. Parents can attend virtual, one-on-one sessions in the comfort of their own home,” says Monica. “There is no charge to participate.”
When Crystal joined the program, Cairo was 10 months old.
“I was brand new at parenting,” says Crystal. “I wanted to learn about the different milestones and how to deal with them.”
Crystal says at one point Cairo was trying to exert his independence by hitting and having tantrums and Monica’s advice was helpful.
“Monica gave me the tools to help me be calm and talk him through things without getting angry or stressed,” says Crystal. “I learned that things won’t always go smoothly the first time, but I need to stay in control and eventually I will get to my goal.”
Monica says in addition to a lot of great information on nurturing skills, parents learn about the importance of nurturing themselves.
“We really encourage and support parents to develop the habit of caring for themselves,” she says. “When we nourish ourselves as well as our children, it will make us better parents for having taken the time to care for ourselves.”
Participants are given a workbook and videos to watch before each session.
“The notebook outlines what milestones to expect at different ages, challenges we might encounter and a place to make notes or write down any questions or concerns to ask,” says Crystal.
“I love doing an overview of the development of children’s brains. I think it’s enlightening to know there are things our children ‘don’t’ know, therefore they aren’t doing ‘things on purpose,’” says Monica. “I always hope these lessons are empowering to parents, knowing they have a wonderful opportunity to impact their child’s development in a positive way.”
At the completion of the program, participants receive a handbook, a $50 gift card to a grocery store, books and toys for all the children in the home under the age of 5 and a safety kit.
Cairo is now 18 months old, and Crystal is enjoying every moment and milestone.
“Just watching him learn new things, babble, climb and try new foods is very rewarding as a new mom,” she says.
Meeting new people and helping impact them in a positive way is also rewarding for Monica.
“I enjoy meeting people and hearing about the parenting journey that others are having,” she says. “We are the guide for our children in this life, we want to guide them with respect to help them develop into respectful, healthy adults.”
Priority for the program is given to parents/caregivers living in Columbiana, Lorain, Mahoning, Medina, Portage, Stark, Summit, and Trumbull counties, but is open to everyone. For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org.