This is a big one. This was really the reason that I decided to take this training, and the reason I keep plugging away trying to spread the word about how valuable and useful this new class really is.
I’ve been a counsellor for 7 years now, and for 7 years before I got my Masters Degree I was working with what social services calls “at risk” children and youth. I worked with teen moms who struggled under the weight to poverty and stigma that told them they could never do a good job at parenting. I worked with teen kids who were lost and depressed and acting out all over the place, with parents to whom they were barely, if at all, connected to for support. As a counsellor I’ve worked one on one with lots of adults who are still struggling to keep their lives on the rails because of difficulties they endured during their early childhood.
A lot of these adults were parents, and the challenges they faced had a direct impact on their kids. Uncontrollable anger, divorce and relationship conflict, punitive and shaming discipline, and self-destructive coping techniques (such as drug abuse) were often what these parents learned growing up, and came to counselling to valiantly try to “unlearn” once they saw how repeating it in their lives was affecting their children. I shared my client’s sense of frustration at how much work it was to undo what had been done, and their hope that they could be the ones to break the cycle.
Then I became a parent myself. And I understood from a whole new perspective just what it takes to do the job well enough (I’m not about perfect–that’s impossible). Like 69% of couples, my partner and I experienced much more relationship conflict than we ever had in the 5 years before we had kids. Like parents everywhere, I was humbled and shocked by the overwhelming emotions these innocent and helpless little ones could pull out of me; the powerlessness, the fierce protectiveness, the incredible frustration. And of course there is the love that will go to any lengths for this baby. But that love wasn’t always enough to stop me from having regrettable moments with my kids.
It’s ridiculous, really. Take this vulnerable infant, whose very life depends on their parents being calm, attentive, supportive, and healthy emotionally and physically (for more about this, see this info about brain development in the first three years). Then give the parents physical and psychological challenges like they have never experienced before. Take away their ability to restore through sleep, their time for hobbies that nurture them, half of their income, and most of their down time together and alone. Who thought up this design? It’s a lot of pressure for new parents, who nowadays often face the challenge alone, without the support of community and family that traditionally has been there to help. Parenting partners need to rely on each other more than ever before, and they need to build their own communities of support together.
My partner and I pulled through, and our kids are awesome (if I do say so myself). But as I emerged from my children’s early years and started getting back to work, I knew I wanted to help new parents make sense of all that was happening during the transition to parenthood. I wanted to help partners support each other through the changes, and understand how to keep their relationship strong. I wanted to arm new parents with the information about child development that they needed to prevent the sort of regret and suffering I saw in my counselling office. I wanted to help create strong families to nurture the little ones during these critical years. And I wanted to create support networks those parents could rely on for years to come.
When I found the Bringing Baby Home Program, I knew I had come to the right place In fact, I found it because I was trying to take it for myself, but it wasn’t available yet in our area. I was already familiar with Gottman’s research from school, and knew the quality of his work. As a child of divorce, and one of the above-mentioned 69%, I had no doubt that the health of the parent’s relationship was a strong factor in the health of the baby’s development. As soon as the training became available in October of last year, I signed on so that I could bring this class to my own community. I am convinced that taking this one small course can make one huge difference in the lives of new parents. And that makes a huge difference in the lives of their babies.
Check out this video from the Gottman Institute, where he touches on how successful the workshop has been. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e_hNCHEmB-o