ABC’s of Parenting readies parents and kids for success


By Sue Cody


W2W Parenting 2 FBStudents sit at a large table on the second floor of Capt. Robert Gray Elementary School, watching a video. On a flip chart, the class outline includes discussing ways to improve self-concept, self-esteem and self-worth. But these aren’t grade school students; they are adults, taking a parenting class.


The Way to Wellville and educators in Clatsop County are focusing on early childhood education as a way to improve health, well-being and success. Research shows that if a child is ready to learn by the time they enter kindergarten and can read by the end of third grade their chances of success are great.


When Astoria School District started Kinder Ready, a pre-kindergarten class in the school last year, teachers discovered many of the parents were not ready to have their children in school.


That was a concern to Superintendent Craig Hoppes. With his support, Northwest Parenting offered an ABC’s of Parenting class this fall. Darcy Rose Cronin, a Clatsop County juvenile prevention specialist, is leading the seven-session program for parents of children 5 to 8 years old.


W2W Parenting 4A few couples, a grandmother and a couple of dads signed up for the course to learn about evidence-based, nurturing parenting, that includes education about how childhood trauma affects behavior and learning. Cronin says she would have liked all the parents to attend the course, but there is false perception that parenting classes are for bad parents.


“The ABC’s of Parenting isn’t for bad parents,” Cronin says. “These are normal, happy parents going through the normal challenges of parenting. Every phase of parenting is going to require a new set of skills, and no one has these skills from get-go.


“I think it is ideal to have couples spend this time together. Any couple is going to come from different backgrounds and have different nuances of how they were raised. We look at the values they were raised with and whether they want to continue or change that.”


W2W Parenting 5AThe course


Participants share a free dinner with their children. The children then go to a preschool classroom for structured activities. In another room, the adults watch a video, go through introductions and do an exercise led by Cronin.


One exercise was a conversation about the expectations each participant had before becoming a parent. They were asked to share one expectation that was met and one that was not, and how each made them feel. One man said his parents never attended his sporting events, which made him sad.


W2W Parenting 1“We reflect on actions and interactions that affect our adult life,” Cronin says. She offered tips on picturing success by not using negative labels. If a mother told her daughter she was messy, the daughter could change that perception of herself. “There doesn’t need to be a fixed mindset. Believe in the ability to improve.”


This is an opportunity for parents to connect with other parents and kids. Cronin says she especially like the trauma-informed aspect of parents interacting with their child.


“We are all learning here,” she says. “Kids appreciate it, and they can connect with other kids.


“Growth as a whole family is the goal.”


W2W Parenting 3 FBThe bigger picture


Studies show early childhood education accrues a lifetime of benefits, including reduced health care costs, reduced crime, greater earnings, better education and more, by one estimate a 13 percent return every year on the initial investment.


For example, Cronin says, early childhood education is an opportunity to reduce the number of people who experience trauma and will be more likely to become aggressors and end up in the juvenile and court systems.


Northwest Parenting wishes to continue working with the Early Learning Hub and Columbia Pacific Coordinated Care Organization (CCO), which includes Clatsop, Tillamook and Columbia counties.


“The more reciprocal relationships we have with other organizations the better,” Cronin says. The CCO supports parent engagement, because it can reduce childhood obesity, keep parents informed about less screen time, improve nutrition and maybe get kids to play outside.


W2W Parenting 6When early education and parenting are done well and are trauma informed, it reduces the negative effects on the school system, according to Cronin. Kids are better prepared and able to learn. They are engaged have better relationship skills.


Parents said they are grateful for the opportunity to share their challenges and know they are not alone.