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We’ve all heard the saying that “children don’t come with a manual,” acknowledging that loving and caring for a child is one of life’s most satisfying, and challenging, mysteries of the universe. There is a wonderful group called OPEC (Oregon Parent Education Collaborative), whose focus is to build up and support parents on that all-important journey.

Enhancing parenting practices and behaviors, like developing and practicing positive discipline techniques, learning age-appropriate child development skills, and understanding typical milestones are keys to success. Promoting positive play and interaction between parents and children, and locating and accessing community services and supports, goes a long way to knowing you are among friends on this pathway. OPEC’s objective is to make learning about the best parenting tactics the norm in all communities.

The primary goals of parenting education include improving relationships between parents and their children, and teaching parents how to deal with the daily responsibilities of maintaining a home and family, in positive ways. Let’s tackle a few basic questions:

Why is parent education important? Because children acquire the abilities to become responsible, caring adults and citizens of their society from the people who are most intensely involved with them, parenting is the most important and challenging job any of us can have. Yet, it receives little support or recognition in our society. OPEC is one of those support systems available to all parents and community.

What is the purpose of parenting education? Parent education programs aim to support and strengthen existing parenting abilities and develop new expertise. This helps parents build the knowledge and skills needed to carry out child-rearing responsibilities and provide their children with experiences and opportunities that promote learning.

What is a parent’s role in a child’s life? The role of the parent is to provide encouragement, support, and access to activities that enable the child to master key developmental tasks. A parent is their child’s first teacher and should remain their best teacher throughout life.

As with all educational programs, the benefits of parenting education are many and varied. Improved parenting skills have a lasting impact on the children being raised. Parenting education is for everyone, and OPEC provides tools to enhance a parents understanding through:

Learning about basic child development, so they know what to expect at each stage in a child’s life

Learning age-appropriate discipline, and how it is more effective than anger-driven punishment

Learning to recognize their strengths as parents, and how to put those strengths to good use

Learning how to work together as parents to raise their children, even if they are no longer living together

Learning how to deal with major problems that may arise

Learning to play with a purpose and promote learning

Some of the resources that OPEC provides have been useful in supporting parents and strengthening parenting skills, including 10- to 12-week series and workshops. Check out the Umatilla-Morrow County Head Start website at umchs.com and click on Parent Education (the little red wagon icon) and check out the training calendar. All classes include childcare and snacks free! For more details, feel free to inquire for information at 541-667-6091 or 541-667-6172.

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Mary Lou Gutierrez is the Parent Education Coordinator at UMCHS, a partner with the Blue Mountain Early Learning Hub, which works to bridge early childhood resources and prepare children for kindergarten. For more information visit www.bluemountainearlylearninghub.org.

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