Two-Generation Approach to Working with Families
“It’s understanding the needs of both the parent and the kid because they are different, but they are the same.” Alton Brown, FamilyWise WRAP Case Manager
Parents are the experts on their children, and positive parent-child relationships and parenting education are critical to all aspects of healthy child development. So, when FamilyWise works with a family, we get to know the parents and the children. By understanding the parents’ needs as well as children’s needs, we can support both and help families become stronger and more resilient. After all, it’s hard to be a compassionate and effective parent if your own needs aren’t met.
Imagine, or remember, what it was like to be a new parent. Your time and energy are consumed with the needs of your baby. You are learning new skills and getting to know everything there is to know about your child. Maybe you have a parent or an older sibling who helps with childcare sometimes, but regardless, you are deep in that new parent exhaustion. As your child grows, their needs change, but as a parent, self-care is rarely a thought, let alone a priority.
Now consider what it is like to raise a child with a limited support network and a strained history with your own parents. Perhaps you are a very young parent and still working through your own personal development. Parenthood is an abrupt and demanding change. It is also one that can be incredibly rewarding and fulfilling.
In family after family, FamilyWise meets parents who want to be the best for their children, and they need resources and parenting education to get there. To support both the parents and children, FamilyWise uses a two-generation approach in all our programs, but it is especially important in Bright Beginnings, our parenting and mentorship program for young parents. Young mothers can struggle with a loss of self-identity outside of their new role as parents. Staff and their peers support teen parents through conflicting feelings as they balance time between caring for their child and making time for friends and other fulfilling relationships. Encouraging parents to develop support systems and sustainable self-care practices are central to the resilience of the entire family. There is truth in the old proverb that “it takes a village to raise a child.”
There are many reasons that parents may need community support: a lack of positive parenting role models in their own life, a limited or absent community of support for their family, past physical or mental trauma, or a history of substance use that has strained the family structure. FamilyWise Executive Director, Ann Gaasch points out, “Parents accepting help is a powerful lesson for kids that it is okay to ask for help. It also teaches kids that there are people are out there who want to help.”
We recognize that every family is unique and the right kinds of help and resources for each family will look different. Twin Cities metro area Director of Prevention Services, Lisa Deputie describes our work this way, “We holistically work and provide the resources that not only parents may need, but also come alongside the family and provide resources that the child or family as a whole need. It is not one-size-fits-all.”
How FamilyWise works with families
Parents may have different values and priorities than the household they were raised in, but their parenting skills are inherited from their own childhood. We help parents find the confidence to explore a variety of parenting approaches, encouraging them to keep the experiences they cherish from their childhood and to have the courage to try different approaches when something isn’t working. Parent Support Services Manager, Brittany Seidel, shares that parents who can learn to take care of their mental health and work with their emotions help children learn similar skills. She notes that this is true of all parenting skills and why parent education is such a critical resource for strong, healthy families.
We listen to the wisdom and experiences of the parents we work alongside and consistently show up to support them. By doing this FamilyWise staff builds trust and credibility. We seek to understand family dynamics and work with the family to set their own goals. One of our guiding principles at FamilyWise is “family voice and choice.” Self-determination combined with trusted support is essential for long-term family stability and that’s what FamilyWise is here to offer.