In the mining town of Miami, Lucy Struck gave birth to her first daughter, Violet, in 2019. Struck and her husband, Frank, learned everything they could about parenting. But when Violet became a toddler, they felt they needed more knowledge.
“Toddlers are so active and have these big personalities,” said Struck. “My husband and I heard about the parenting class, and decided if we have the help, why not take it?”
The Arizona Youth Partnership’s (AZYP) Gila County parenting education classes are offered for free to local parents and caregivers through funding provided by the First Things First Gila Regional Partnership Council.
Parents attending the in-person, four-week class learn from parent educators that use the Active Parenting’s First Five Years™ curriculum. Topics covered include early childhood development, parent-child bonding, encouraging positive behavior, literacy, healthy discipline and getting children ready to succeed in kindergarten.
Sara Wildenborg, the partnership’s program director, said during the COVID-19 pandemic the class turned virtual and parent educators provided extra support to parents through text, email, Facebook messaging and phone calls.
“Our educators provided information about COVID-19 testing and vaccination sites, food box and clothing distributions, and other emergency resources to support our parents,” said Wildenborg. “This support was needed more than ever with families experiencing so much loss with COVID-19 related illness and death, the fires and the floods.”
As Struck parented her toddler during the COVID-19 pandemic, she needed the ideas presented in class to help with stress but wondered if virtual would be a good fit for her.
“They started doing the virtual classes, and I thought it was going to be different, but honestly it worked,” Struck said. “Everyone joined and interacted as they did when it was in person.” She learned how to provide healthy discipline for her child and to manage her own stress.
She learned to take a deep breath and assess the situation.
“If we went to the store, and she’d throw a fit, I tried yelling. People would tell me to spank her,” Struck said. “The class taught me how get down on her eye level and talk to her. I know if she’s crying, she needs help from me. She might be tired, hungry or needing something else.
The class teaches you how to communicate with a child who can’t talk. If you yell at them, you make them meaner and frustrate them more.” The class also taught her about the importance of reading with her daughter for improving language, bonding and getting her ready for kindergarten.
“We teach parents to make reading a bonding moment,” said Charlene Becker, an AZYP parent educator.
“Make it a special time by finding a cozy and comfortable place to read and have dad join in, too. Lucy is bilingual as Spanish is her native language. I encouraged her to teach Violet the English and Spanish languages, as it would be advantageous for her to learn both.”
Struck said she and her husband try to follow all of the parenting tips they’ve been taught and find that the advice is working.
“You’ve got to get your kids ready for school and this class has helped. My daughter loves books,” she said. “Even if you have help, the class can help you a lot more. Parenting is always going to be hard, but it can make it easier for you.”