Parent Education

EARLY CHILDHOOD FAMILY EDUCATION

Parent education is the heart of ECFE programs. Since parent and family education is an unfamiliar concept to many, it may be helpful to review basic assumptions for working with parents in group settings. The following are adapted from the classic Parents Learn Through Discussion: Principles and Practices of Parent Group Education by Aline B. Auerbach (1968).

1. Parents can learn. Learning can take place at any time in life, regardless of age.

2. Parents want to learn. They are especially interested in issues and relationships that affect the growth and development of their children.

3. Parents learn best what they are interested in learning. They must be involved from the beginning in selecting topics for discussion.

4. Learning is most significant when the subject matter is closely related to the parents' own immediate experiences. Questions, concerns, and responses should be linked to specific everyday interactions between parents and children.

5. Parents learn best when they are free to create their own response to a situation. Parents need to come to their own decisions without group pressure.

6. Parent group education is as much an emotional experience as it is an intellectual one.
Group leaders must be prepared for emotional responses and ready to handle them when they occur. It's helpful for group leaders to be aware of their own feelings around specific issues.

7. Parents can learn from one another. What parents learn from and teach to each other is at the heart of the parent group process.

8. Parent group education provides the basis for parents to develop new ways of thinking and behaving. Behavior change is a slow process, however, and groups will need to meet over a period of time. Weekly or biweekly meetings for eight to twelve consecutive sessions may be a minimum in which to expect change.

9. Each parent learns in his or her own way. Each individual brings different skills, experience, and values into the group. Each will learn at a different rate, a different style, and a different depth.

To read further, click here for Chapter 4 of the ECFE Implementation Guide.