Tool time: Friends share experience

September 2010 Posted in Community

By Kristine ThomasSilverton Together Parenting Education

There’s a misconception about taking a parenting class that several parents want to set straight.

Somehow, some people believe if they take a parenting class that means they are a “bad parent who needs help raising their child.”

The exact opposite is true, said Doreen Kelly, program coordinator for Silverton Together.

“Parenting education is about parents wanting to be the best parents they can be,” Kelly said. “I find it’s usually people who are really good parents who want to learn more that take the parenting classes.”

Since 1997, Silverton Together has offered parenting classes for parents with children from newborns to teens.

Silverton residents Meg Feicht, Allison Newton and Lisa Freauff met at the first parenting class called Parents/Infants Plus. More than 13 years later, their friendship continues and the conversation has shifted from best ways to get their baby to sleep to sharing tips on raising teenagers.

Always Our Children
Parent education
Classes for parents of all
ages of children begin this month.
A list of classes can be picked up at
the Silverton Together office,
421 S. Water St.; by calling
503-873-0405; or at the
web site:

Freauff and Newton said thanks to the parenting classes they took through Silverton Together they formed a friendship. Besides the classes, they met at their homes for coffee and conversation.

“As a parent you don’t always know what to expect with your child so it’s nice to be around other parents who are asking the same questions,” Newton said. “By being around other parents, it helped me realize what my child was doing was normal.”

Freauff said she remembers feeling isolated at first as a new mom. “It was nice to be around other women who knew and understood what you were going through.”

Both Freauff and Newton said the classes don’t teach parents how to parent as much as provide them tools they can use.

Bruce Sheppard teaches the class called “Boot Camp for Dads-to-be.” While the dads-to-be learn some inside advice from new dads the moms-to-be get pampered.

“When dads get involved with their kids, it’s better for the entire family,” Sheppard said. “This class gives men the opportunity to talk to other dads and ask questions. I think it helps men to see if another guy they know can handle the challenges of parenting then they can, too.”

Rhonda Merrifield teaches the Parents and Infant Plus class. The mother of a now 7-year-old child, Merrifield said the “Terrific Twos” class was a lifesaver for her.

“My child was climbing on the couch, having tantrums and really mobile,” she said.” The class helped me see what other parents were doing that was working when their children were doing the same things.”

Merrifield said she is more of a facilitator than a teacher.

“Parents like to share stories of what works and doesn’t work,” she said. “They often ask a question and see what other parents have done.”

By observing the parenting groups over the years, Kelly and Merrifield have noticed the parents who take the classes form lasting friendships.

“No matter how diverse the people are in the group, they have a common ground as parents,” Merrifield said. “I have found I have learned things from other parents that I wouldn’t have learned by reading a book.”

Stephanie Engel provides childcare for the parents when they are taking the class. She has noticed the class isn’t just a plus for the parents.

“I think the program helps build social skills in children,” she said. “When their parents are in class, they learn how to play together.”

Expecting her second child, Nicole Kay is thankful for what she has learned in the Silverton Together classes.. She and her husband, Steve, have a 2-year-old daughter. By taking the parenting classes, they have met other families who they now gather for birthday parties and other celebrations.

“The support team of parents we have met is invaluable,” Nicole said. “The parents have a wealth of information to share.”

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