Editor's note: Helping Hands is a Sunday column offering our area nonprofit groups a chance to talk about their work. If your group would like to be considered for participation, email firstname.lastname@example.org. This column is by Shelley Skarie, Partners in Parenting coordinator.
Partners In Parenting is a support program for young parents, ages 14-22, that provides education, parenting information, support, food and fun by establishing connections through relationships and weekly socialization groups.
PIP is all about supporting each other. We come together and offer suggestions and tips when parents have challenges. Parenting is tough at any age, and even more difficult as an adolescent/young adult because they may face more obstacles and have more challenges in general.
Working with young parents has been a passion of mine for a very long time, mostly because I have been in their shoes. I, too, was a young parent. I had a wonderful support network but I didn’t have the resources and programs that are available today to provide young moms with the outside support to help them be successful. Working with young parents on a daily basis has allowed me to continue to share my knowledge and the experiences I’ve had. I can also share my heart, the struggles I overcame, and the journey I have had, all in hopes to be a light in the lives of many who are often hopeless.
We meet on Tuesday afternoons at the Lincoln Education Center for an hour and a half of fun and education. Our time is structured similar to an early childhood family education class, where parents bring their little ones and we start with crafts such as themed footprints/handprints keepsakes. We then have a circle time where we sing together. This helps teach babies songs to help with basic language development. It also helps parents become more comfortable in hearing their own voice in hopes they sing with their kids at home, too.
Next, we read a story as a group and then parents choose a book and split off to read alone to their children. I love seeing parents interact with their kids one-on-one for a few minutes. This increases the bond and connections between parents and children. We then have a healthy snack or meal while socializing and discussing life as we all connect.
The final 30-45 minutes is spent with a guest speakers who come to share about parenting topics including dental care, discipline and car-seat safety, or who offers resources within our community such as child support, WIC and more. This is a great way for parents to connect a face to a name and become more comfortable in reaching out when they need help. We also do fun things like a trip to the local pumpkin patch, make fleece hats and have swimming parties.
Partners In Parenting is a year-round program so we also meet in the summer and make multiple trips to the zoo, have beach parties and talk about summer safety. Not only is this fun for all involved, but it exposes young parents to activities and outings they may not do on their own and there is never a fee to participate.
We all have a story, and I am proof that dreams and success are always possible.
Partners In Parenting has been part of Detroit Lakes Public Schools, as an extension of the TeenAge Parent Program at the Area Learning Center, since 2002. DL native Shelley Skarie has been PIP coordinator for 21 years.