A parent center is a designated place where parents can go to receive parenting education. It also provides an environment in which parents feel free to share their parenting experiences and concerns with one another, as well as ask for advice about specific problems or dilemmas they are facing. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has cited the importance of parent centers in the promotion of good parenting and has encouraged pediatricians to refer parents to a parent center when they know that a child’s parenting skills need improvement.
1. Role of pediatricians in promoting good parenting
In a 2005 policy statement on the role of pediatricians in promoting good parenting, the AAP said that “pediatric providers should support the efforts of parent groups that provide opportunities for education and support for families, because of the benefits that accrue to children from good parenting.” Furthermore, pediatricians, as a part of their routine medical examination on a child’s first visit, should inquire about the parents’ own childhood experiences with their parents. If it is found that the parents lack even basic knowledge of good parenting skills themselves, then the pediatrician should refer them to a parent education and support group.
2. Role of parent centers in promoting good parenting
The AAP further stated that “pediatric providers can work with local community resources, such as parent groups and organizations, e-mail discussion boards, Web sites, telephone hotlines, newspapers, pamphlets/books/videos, and other resources to help parents understand the benefits of good parenting.” Additionally, pediatricians should partner with parent centers as a way to reach out to parents who may not have regular access to healthcare services. For a parent center to operate successfully, it must offer educational programs at low or no cost in areas where parents with young children live. This will enable parents to attend the classes irrespective of their income level or social status and may motivate them to acquire new skills to be good parents for their children.
3. Using parent centers as a means of outreach
In addition, providing parenting classes at local churches, schools, libraries, and community centers is another effective way of reaching out to parents. According to the AAP, “parent groups should also be supported by pediatricians so that they can provide information about individual parent support and education.” Furthermore, since many parent centers are inadequately funded by state governments, private support may need to be solicited from non-profit organizations, foundations, and other private sources. The AAP cited the example of “the national Maternal and Child Health Bureau’s Healthy Steps program, which provides grants for parent centers that support healthy child development and preventive pediatric care.”
4. Promotion of good parenting as a public health issue
In the past, it has been common practice to ignore early childhood experiences and parenting practices as a public health matter. However, the AAP has pointed out that promoting good parenting is not only a duty of pediatricians but also of public officials and policymakers. The AAP suggested that “health policy should continue to include a focus on family-friendly policies so that parents have the support they need from the healthcare system and employers and communities.”
The AAP said that “preserving and promoting family well-being is a goal shared by pediatricians, parent groups and government at the local, state and national levels.” To this end, pediatricians need to work in partnership with parent centers as they play an important role in promoting good parenting.