As told to Jasmine Getrouw-Moore, Young Families Connect Media Outreach Coordinator (September 2016).
*Name changed for confidentiality
When I joined Young Families Connect (YFC) last year, I already had my daughter, Faith, who was two and my son Liam who was a newborn. With both of my pregnancies, I experienced postpartum depression which made thing hard. I was still in my baby blues stage while dealing with a two year old who was going through the “Terrible Twos” stage. The way I was dealing with Faith then was by yelling at her in an effort to get her full attention. I felt pretty badly about this because I was yelling a lot. I also noticed her behavior was becoming more frustrating to me and my yelling was causing her to be a little scared.
After Liam was born, I ignored how I was feeling – keeping my depression and fears inside. But, by comparison, the post-partum depression I experienced with Liam was a bit different mainly because I had on-hand support from my family. My mother’s involvement during that time was very helpful. She also encouraged me to find and use local community resources and to participate in local parenting classes because she thought I was such a young mother.
During that time my sister-in-law, Jackie,* was already enrolled in Young Families Connect (YFC) and taking classes. I decided to take action and take my mother up on her suggestion. One day, when Jackie was talking about going to the Incredible Years parenting class, I asked her if I could come. She welcomed me to attend. I attended and enjoyed it! I found the class especially interesting since I was a young mom raising two young children.
It has been about a year since that first visit. After going to the class with Jackie, I decided to attend a “Parenting Over Pizza” session with the YFC group and immediately connected with a Case Manager who arranged a home visit with me. Looking back, a turning point in my life was visiting the Incredible Years class. But it was really the staff – Dawn, Daphne and others that were so amazing! They have been here for me emotionally, and the classes have been an excellent support for me as a young mother. When I joined YFC, I decided to focus on the things that would support my personal development because I wanted to model the lifestyle I wanted for my children. The areas I decided to work on were positive parenting, healthy weight and school.
After joining the Young Families Connect (YFC) program and attending a few meetings, I felt like the YFC Program could really help me do some amazing things. I appreciate how YFC has classes for participants that help motivate and encourage participants to reach personal goals.
With the help of my Case Manager I was able to identify three goals to focus on. I also created some action steps to help me meet those goals:
- Parenting positively
- Healthy weight/lifestyle
- Pursuing school to be a certified interpreter or nurse
Parenting positively: My primary goal in YFC was to polish my parenting skills, to be a good mom and to have more patience in dealing with my kids. I like that each class that YFC facilitates is totally family-centered, meaning they focus each session on positive parenting.
Healthy Weight/Lifestyle: Another goal for me was to have a healthy weight/healthy lifestyle. I wanted to be able to lose some weight. Through YFC I was able to learn new ways to prepare my meals and to modify ingredients to make them healthier. As a group, my peers and I went on walks with our YFC team and measured our distance using a pedometer. I also learned the correct portion sizes of food – what I need versus what I want.
School: I have wanted to go back to school but at this point Liam is only one year old. Juan* and I decided that we would not put him in daycare now. I will wait to pursue my academic goals when Liam is a little older.
Taking it Day-by-Day
I recognize that creating goals for myself is a way for me to create a blueprint for my life. I have not totally accomplished all of my goals yet but I have been taking things day-by-day. I appreciate the growth I’ve made and recognize the challenges. Having the connection t YFC program staff and my peers in the program and the classes I’ve participated in, has really helped me to work through challenges such as my postpartum depression and my goal to maintain a healthy lifestyle.
Parenting positively: Looking back on the last year, I have made a huge change. With the help of my YFC Case Managers and my participation in the Parents As Teachers program (in partnership with YFC at Rockingham Partnership for Children), I have had the benefit of having an in-home case manager who has worked with me on my positive parenting goal. It’s not been easy. Faith is now a three year old who is very active and requires attention like any three year old. Liam is developing into an active toddler.
While I proudly live the values of the parenting programs I’ve been in, I am constantly working on myself. Now, I find myself speaking to Faith and not yelling at her (the old way). My patience has increased and I listen to and more aware of Faith’s and Liam’s needs. I try to show that I am here for them and support them. I now have the tools to be able to communicate better with Liam as he grows. Every day I use the tools I’ve gained with my children and have a clearer understanding of how to calm myself down. I know that my reaction to Faith is a model for how she is going to act. I also understand the power of play – that doing something as simple as taking 10 minutes to play makes a huge difference in my children’s overall behavior.
Healthy weight/lifestyle: In the beginning I was losing weight because I was using the skills I learned to take better care of myself. I have not been doing this as much lately but I am still proud to say that I have gained an awareness of how to take good care of myself. For example, by doing daily activities such as cooking, cleaning and walking around the house I am using physical energy.
Some of the supportive ways in which YFC has helped me to maintain a healthier lifestyle has been the cooking class where we learned how to make a frittata and about appropriate portion sizes. I have also been walking with my kids when we go to the park where my husband plays soccer.
The main thing I’ve learned is the smallest things I do are still important in my healthy lifestyle. It’s an everyday process that I plan to continue to work on day-by-day!
Family Vibes and Looking Ahead
I have been using the tools I’ve gained in the Young Families Connect Program (YFC) to educate my loved ones like my husband, Juan. Juan hasn’t been able to participate in many YFC classes with me due to his heavy work schedule, but I try to share with him all of the knowledge I have gained from my YFC involvement. He listens to what I’m saying once he sees that these tools work.
Generally speaking, support from my family during my YFC participation has been outstanding from my sister-in-law, Jackie, and my mother. I am happy to have learned about the program through Jackie and also happy to have received some encouragement to engage with community resources from my mom. My mom is really happy about my participation in the YFC program, my use of newly learned parenting skills, and my connection to peers in the program. Family members have commented on my communication style with Faith Compared to last year they say they have noticed I don’t do much yelling, that Faith is much calmer and throws fewer tantrums.
While I have been in the program, I have noted that I should not expect my family members to adopt the exact same parent-child dynamic that I have learned through YFC. I know that grandparents express their love for their grandkids by simply spoiling their grandkids. I have learned not to let that frustrate me especially since my parents aren’t living close by.
In the near future, I want to continue to be a positive parent to both of my children. I also want to continue to work on some of my other goals such as healthy eating and returning to school. I have one more year with YFC and I plan to use this time well. I appreciate that the YFC staff continuously connects participants to resources and finds ways to help participants like me meet our goals. I am looking forward to all the classes we have, specifically the Love Notes relationship series, and any classes we have when our children are involved. Even when I graduate from YFC, I plan to always be around to use the resource and be a resource person for others. I am proud to be connected to YFC!