The best person to explain Parenting Journey to potential participants is Parenting Journey graduates.
Parenting Journey facilitator, Deanne Dworski-Riggs came to this realization while recruiting parents for her Parenting in America and Parenting Journey I groups this past winter. Deanne decided to put this realization into action, creating the Parenting Journey Parent Ambassador program. The program prepares Parenting Journey graduates to connect with other parents in their communities to Parenting Journey by highlighting the wonderful benefits of the program such as improved self-confidence, parenting capabilities and better relationships with family and friends. Parenting Journey trained its first class of Parent Ambassadors this past February, and they are now paying it forward, by connecting other struggling parents with Parenting Journey.
Graduates such as Elizabeth were delighted by the opportunity to not only share their positive growing experiences but amplify Parenting Journey’s presence in their communities. Elizabeth is a Brazilian immigrant and graduated from Parenting Journey I and II in Portuguese groups. At first, Elizabeth was reluctant to participate, averse to sharing her personal experiences in a group of strangers. However, facilitator Marcos DaSilva convinced her, noting that the group could help with stress management. Still, she arrived hesitant, unsure what Parenting Journey was about. This resistance gave way under Marcos’ guidance, as he modeled openness, emphasized the transformative power of self-care, and made everyone feel like they had voice worth listening to.
It was with this encouragement that Elizabeth confronted the loss of her sister. Her sister had been her pillar, a constant source of support, as a single mother. So it was a shock when she passed away of a brain aneurysm at a mere 40 years old. With her sister gone, Elizabeth felt broken, unable to cope with her new reality. It wasn’t until the group that she realized her inability to cope was “rooted in her anger at God for her sister’s death, and until [she] let go of that anger, [she] wouldn’t be able to be fully present for [her] toddler son”. After coming to terms with her sister’s death, Elizabeth chose to make the best of her now, and improve her relationship with her son. Now, a kindergartner, Elizabeth and her son are closer than ever.
Elizabeth sees the Parenting Ambassador program as a means of planting hope among new Brazilian immigrant parents. She works at a Portuguese after-school and Saturday educational program and sees numerous parents balancing the demands of work with parenting, often with saddening results. “The parents that come to [the] program are so disconnected from their kids; they drop their kids off with a quick goodbye and hurry off to their next task. It’s like they see school and programs like these as baby sitting. I hope that by sharing Parenting Journey with them, I can encourage them to create time to truly get to know their kids and that underneath all kids do really value family time” Elizabeth states. She truly believes that Parenting Journey can be a key to uniting the Brazilian community within Greater Boston, and possibly a stepping stone to a larger dream: a Brazilian community center. “I see the center as a place where Brazilian immigrants can come to connect and learn from each other and push each other to thrive”.
This desire to uplift and empower others exists in all our Parenting Journey Ambassadors and we cannot wait to see where it takes them as they go into their communities.