Parenting courses help with “most challenging job”

Published March 21, 2012

Parenting can be the most rewarding but also the most challenging job in the world, says Elaine Young, shown here with her teenage daughter, Emma. Photo: Contributed

There is an old saying that, “parenting doesn’t come with an instruction manual.”

For Elaine Young and thousands of parents in Canada and abroad, however, help has come in the form of two courses developed by a husband and wife team from Holy Trinity Brompton, in London, U.K. (Holy Trinity is home to the alpha course, which helps people explore the basics of Christian faith.)

Nicky and Sila Lee, who ran the alpha course in their parish in the mid-1980s, started the parenting children course and the parenting teenagers course in the U.K. in 1990. These courses drew largely on their own experience as parents of four children.

In the summer of 2011, due to popular demand, they decided to release the courses on DVD with manuals. Since then, more than 1,700 people across the U.K., Canada, the U.S., Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia, South Africa and Russia have been trained to run these courses.

Young, a parishioner of St. Thomas’ Anglican Church, in St. John’s, Nfld., and alpha course regional director of the Atlantic provinces, was among the pioneer Canadian participants of the parenting courses and helped administer them when they were introduced to her parish in 2010.

Young credits the courses with helping her and her husband have a “strong and healthy relationship” with their teenage daughter, Emma. She notes that parenthood can be the most rewarding but also the most challenging job in the world.

Made up of five weekly sessions, each lasting more than two hours, the parenting children course is meant for parents, step-parents, prospective parents and caregivers of children up to 10 years of age “with or without a Christian faith or church background.” There are talks, discussions and exercises around such issues as how how to show love in actions, meeting children’s needs, setting boundaries, building character and building healthy relationships.

The parenting teenagers course includes such topics as setting boundaries, emotional health and helping teenagers make good choices. It is designed for parents (single, divorced, separated), step-parents, prospective parents and caregivers of children ages 11 to 18 years old.

The courses often take place in parish halls and are offered either free or with minimal cost (e.g. $5 for manual). They help parents realize that “they are not alone” in dealing with parenthood issues and they often learn from one another, says Young.

Archdeacon Gerald Westcott, territorial archdeacon of the diocese of Eastern Newfoundland and Labrador and rector of the Anglican parish of the resurrection, wishes that the courses had been around “15 to 20 years ago when my children were younger.” The father of children ages 22, 20 and 18, Westcott and his parish were among the first to offer the courses in 2010. “You can take it home and use it,” says Westcott.

In Westcott’s parish, which covers four rural towns in Shoretown, Nfld., the parenting courses attract an average of three dozen participants, not all of whom are members of the congregation. “No one is above learning,” says Westcott. People come because “they want to be better parents, and some are struggling with issues.” These issues include discipline, lack of communication, distractions brought about by the digital age (computers, video games, cell phones), drugs and alcohol, eating disorders, anger and violence.

Offering the courses in Shoretown’s community of 5,000 residents has “changed the optics of how the entire region has seen us as a church,” adds Westcott. People now see the church as “relevant and meaningful,” and as one that wants to help families get stronger. “We are able to demonstrate in a practical way that we care.”

Click here for more information about the courses.


  • Marites N. Sison

    Marites (Tess) Sison was editor of the Anglican Journal from August 2014 to July 2018, and senior staff writer from December 2003 to July 2014. An award-winning journalist, she has more that three decades of professional journalism experience in Canada and overseas. She has contributed to The Toronto Star and CBC Radio, and worked as a stringer for The New York Times.

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