By Ann Young

One of the four components of the Parents as Teachers model is Group Connections, which are intentionally planned events that provide opportunities to share information about parenting issues and child development with a group of families.

Banana pudding

Banana pudding

They offer an organized time and place where families can interact with one another, form support networks, share common experiences, and discover new ideas for addressing the day-to-day challenges of parenting. They can also play an important role in building parents’ involvement in their children’s education. In other words, Group Connections are a great way for families to build their circles of support.

In March, when our normal was forever changed, our services changed, too. The Parents as Teachers National Center (PATNC) affiliate, Show Me Strong Families (SMSF) pivoted almost seamlessly to providing families with virtual services; all model components were offered to families virtually. To say it was a crazy time is an understatement.

Families went from working outside the home and kids going to school to being home with their family all day long. At the same time, families witnessed the murder of George Floyd on screen and a multitude of news stories about the deaths of Black and Brown people at the hands of police and people with perceived racist views.

The currently magnified lens on systemic racism and the need for social justice that prompted community uprisings across the globe in response is also at the top of the minds of families. Our parent educators and the families we serve, are more stressed than ever, maneuvering their way through daily life amidst multiple global pandemics.

After listening to the parent educators, Donna Givens, SMSF’s manager of Groups and Community Partnerships, decided to offer a virtual group on self-care. The group was very open; a lot of raw feelings were shared and the moms were totally vulnerable and transparent with one another.

Donna recognized that this group of moms needed something more. She talked to them about what they could do to make themselves feel better. That simple question created something that will last forever, engagement, the very social capital we strive for through these group connections.

“What’s Cooking?” was born from that conversation. This is a group of five to seven women with different ethnicities and backgrounds who meet weekly and are bonding overcooking. Each week, one of the moms shares her recipe and does a cooking demonstration.

The other moms receive the recipe and a gift card to purchase the necessary ingredients before the group, so they can cook at the same time. We are collecting the recipes and will put them together so everyone will receive a cookbook. These moms have now been cooking together for more than two months, and are still going strong.

Chicken fettuccine

Chicken fettuccine

We have witnessed the moms’ confidence grow, friendships made lots of laughter and, even if just for one hour, a little normalcy for them. It has been a beautiful thing to witness the growth of this group from a Group Connection to so much more.

Some of the recipes shared were:

  • Chicken Fettucine with homemade Alfredo sauce
  • Banana Pudding
  • Rainbow Rice
  • Special Rotel
  • Chicken and noodles

The author of this blog, Ann Young, is the Director of Missouri Programmatic Services at the Parents as Teachers National Center.