2012-04-06 / Community

Cape parenting group starts next week

By Kristy Wagner
Staff Writer

New parents sometimes struggle while navigating through certain issues with their young children, but the Thomas Memorial Library in Cape Elizabeth wants to offer those parents a lifeline.

Rachel Davis, children’s librarian at Thomas Memorial Library, said she saw local parents needed to connect so they could discuss certain parenting issues.

“I can tell at story time when I hear moms talking with each other trying to sort out different issues,” Davis said.

Davis decided to organize a free parenting discussion group at the library that includes a qualified leader who has parenting experience.

“We have wanted to do this for a long time,” Davis said. “We want to provide the opportunity for parents to talk to each other about common issues and receive advice, but I didn’t feel like I was qualified to be giving the advice.”

Davis found Sarah MacLaughlin when she read a column she wrote in Parent & Family magazine. MacLaughlin is a social worker, mother and author who lives in Windham with her family.

“I really liked her approach to parenting issues,” Davis said. “She’s a mom of a young child herself.”

Davis e-mailed MacLaughlin to ask if she would be interested in leading the discussion group once a month for three months. MacLaughlin agreed and the two decided to begin the program in April.

“There has been a lot of interest. I just started promoting it this week,” Davis said. “We planned to do at least three months, kind of as a trial, and that takes us up to the summer. At that point people can decide if they want to go further with it.”

She said her approach to parenting is relationship-based, as opposed to fear-based, and she does not use the system of punishment and reward.

“I am modeling the discussion group off of what I do in my six-session class,” MacLaughlin said. “There is a lot of new brain research showing that the best way to influence children is with a connection to them.”

MacLaughlin said her experience is with children ages 2 through 8. She wrote a book titled, “What Not to Say: Tools for Talking with Young Children,” which was published in 2010 by Bay Island Books. MacLaughlin wrote the book based on her experience as a foster parent, nanny, pre- school teacher and social worker.

“I just felt like there had to be a better way to talk to kids,” MacLaughlin said. “I think a lot of parents these days know the old ways (of parenting) and when those don’t work out they don’t know what to do instead.”

MacLaughlin tries to coach parents in verbal communication around setting limits, emotional upheaval and reframing problems and situations so parents and children can move past them more successfully.

“I also provide a little bit of information about where children are developmentally,” MacLaughlin said.

She said the brains of young children are not fully developed and sometimes parents forget that fact.

“Sometimes (parents) expect delayed gratification and impulse control that children just don’t have,” MacLaughlin said.

MacLaughin and Davis said the first three months of the group will be experimental.

Davis said even if MacLaughlin cannot make a longer commitment to the discussion group, she will let parents lead the group if there is enough interest.

The parenting discussion group will meet from 7 to 8 p.m. on the second Tuesday of each month beginning Tuesday.

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