When the comedian George Burns said: “Happiness is having a large, loving, caring, close-knit family…. in another city” he clearly hadn’t experienced the amazing benefits of the Parenting Course. Created by Nicky and Sila Lee of Relationship Central, based at the renowned Anglican church of Holy Trinity Brompton, the Course is now becoming increasingly popular in Catholic parishes around the Diocese for parents and all those caring for children.
How the course runs
Both the Parenting Children Course and the Parenting Teenager Course are made up of five weekly sessions lasting two-and-half hours and based on the simple formula of a meal, DVD and discussion.
Sila explains why the course is so effective: “It is easy to host and facilitate the course and designed for people who don’t need to work in education or pastoral care. We offer a welcoming and unthreatening atmosphere with a meal, snack or drink, whatever is appropriate, in a room that looks warm and inviting. The DVD is then shown and is used to generate discussion between parents.
Nicky Lee emphasises the critical nature of the discussion: “Having plenty of time for discussion is key. With parenting we all feel that we are the only ones facing problems - but here we can discover they are not alone in the challenges that we face. Parenting works better if we do it together and discuss issues, help and give each other ideas and tips and learn by hearing from those who are a bit ahead of us. We can reflect on how we were brought up, what worked well and what didn’t. There is so much joy and happiness in parenting that can be discovered.
The Parenting Course in a Catholic context
Sila believes that the course holds what all Christians have in common: “It has at the centre the Biblical principle of healthy loving relationships, which is of course very practical: Listening, forgiving, saying sorry when we are wrong, respecting, serving….. these messages are universal. But this is also for non-Christians – those who don’t share our faith can access the course too and gain much from it; and in the process we hope they will gain some understanding of the role that the our Christian faith plays. This can sometimes be the beginning of an introduction to the Christian faith.”
Nicky comments: “As parents we present God and model God’s love to our children, so at the heart of the family has to be unconditional love. Of course we are not all-knowing and all-seeing and certainly not ever-present, but children form their first impressions of what God is like from us. So we seek to set boundaries which provide the important security children earnestly need and crave even though they don’t often articulate it. It is that balance of love and boundaries which comes from God through his justice and mercy which we are seeking to give to our children.”
Mary Conner, a parent who went on the course said, “It was wonderful, really excellent. We had 80 people there all laughing and crying.”
It is hoped that over time parishes will see this resource as an indispensable addition to the range of pastoral, spiritual and catechetical work they seek to provide for families.
And the fact that it can be used by anybody and within the simple setting of one’s living room in the company of others, not only lessens the burden on catechists, pastoral assistants and clergy but also has the potential to reach deeper in to the homes and lives of unchurched families; giving them back ‘reasons for having confidence in themselves.’ (Familiaris Consortio)
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