The origins of Mothers' Union lie in the founder, Mary Sumner, beginning a parents' group for her daughter, who had just become a mother, and other young families. The emphasis was on helping new parents cope with the challenges and joys of parenthood within the Christian faith.
MU trains volunteer parent group facilitators through the Passionate About Parenting programme. This leads to a qualification accredited through the Open College Network (London Region) Level Three. The training focusses on the skills and qualities needed to facilitate groups - it does not specify which resources to use. Hence, each group is able to choose which resources to use which will help to meet its own particular needs. We currently have one accredited facilitator and others in training within the county. A local church primary school is working with MU to promote and host the parents' groups, aimed at parents of children just beginning school, and those moving onto Key Stage 3 and a new school.
Here are a few comments from parents' who have taken part in parents' groups run locally:
“Having worked with young children for 9 years I joined the group as a social gathering and have been delighted to have many ‘light bulb’ moments! I have learned a lot and am going to try many things both at home and school." (Mum)
“Meeting together every couple of weeks for a discussion is so much more useful than just reading a book. The programmes was so well led and facilitated. I am now so much better equipped with strategies for parenting.” (Dad)
“If I could say just one thing to encourage others to take part it would be that the opportunity to meet with friends, experiencing similar situations and challenges and to talk about them together is invaluable. It definitely helps to know that you are not the only parent having struggles at times and that are different things to try that might help.” (Mum)
This is what a facilitator says about running courses:
"I have so enjoyed running parents' groups. It isn't until we come together as parents to chew over the issues we all face - things like how to build respect between parents and children, how to encourage children to become independent, how to nurture their self-esteem - that we recognise the importance of taking the time to consider these things. I think every parent would benefit from being part of a parents' group at different stages of their child's development. Facilitating groups enables me to put into practise the things we learn within my own family - again, and again, and again!" (PAP-trained Volunteer Parent Group Facilitator and Mum)
The Passionate About Parenting training is open to Mothers' Union members, with the possibility of course fees being subsidised. However, non-MU members are also able to benefit from the training. When there are eight or more people wishing to receive the training, it can be organised to happen locally. Otherwise between one and four training opportunities arise located anywhere across England.
Wouldn't it be wonderful if this Diocese could train facilitators who could then work alongside each of our church primary schools, offering parents' groups at the key stages of a family's development: when a child begins school and moves from one Key Stage to the next?
If you are interested in training to become a Parent Group Facilitator, do get in touch with the Diocesan Action and Outreach Coordinator, or Roseleen Cowie, Programmes Manager at Mary Sumner House by email.