Classes aim to help parents cope

Conyers resident Carla Sligh is a single mother raising two children while working full-time. Sometimes, it can be a strain.

"My challenge is being an effective parent while still holding down the household and taking care of responsibilities. Single parents are so taxed, so the kids get the short end of the stick," said Sligh.

Because she wanted to be "more proactive than reactive," Sligh took advantage of parenting classes advertised on a flier circulated in her son's school. The organization which provided Sligh with a refuge is Prevent Child Abuse Rockdale. Sligh took the 13-week nurturing program and found the resource she'd been needing.

"The biggest thing was just reaching out to other parents, and it was kind of a support group, too. You got to hear about other people's experiences and you would think 'I'm not the only one,'" said Sligh. "That supreme feeling of 'I am not alone' - you get a great sense of that and you get some good ideas."

April is Child Abuse Prevention month, and appropriately enough Prevent Child Abuse Rockdale will hold its annual fundraiser dinner to help provide income to fund its varied parenting classes. Dubbed "An Ounce of Prevention for a Pound of Cure," the event takes place on Saturday, April 19, at 7 p.m. at Conyers First United Methodist Church, 921 N. Main St. in Olde Town Conyers. Tickets are $25.

The fundraiser features a homecooked meal, music by Mack McKibben and an auction presented by local author, educator and speaker Darrell Huckaby. Auction items include Air Tran tickets; free passes to the World of Coke, CNN, Indian Creek Golf Club and Stone Mountain; and gift certificates to Seven Gables, Cowan Hardware and The Varsity. There's also several autographed items including guitars signed by Bob Dylan and Willie Nelson and sports equipment with the signatures of Chipper Jones, Jeff Gordon and Mark Richt.

Diane Howington, director of Prevent Child Abuse Rockdale, said the goal of the fundraiser is to sell 250 tickets, generating about $10,000 for the non-profit, which is primarily funded by United Way and the Children's Trust Fund. Having worked for the Department of Family and Children's Services for seven years, Howington became director of Prevent Child Abuse Rockdale in July 2007.

"There's such hope in this job because we can stop abuse before it happens," said Howington.

At the core of the organization is its parenting classes, the cornerstone of which is the Nurturing Program, which provides parents with a 13-week course in which they learn skills they can use to be stronger parents, especially under stress. An abbreviated version of the Nurturing Program, Active Parenting Now, has recently been introduced, and other classes include Active Parenting Now for Pregnant Teens, Active Parenting in Spanish, Nurturing Fathers and 10 Great Dates. A small percentage of the people taking classes are under court order to do so, but the vast majority take them simply to improve. At the end of April, 110 people will "graduate" from their classes.

"I admire people who take that first step and say 'Yes, put me in this class.' They just want to have the tools they need to deal with different situations," said Howington. "They want to fine tune their parenting skills. We all need that. It's not just for families at risk."

The vision of Prevent Child Abuse Rockdale is to break the intergenerational cycle of abuse that can sometimes occur in families, said Howington, leading to a reduction in the rates of juvenile delinquency, substance abuse and teenage pregnancy.

"We raise children the way we were raised, and for some people, it was not that great and they just need a little extra help," said Howington. "You just learn to communicate better and listen better and ask questions and it's a lot about anger management."

The classes are free, open to the public and held at Conyers First United Methodist Church weekly. Both parents and children attend separate classes at the same time, with both discussing the same topic at age-appropriate levels. Families meet for a dinner beforehand at 6 p.m. and classes start at 6:30 p.m.

For her part, Sligh has seen changes for the better in her family and she'll be taking a parenting class annually to maintain her enlightened perspective. She said it helps her to see where she needs improvement and where she might be backsliding.

"There was a wealth of information from other parents and combined with the principles and techniques offered by the instructor, it was a really powerful program," said Sligh.

To purchase tickets to the Prevent Child Abuse Rockdale fundraiser or for information about classes, visit the office at 1329 Portman Drive Suite G in Conyers, or call 770-483-7333.

Karen Rohr can be contacted at karen.rohr@rockdalecitizen.com.

Establish house rules and be consistent.

Interview your babysitters.

Never strike in anger - use short timeouts and try not to yell or use hurtful words.

Teach your children to say "no" to anyone who asks them to do anything they feel is wrong.

When you feel frustrated, angry or overwhelmed, vent your feelings positively - away from your children. Do not stay alone with your children if you are overwhelmed. Call a friend or leave your children with someone trustworthy.

Put yourself in your child's place and ask "Is what I've said or done building my child up or putting my child down?" and "Is what I've said or done really for my needs or for the needs of my child?"

Listen to your children and be available when they have fears, worries or other concerns.

* Source: KidsPeace

SideBar: IF YOU GO:

What: Prevent Child Abuse Rockdale annual dinner and auction

When: Saturday, April 19, at 7 p.m.

Where: Conyers First United Methodist Church, 921 N. Main St., in Olde Town Conyers

Cost: $25 per ticket; proceeds benefit Prevent Child Abuse Rockdale