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Coalition plans to offer free parenting series

By Kaitlin Mayhew -- kmayhew@nvdaily.com

EDINBURG -- Starting in February, a free parenting class will be available from Smart Beginnings Shenandoah Valley focusing on emotional development and parent-child relationships.

The class, titled "Positive Solutions for Families," is a six-week course intended for parents of children as young as newborns to 5 years of age.

Classes will be held at the Valley Baptist Church at 408 Stony Creek Road in Edinburg.
Kim Hartzler-Weakly, program manager at Smart Beginnings Shenandoah Valley, said this is the first time the organization has offered such a program in Shenandoah County.

Smart Beginnings serves Shenandoah, Page, Augusta and Rockingham counties and Harrisonburg. Similar classes were previously offered in the other two Augusta and Rockingham.

She said that the courses can be offered because of a grant from the Virginia Early Childhood Foundation, which is the main source of the group's funding.

"It focuses a lot on the social and emotional development of children and how to facilitate positive relationships with your children when you are parenting children and toddlers," Hartzler-Weakly said.

She said that research has shown that 85 percent of a child's brain development happens before the age of 5. Skills like sharing, getting along with others and paying attention are important when getting children ready to start school.

"Learning to process those kinds of sensory impulses in ways that are more socially acceptable is important, so you aren't seeing tantrums," she said. "A lot of times when people think of 'school readiness' they think about making sure [they] know the alphabet and colors, but really the skill set [they] need is much broader."

The class also is geared toward busy parents, offering free meals and child care in addition to the instruction.

"Everyone is busy, and if you have a class at 6 p.m. and you have to worry about feeding the family before you get there, that can be a barrier," Hartzler-Weakly said.

The instructors are all volunteers within the organization. Hartzler-Weakly said they typically get around 25 students for classes like these, but they may be able to accommodate more if interest in the area is strong.

"Parents might think parenting classes are for 'bad parents,' but that is not at all the message of this class," she said. "They are applicable for any parent."

Although the course is not geared toward parents of special-needs children, it would be beneficial for them as well, she said.

There will be one class offered in English and one in Spanish, both taught from 6 to 8 p.m. on Mondays.

The course also will be offered in Page County, in English only, beginning Jan. 26 from 6 to 7:30 p.m. at Luray United Methodist Church.

The course will start on Feb. 6, but the deadline to register is Jan. 30 for the Edinburg class.

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