PEI, JAK, EXPO, etc.

 Empowering Parents to Equip Their Children for SuccessParent Empowerment Initiative post it note
Written by guest mom blogger from Racine,
Lindsay Knapp

“The Parent Empowerment Initiative (PEI) is a community supported effort to give parents and caretakers the tools they need to raise children who are equipped for the future.”

Aside from being a mouthful to say, … what is the Parent Empowerment Initiative really? Read more…In real terms – this initiative consists of 12 electives, taught by our own community members, on topics ranging from “finance management” to “leadership development in your children”. We currently meet twice a month at Living Light Community Center for an hour on Tuesday nights to gain understanding and education on various subjects – both pragmatic and soft-skill parental.

Our hope is to raise awareness regarding the needs within our community, and to address some of those challenges head-on through education and relational support for families.

Currently, the city of Racine lives with a 12% poverty rate, the majority of which are children in single family households. If you are anything like me, reading a stat like that is like chewing on dry toast. It doesn’t carry any weight. It’s just a number. We often don’t link this type of information with our neighbors or the children in our schools. Or we categorize groups of people in our minds as those who are affected, and those who are not. Cut and dry. Simple. Let’s move on with our drive-in order at Starbucks.

The truth is, the cycle that we are now contending with is subtle and vicious. Often what we see as a community are the SYMPTOMS of a much deeper reality at hand, and it can be difficult to find an accurate diagnosis to the root of the issue without consistently treating the trauma with band-aides and pain-killers. We see teenage pregnancy, prostitution and promiscuity, drug and alcohol abuse, poverty, rage and violence, homelessness, teen suicide, behavioral disorders, illiteracy, criminal activity, burglary, and increase of government programs to sustain survival, bullying, disregard for authority, gangs, repetitive imprisonment, and the list goes on…..

From where I stand, I see children in need of a family. When I look at all of the areas we are bleeding out as a city, the bare-bones issue, to me, is the break down of a strong family structure; whereby the presence of actively engaged mothers and fathers are evident. It’s the oldest and most trustworthy institution in history, … and yet, it’s teetering. We seek to restore that necessary structure that has dilapidated over time and to empower parents to skillfully carry their children through pivotal years of maturing.

If we fail to do this, we are left to deal with the inevitable future of half-orphaned children who do not carry the necessary skills to contribute to the betterment of society. Simply put, when we abdicate our role as a community, we create a future burden for ourselves that we pass along to our children. As mother of four children and a committed member of this community, I feel a sense of real responsibility for the days ahead. I want to rescue those who are rescue-able, champion change for those who seek it, and watch our future citizens win. We are standing on a tilt; the scales will fall where we choose or refuse to place our involvement.

Far easier and more convenient than addressing the hard realities of many of the families who live in community alongside us, is to scurry to the safety of our own inner circles, judge others, and remain resolved in our ignorance. This was my own story for a stint of time. Homelessness, poverty, abuse, violence, … it was all too unnerving and inconvenient, and essentially, too BIG. So, I would divert my eyes, … telling myself that if you don’t see the lack or acknowledge the injustice, then it simply isn’t there. Monkey no see.

What changed? I think the overwhelming evidence, as our children grew, that no school, reform, institution, government program will ever replace our God given mandate as parents to our children. Not just our children (like the ones who sit in the backseats of our cars and leave their chewing gum on the seats) but “our” children -collectively. Over time, we have learned to lean so heavily into our education institutions that the lines are often blurred between whose role is what. We have created a surrogate parent out of our schools; requesting basic needs being met like protection against danger and square meals in addition to proper discipline, instruction, correction, encouragement, addressing behavioral challenges, and education of the whole person, and please- don’t forget fractions. Loaded with these responsibilities but stripped of any real authority and unarmed with the innate relational bond that is unique to parents and children, the dependency on this system is faltering.

As contributing societal members, we must find a way to start bridging the gap. Because the sad truth is, in too many of our homes, single parents, teenage parents, impoverished parents are vulnerable, and so are their children- awaiting the inevitable repeated cycle of uninformed choices and subsequent lot lines. They, themselves are still learning how to “grow up”, and more times than not, children’s emotional needs, physical needs, spiritual and mental needs are neglected.

And it isn’t just vulnerable families that need education and support. Parenting is the world’s hardest job. Like, ever. Having children who look to you for, well, everything puts you in the same boat as every other caretaker on the planet regardless of socio-economic status, race, age, or religion. The idea of coming together in spite of those often divisive categories is the miracle of true community. When we step out of our isolation, we create a net that works (network) to foster the development of “our” children. Alone, we are our own source. Together, we become resource-FULL.

Parent Empowerment Initiative speaker picParent Empowerment Initiative speaker note

So where does that leave us? As part of the solution, we hope. We envision a gathering of  willing participants from every representation of our city who are eager to learn. And we see that a set of tools, when implemented, can steer the course of the life of the parent, as well as foster a healthy relationship with their children. We believe the content is relevant for the challenges our kids face today; health and nutrition, the power of encouragement, safety and first aide, leadership development, identifying gifts in your kids, daily routines, city wide resources, conflict resolution, managing finances etc… And we trust that coming together will improve our cross cultural relationships.

With the support of Racine Unified School District, we provide a translator for Hispanic families and are hoping to tackle the challenge of finding childcare for all who require it. Equal to the value of sitting through a teaching from some of our own community members, is the interaction we open ourselves to with other families. This is the heart of true community: union for the sake of common goals. What better goal than building strong families?, … who, then, build strong cities?, … which, then, build strong nations?…. on and on until the solar universe is strong.

If you are interested in lending your hand and partnering with this movement, contact Lindsay Knapp @ lindsayknapp1@gmail.com or for more information on classes please visit our Parent Empowerment Initiative Facebook page.

 

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