Nurturing Parenting Programs (NPP) are curriculum-based, educational programs that generally work with the entire family. These programs are based on six assumptions: the family is a system; empathy is the single most desirable quality in nurturing parenting; parenting exists on a continuum; learning is both cognitive and affective; children who feel good about themselves are more likely to become nurturing parents; and no one truly prefers abusive interactions. Families participate in weekly 2 ½ hour sessions that meet from 8 to 26 weeks, depending on the curriculum used. There are eleven NPP curricula used in Vermont and they include: Prenatal NPP, NPP for Families with Children ages 0-5, NPP for Families with Children ages 5-11, NPP for Parents and Their Adolescents, NPP for Teenage Parents, NPP for Families in Recovery from Substance Abuse, the Nurturing Father’s Program, NPP for Parents with Special Learning Needs, NPP for Foster and Adoptive Families, the Marriage and Parenting Program, NPP for Families with Health Challenges, and the Nurturing Program for Military Families.
The NPP for Families with Children ages 0-5 (16 weeks) and NPP for Families with Children ages 5-11 (15 weeks) are designed for parents and children to attend together. Parents and children take part in separate, age-appropriate activities as well as share food and family nurturing time together. Parents learn what children think and feel; what to expect from their children at different ages; how to deal with little frustrations before they become big ones; how to recognize and deal with children’s feelings and needs; and how to recognize and attend to their own feelings and needs. Children learn how to control their behavior; increase their sense of self-worth; understand their strengths and limitations; and recognize their own feelings and how to express their needs.
Through the NPP for Parents and Their Adolescents (12 weeks), families learn nurturing communication strategies, how to recognize each other’s needs, how to understand the period of adolescence, and ways to build their own personal power, self-esteem, and self-concept. Families also discuss pregnancy delay, sex, sexuality, AIDS, suicide, and peer pressure.
The Nurturing Parenting Program for Teenage Parents (26 weeks) is targeted at young parents needing to learn parenting skills as well as how to nurture themselves and their children. Young parents learn developmental milestones of growth, how to have fun with their children, nurturing parenting routines and ways to help children build their self-esteem and self-concept. Teens also learn about ways to delay pregnancy and issues of peer pressure, sex, sexuality, date rape, personal power and ways to build their own positive feelings toward self.Adults with special learning needs often find it difficult to participate in parent education programs.
The NPP for Families in Substance Abuse Treatment and Recovery (18 weeks) is designed for parents who want to become better parents as they turn their lives around and become clean and sober. Many parents in this program have lost custody of their children and are working hard to regain custody. Through the program, they are able to learn about child development as well as making healthy choices for themselves and their children. They see how their choices have affected their children and they learn how to become better role models for their children, who can then grow up in safe, nurturing, supportive and loving environments.
The Nurturing Father’s Program (13 weeks) focuses on developing attitudes and skills for male nurturance. Each week, a new topic is addressed, including: their own relationships with their fathers, nurturing themselves/their children, fathering sons/daughters, discipline without violence, playing with their children, managing anger/resolving conflict, teamwork with spouse, balancing work and parenting, communication and problem solving, cultural influence, dealing with feelings, and working on “The Father I Choose To Be.”
The Nurturing Program for Parents with Special Learning Needs and Their Children (17 weeks) is specially designed for adults with mild or moderate learning disabilities, emotional problems, and intellectual handicaps who need to learn self-nurturing and parenting skills. The topics addressed include: assessing parenting strengths; parenting; family structure; grief and loss; personal power and independence; discipline; health and healing; feelings and needs; and communication and stress.
Foster and adoptive families can find it difficult to participate in typical parent education programs. The Nurturing Program for Foster and Adoptive Families (12 weeks) program is flexibly designed for foster and adoptive families where there can be many special needs, including emotional problems, language and learning challenges, and cultural issues. It offers helpful nurturing and family skills for family members adjusting to changes. Topics addressed include making the choice to become a foster/adoptive family; integration of children into the family; expectations of children; awareness of issues around attachment, separation and loss; and understanding of assimilation and accommodation. The program can be set up for foster families, adoptive families, or both. It can also be adjusted depending on the ages of children involved.
The Marriage and Parenting Program (10 weeks) focuses on strengthening the couples relationship (married or unmarried) through a shared exploration of parenting attitudes and skills. Couples learn about themselves and each other while creating a shared vision for family life. Topics addressed in the program include: becoming a couple/parent, roots of marriage and parenting, family leadership, sharing power, feelings, discipline and teamwork, communication, family life schedule and family fun. The “MA and PA” Program increases family stability by creating a unified family that works together to create a safe and nurturing environment.
The Nurturing Program for Parents and Their Children with Health Challenges (8 weeks) focuses on coping with major health issues within the family by assessing parenting strengths, examining family structure, and promoting health and healing. Other topics discussed include grief and loss; personal power and independence; discipline; feelings and needs; and communication and stress.
During the Nurturing Program for Military Families course (15 weeks), the challenges of parenting in the stress-filled life of a military member and family are discussed. The uniqueness of military life, how being a military family and a reserve/guard family can make one feel isolated, finding supports for military families, growth and development of children, developing empathy, managing and communicating feelings, and discipline (highlighting alternatives to use of corporal punishment) are covered. Several “hot” topics relevant to the unique character of military families are also discussed (e. g., PTSD, separation anxiety, reunification fears, periods of separation in couples relationships, as well as, discipline and relationships with children). In this class, we focus on positive family routines and positive discipline.
The Nurturing Parenting Programs are quantitatively evaluated through two pre and post-test instruments, the Adult Adolescent Parenting Inventory-2 (AAPI-2) and the Substance Use Questionnaire. The AAPI-2 is a scientifically validated tool that measures participants’ parenting attitudes in five constructs that are present in abusive parents and indicate the likelihood for abuse and neglect. The constructs are: inappropriate expectations of children; lack of empathy; belief in corporal punishment; parent-child role reversal, and oppression of children’s power and independence.