Patience is a Virtue: The Struggle of Gentle Parenting

Patience is a Virtue: The Struggle of Gentle Parenting

Being patient with children is often hard but is absolutely essential. Gentle parenting is not always as easy as it seems and can often be tested when we least expect it. It may seem easier to yell at our kids or get angry with them, but over time those moments will catch up to us in terms of how we feel about ourselves, as parents, and how our children perceive us. When raising children, it’s important to teach them patience in addition to the many other lessons you’ll want to pass on to them.  An idea that is much easier said than done—at least for my household.

Being the posterchild for patience is not a quality I exemplify very well in my household, at times.  Like all parents, I have a ton of stuff going on. I overcommit to things, I always think there is more time in the day, and when I feel the crunch of obligations begin to weigh down on me, the dictator starts to come out.  I rarely give myself or my daughter any wiggle room for the inevitable unknowns that may arise in life, like an accident on the freeway when we are already running late. I also underestimate the time it will actually take for my daughter to accomplish a task, like simply finishing her breakfast and putting on her shoes. Being familiar with my own short comings in this arena, there is no doubt in my mind that she gets this from me. 

 

Patience is a Virtue The Struggle of Gentle Parenting

To sum it up—through my actions, I have taught her zero time management skills, which then helps to fuel impatience in me, which I then model for her, which she then mirrors back to me…and the cycle continues.  Taking accountability for the role I play in my daughter’s actions, reactions and general behavior is always my first step when trying to address undesired behavior.  Children have their own temperaments, we cannot always account for everything they do, but there is a large portion of how they deal with the world that comes from us. Through the introspective process of challenging my own undesirable behavior and working on steps towards improvement, I try to keep a few key strategies at the forefront of my brain to help minimize the frequency of my impatient outbursts as we move through uncharted waters. 

Strategies for Gentle Parenting

Strategies for Gentle Parenting

Here are five main strategies for gentle parenting I’ve learned over the years through books, research, parenting classes and from talking with the outstanding dads I spend time with every week through my Circle of Fathers group:

Create Clear Boundaries

As parents, our first priority is to keep our children safe and secure. Setting clear boundaries and expectations allows us to accomplish that while also giving them some control over their own lives and actions. When we don’t set boundaries, it doesn’t teach our children how to control themselves or be responsible for their actions. We can help kids learn about boundaries by being patient with them (no matter how challenging they may be) when they make mistakes or exhibit bad behavior.

Establish Routine

Your baby needs structure and you need to be calm. Make sure your day-to-day routine stays consistent and that your child always knows what to expect from you. This will make it easier for him or her to follow along, know when it’s time for different activities, and feel confident in your ability to care for them on an everyday basis. We all know how quickly babies learn—so once they figure out what works best for them, they’ll stick with it!

Don’t Forget to Smile

A smile sends an unspoken message to your child, telling them you love them and that they’re safe. Maintain eye contact with your child when you speak to them. Keep as much skin-to-skin contact as possible; hug, kiss, pick up and hold your children frequently throughout each day.

Be Consistent

You’re going to have really good days and really bad days. One day, you’ll feel like you have parenting down and other days you may feel like nothing could be more challenging. But consistency is key in gentle parenting. If you tell your child one thing today, follow through with it tomorrow. This will help instill trust in your child that they can depend on what you say to them.

Have Patience, Give Yourself Grace

Patience can be hard to come by for any parent. However, being patient with your children will be some of your greatest challenges and successes in parenting. Though it might be difficult, you must try to remain calm at all times in order to properly teach your child how to handle certain situations. It might be tempting at times, but always remember that actions speak louder than words.

About the Author

About the Author

Adam N. S. Combs is a blog contributor helping to illuminate the protective factors in his family’s life by sharing his experiences as a father, military veteran and Circle of Parents facilitator through storytelling.

Family Connects Colorado to Offer Free Home Visiting to All Families Starting Late 2022

Family Connects Colorado to Offer Free Home Visiting to All Families Starting Late 2022

Illuminate Colorado is partnering with Family Connects International® to begin to bring FREE home visiting to all families with newborns in Colorado. Family Connects Colorado, a new Illuminate Colorado program, has the potential to impact every baby born in Colorado. As the State Intermediary for Family Connects in Colorado, Illuminate is facilitating the implementation of the evidence-based model to ensure effective scaling and sustainability of Family Connects in Colorado. “The idea of ensuring that all families have access to this kind of support upon bringing home a baby could be transformational for our our state, for our country, for families everywhere,” shared Jade Woodard executive director of Illuminate Colorado during a virtual meeting with the Illuminate community. 

The new program was a focus of the latest Luminary Lift Up, a quarterly online opportunity to start your day in a positive way by lifting up solutions to issues children and families are facing today. The virtual discussions traditionally begin with a focus on resilience and self care with a panel of parents. Tara and Hilary each recently welcomed a new baby into their homes – for the second time. The two moms’ openness in sharing what the first few months have been like for them during the discussion underscored the importance of providing in-home nurse visits to every parent in Colorado. 

Hilary, a mom of two boys, has no family here in Colorado. Her youngest, Ari, is just 5 months old and she recognized that bringing home a baby has been a big adjustment. “Self care has looked very different with baby number two.” She’s been prioritizing the things that are really important to her as a way of building her own resilience. “Sleep is a big thing for me. Ari slept through the night for the first time last night and you can imagine my excitement. I feel like a new person,” said Hilary.  

Tara is a mom of two, an eight year old and an 11 month old who came home to her family through adoption last summer with only a days notice. “With your second, it’s a game changer. The most important thing that I’ve learned from all of this is that I’m a better mom when I don’t lose myself in motherhood. There are certain things that I know I need for self-care – running is one of them,” said Tara. “Connection is really important. Having a newborn during the time of COVID was also a tricky thing for us. The isolation is real anyway when you have young children, then you couple that with, is it ok to have people come over and bring meals, what do baby showers look like, all those things happened to us last year and it was hard.” Tara also encouraged others to ask for support. “If you need help and you need support, ask for it. It’s incredible how people will show up for you.”  

The two moms reflected on 8 ways parents say you can help after baby arrives and shared more thoughtful ways to build parental resilience for new parents before the panel discussion turned to the broader announcement with local, state and national partners to talk about how partners are working together to bring Family Connects to Colorado. 

As Woodard shared a little bit about why Illuminate Colorado is starting this new program,  she shared her personal story after having her first baby at 22 and then a second child years later.

“My second, she is amazing and independent and has a mind of her own, but my baby whispering ability went away. It didn’t work with her. I’ve been able to soothe every other baby that I’ve ever held, why can’t I do this with her,” Woodard shared as she reflected upon those first few days and weeks together with her second child. Thanks to her health care provider at the time, she was sent a nurse. “I have no doubt that that visit from that nurse changed the trajectory of my family – it strengthened our family.”

Illuminate Colorado has been working with Bethany Kuerten, also a Luminary Lift Up panelist, and other members of the Family Connects International® team over the last several months to bring Family Connects to Colorado. Family Connects International envisions a world where all children and their families have access to a continuum of community-based care to support their health and success.

Family Connects – coming soon to Colorado – is an evidence-based model and successfully demonstrated program that connects parents of newborns to the community resources they need through postpartum nurse home visits.  The program is in 19 states across the country.

“Our goal is to start families on a really positive path to health care at a really vulnerable time,” said Kuerten. Illuminate Colorado is currently working in Boulder and Eagle counties to begin to offer Family Connects to all families in these areas starting in late 2022 and Denver and Jefferson counties in early 2023. 

After listening to Kuerten explain what families can expect from Family Connects to help support them in the first few weeks after coming home, each of the parent panelists talked about how much they could have used this support in their lives.

“Wow, I just want to shout this to the hills because you know we had a little extra support with our daughter because she was adopted, we had a social worker that would come by. But, honestly having a nurse would have been so incredible. We often didn’t really know what we were dealing with or how to deal with it and waiting to take her to a pediatrician felt very daunting. And, the opportunity to have some come into our home and help talk us through some of that, and her care, would have been incredible. What a wonderful program,” said Tara.

“I second that! I honestly feel a little bit jealous. I can mentally go back and think right around 8-10 weeks, right around there. That is when things started to get hard for me mentally because the baby was just different than baby #1. To be quite honest with you, that is when I reached out to a therapist to start working through some of the things I was feeling, not necessarily postpartum depression, but more anxiety of going back to work and him not sleeping through the night. There are a lot of things that maybe a nurse could have helped me with a bit more than someone who was a talk therapist,” said Hilary.  

What Families Can Expect

  • 3 weeks in: Expect a visit around 3 weeks after birth
  • No cost: As a parent(s) of a newborn, there is no additional cost to you, no matter what your income level
  • Registered nurses: All nurses are highly skilled professionals
  • For all: Helping all families in a community with a newborn who delivered at a partner hospital

“Everybody who is focused on early childhood knows the most important time in a child’s life is that space in the 0 to 5 age. That’s when over 90% of brain development occurs in a child. We know that in birth to one year old [children] that is also an important time. That is a time when we see increased numbers of child welfare and protective services calls and emergency room visits,” said Jeff Zayach, a public health expert and consultant who came out of retirement to help support Family Connects in Colorado. During the virtual discussion Zayach explained some of the benefits of Family Connects for communities needing to bridge families and community support that already exist for families today, highlighting much of the work that has already been done in Boulder to begin to use Family Connects as a bridge between hospitals and new and expanding families.  

Some of the evidence of positive benefits to communities and families after Family Connects is offered to all families in a community include: 

  • Emergency room visits and hospital overnight stays were reduced by 50% in the first year of life; these results were sustained but did not increase through the second year of life.
  • Mothers were 28% less likely to report possible postpartum clinical anxiety.
  • Community connections increased by 13-15%

 

The Family Connects model has also been shown to yield significant health-care cost savings (based on emergency room visits and hospital overnights) – as much as $3 saved for every $1 spent.

Kelly Stainback-Tracy with Denver Public Health, one of the local partners working with Illuminate to bring Family Connects to the Denver community, spoke about the program’s impact on building family connections to community programs. “One piece of data that was exciting to me, when I was looking at all the evidence and outcomes related to Family Connects, is that they looked at Family Connects families that received a visit when the baby was five years old. And what they found was even when the baby was five years old, they were more likely to be connected to more community resources than babies who had not received Family Connects. This is an outcome that holds over time,” said Stainback-Tracy. “[Family Connects] makes sure that every family gets a light touch and it helps those families who may otherwise fall through the cracks get connected to more long-term and on-going support.” 

Bringing this evidence-based program to all of Colorado, let alone one county,  will require many groups to contribute to its launch and success. It is an important part of the ongoing work of the the Colorado Partnership for Thriving Families (“the Partnership”) which aims to create conditions where children and the adults in their lives can thrive. 

The Partnership is guided by three priorities: systems alignment, early touchpoints and community norms. Family Connects Colorado is a critical strategy related to early touchpoints, and through the Partnership; Denver Health, Denver Public Health, Denver Human Services, Jefferson County Public Health,  Jefferson County Human Services, Boulder County Public Health and Boulder County Housing and Human Services are all receiving support to demonstrate how to integrate Family Connects Colorado into the community.

The initial launch of Family Connects Colorado in these communities is funded through grants from the Zoma Foundation, as well as a Family Support through Primary Prevention Grant from the United States Department of Health and Human Services through the Colorado Office of Early Childhood. Recurring gifts of Luminaries, have also provided stable and consistent support to Illuminate to grow this new program and strengthen families, organizations and communities to prevent child maltreatment. Illuminate is also seeking additional philanthropic support to ensure effective scaling and sustainability of Family Connects in Colorado.

The Mother of All Advice Columns

The Mother of All Advice Columns

You often don’t know the value of what you’ve lived through until it’s in the past. If you’ve had kids at home throughout this pandemic, you have so many life lessons to share with other parents. But putting the pandemic aside for a moment, traveling the long road through parenthood has always given us valuable lived experiences to share with those following in our footsteps. 

We asked parents, without any other pre-text other than I was planning to reflect on where I was three years ago on my parenthood journey, “if you met yourself three years ago – what parenting advice would you share?”

What Parents Told Us They Would Tell Themselves About The Road Ahead

All you can do is the best you can with the tools you have. If they have a smile on their face and a full belly that’s a win itself.

Makita Cotto

Looking back in time, it’s easy to remember who I was as a parent. Reflection is a great tool, not for regret… but to learn the lessons that can be applied now and forward. Three years ago, I was a different parent. I just came out of homelessness and was struggling with depression, bi-polar disorder, alcoholism and finances. I did the best I could to shield my son from all my shortcomings, but as we all know, kids are sponges to what we project. He knew there was stuff going on. Somehow, through all the layers of junk I was dealing with, he remained my number one priority; I kept up with visitations, made sure his education continued, and gave him my full attention.

If I could travel back and talk to this earlier version of myself, I would have shared my current strengths, wisdom, and instilled the power of abundance the universe delivers. I would have said this; 

‘The who you are now will not be the who you are going to be in the future. You WILL manage your bi-polar disorder and depression. You WILL quit alcohol and embrace the strength of strangers who love you. You WILL inspire others with your successes and become an amazing role model to your child as your dreams become reality.’

anonymous

The parenting advice that I would give myself would be, that it’s important to do self care. If we want to be happy parents, we have to be happy with ourselves. The things you don’t get done today, will still be there tomorrow, so just relax! To celebrate the small things and also to not sweat the small stuff. We only have this one life and our kids will only be this little for a short time.

Toni Miner

Work on healing your inner wounds and traumas. Our kids are our greatest teachers and mirror what we need to heal within ourselves.

Alison Knight

My best advice that I give (and need to be reminded of) is: don’t take credit when your kids excel and don’t blame yourself when they don’t. We are not responsible for the choices our children make. We are here to guide them, but each child is an individual and will make a path that suits them.

Jill McIntire Green

There will be wonderful joyous days and hard exhausting days… and minutes. Embrace the joyous ones, breathe through the hard ones, practice gratitude, and hold on to your optimism.

Jade Woodard

You will be a better mother, if you don’t lose yourself in motherhood.

Tara Petersen

Work life balance is a myth it ebbs and flows.

Lisa Kjeseth

Each piece of advice is valuable and likely resonates with every parent reading this article. And so, let this serve as a reminder to you to share your pearls of wisdom with others to, at least, let other parents know they are not alone in their self-doubt, stresses or challenges.

Parenting Advice to Past Me 

As I outreached to other parents I promised to share my own advice to the mom I was three years ago when my daughter was little over a year old and my son was three; and I was working through depression. My mom died from Cancer two months after my daughter was born and the swirl of postpartum emotions and hormones, coupled with grief and loss, still had a pretty strong hold over me. When I set out to write this inspirational column I wasn’t sure what words of wisdom I had to share with myself during that time, but after reading everyone’s varying perspectives it is this: 

Talk to other moms. Make friends. Remember to ask for advice because their perspectives are amazing and insightful. And, above all else, ACCEPT help. You will need it to get through the days and years ahead, but I promise you, you will still be standing. And, as a friend recently told me, ‘if they have a smile on their face and a full belly that’s a win.’

Katie Facchinello

Not Everyone is Having a Happy Mother’s Day

Having struggled through infertility for many years and now having lost my mom, it seems like I’ve experienced more bad Mother’s Days than good. So, a word of advice: if you are having a Happy Mother’s Day with your mom or taking the time to celebrate with your kids, remember to see and comfort those who are planning to pull the covers over their heads and let it pass. 

Thousands of parents in Colorado whose children are growing up in foster care are doing their best to make it possible for their kids to come home. Love doesn’t disappear because mental health struggles, substance use disorders or whatever other significant challenges helped make home unsafe exist. It’s still a hard day. The same can be said for their children. No matter what trauma a child may have endured, it is natural to want love from your parents and to want to be together. This day is hard for them too. We are thankful for the foster parents, grandparents, aunties and uncles, and single parents who may feel unseen on this day of celebration. Thank you for strengthening your families. Your kids may, or may not, thank you for it, but Illuminate Colorado is grateful to you for helping to create a Colorado where all children and families thrive. 

To Future Us

Every year there are more than 61,000 babies born in Colorado.1 Those first days and months are full of joy and stress for every family. If you are celebrating someone in your life that is about to become a parent this Mother’s Day, let this be a reminder to make sure you are up to date on what safe sleep looks like at home and everywhere babies sleep.

When you walk into any store to buy something for a new baby on the way, you may assume that the products on the shelves are safe, but those who’ve spent some time learning about safe sleep recommendations and guidelines know that isn’t the case when it comes to infant sleep products. Thankfully, beginning in mid-2022, any product intended or marketed for infant sleep must meet a federal safety standard.

Of course, recalls and safety guidance aren’t the only thing new parents have to know, so, I’m passing along a word of advice that one of the parents we outreached to for this column recently shared with a friend.

A letter to My Dear (pregnant) Friend, 

Happy Mother’s Day.This day is very special for you and your little one. You will soon find out why our moms love us so much. There is no kind of love that can equal or surpass it. 

I never envisioned loving anyone more than my cat. I never knew it was possible to love another person so much. 

Some advice:

1) Get as much rest as you can now.

2) Enjoy your personal space, like having a daydream or a private thought.

3) Remember what your life is like now. You will soon look back and realize how simple it was.

4) Enjoy small stuff like bathing alone or going to the bathroom in a restaurant (which will soon be very complicated).

5) Savor the romance, travel… and sex (you will understand what I mean).

6). Enjoy reading as many adult books as you can now; because your next chance won’t be until  they go off to college. 

Being a mom is the most precious blessing in life. I can’t wait for you to join the club.

Eliza Sultan

About the Author

About the Author

Katie is the proud mother of two children, four and six,  sharing her lived experiences so that children and families can grow and thrive together. As the Director of Communications for Illuminate Colorado, she specializes in the development of strategic communications plans related to the field of child welfare, child abuse prevention, and the use of evidence-based communications aimed at improving the well-being of children and strengthening families in the State of Colorado.

How to Help Your Picky Eater

How to Help Your Picky Eater

Most parents struggle with feeding their kids at some point in their lives. Eating is one of the most basic functions, so why is it so hard? There are many reasons a child might not like a specific food — the texture, what it looks like, the smell, or the child could be anxious about the sensory experience, so they refuse even to try it. Whatever the reason, there are ways to make this experience less stressful for everyone. 

I am a pediatric therapist and co-founder of Kinspire, a pediatric support platform that provides occupational therapy through a convenient telehealth experience. I often help families who struggle with picky eaters. Most picky eater caregivers dread mealtime because they know there will be struggles around food. Mealtimes should be an opportunity to connect with your family, not a time of stress. I’m excited to share a few of my favorite tips on how to support your child during mealtimes so the entire family can get back to a stress-free meal. 

Tips to Ease Mealtime Stress With Your Picky Eater

Introduce new foods alongside favorite foods.

Do not force your child to try a new food. Continue to present it in small portions alongside favorite foods to increase the likelihood of your child interacting with it. 

Select three goal foods.

Make a list of your child’s preferred foods. These foods will help you determine new foods to introduce – you want to select new foods that are similar to your child’s preferred foods, but different in some ways. Introduce the goal foods one at a time. 

Use “I wonder” statements to encourage your child to try new foods.

“I wonder if that’s crunchy like your pretzels,” or “I wonder if it tastes sweet or salty.”

Take the pressure off your child.

If your child doesn’t want to interact with a food, say, “OK, I guess you’re not ready to eat that yet.” Adding yet to this statement leaves the possibility open for the future while making them more comfortable during mealtime.

Get them involved in food prep.

Helping in the kitchen makes your child an active participant and gives them a sense of control from the start.

Encourage them to explore food through smell, touch or trying it in small bites.

If your child smells a new food, that is a win! Encourage them to touch and smell the food if they aren’t ready to taste it yet. 

Give them some control over their food choices.

A food menu works great for this — give your child food options and let them fill out the weekly menu. When the child feels like they have some control over their food, they know what to expect and are more willing to try it. 

Manage your expectations.

It’s hard to put so much time and effort into feeding your child. Don’t expect any one tip to be the answer; this process can take time, but your patience will pay off. 

2022 Pinwheels for Prevention® Sponsor

Special Thanks to Kinspire for growing a better tomorrow for all children, together.

Speaking from personal experience with my youngest girl, being a parent to a picky eater can be overwhelming at times. If you’re looking for support for your picky eater, Kinspire can help you. 

Kinspire offers children and their families occupational therapy in the most flexible and convenient way that fits into anyone’s schedule. Kinspire’s platform empowers parents to support their children on a daily basis via a dedicated occupational therapist, on-demand telehealth services, and a self-service technology experience. Kinspire therapists work with families to develop a collaborative Family Action Plan tailored to their child’s needs and parents can reach out to their dedicated therapist whenever they need help or have questions.

No more wait lists or scheduling challenges— you can get help now at your convenience with Kinspire. Schedule a free consultation at www.kinspirehealth.com to get matched with a licensed therapist who will guide and teach you how to support your family so you can get back to stress-free meals.

About the Author

About the Author

Lily Baiser is a parent and highly experienced pediatric occupational therapist (OT). She holds a certification in sensory integration theory and practice, and has advanced training in multiple interventions. She also serves as the chief clinical officer and co-founder of Kinspire, a pediatric support platform that provides occupational therapy through telehealth to best support the developmental needs of children and their families.

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Parents’ Stories a Focus of the Campaign to Grow a Better Tomorrow for All Children, Together

Parents’ Stories a Focus of the Campaign to Grow a Better Tomorrow for All Children, Together

Nearly one hundred people gathered on the steps of the Colorado State Capitol to promote positive childhood experiences and listen to parents share their experiences in recognition of child abuse prevention month. The event is the first of many activities happening throughout the nation, and Colorado, as part of the month-long Pinwheels for Prevention® campaign to Grow a Better Tomorrow for All Children, Together.  

“Every one of the more than 1.2 million children in Colorado today deserve to be valued, healthy and thriving, including the children in my community. And, every day, we each help positive childhood experiences take root,” said Beverley Besha Moore, emcee for the event and board member of Illuminate Colorado (Illuminate), the statewide nonprofit organizing this annual grassroots effort to raise awareness during child abuse prevention month. As the Colorado Chapter of Prevent Child Abuse America, the organization leads the national Pinwheels for Prevention® Campaign in Colorado which has grown exponentially over the years, giving away more than 40,000 FREE pinwheels last year as many families were under significant stress doing their best to parent during a pandemic.

2022 Colorado Pinwheels for Prevention Campaign Launch Event

Thank you to all the partners, parents and kids that joined us at the Colorado State Capitol! What a great start to Child Abuse Prevention Month!
VIEW PHOTO ALBUM

A leading champion for all children in the United States, Prevent Child Abuse America is the nation’s oldest and largest organization dedicated to the primary prevention of child abuse and neglect. Prevent Child Abuse America experts develop innovative, evidence-based prevention strategies, raise public awareness, and advocate for family-friendly policies and programs at the national, state, and local levels to ensure that all children and families get what they need to thrive. “Research shows that positive childhood experiences grow thriving families and communities,” explained Dr. Melissa Merrick, president and CEO of Prevent Child Abuse America. “This is the moment to build a child and family well-being system that propels families to grow and thrive together. Please consider joining us to ensure safe, stable, nurturing relationships and environments are cultivated to enable children, families, and entire communities to succeed – today and for generations to come.” 

As a mom to seven kids myself, two by adoption and five by birth, I know that no parent can do this alone. All parents need support from their community to raise their kids—it truly does take a village. And while all families need support, some families do experience social, economic and environmental inequities more than others and this explains why children of color experience significant disparities in child well-being.” said Besha Moore. As an African American mother, I’ve experienced first-hand the struggle of wanting to ask for help but being fearful that I would be looked at differently or treated differently because I’m African American. We can all help by proactively calling out inequity and injustice and working to create the conditions for safe, stable and nurturing spaces. All children and families thrive when communities focus on addressing root causes that lead to health and social inequities. We all need to know how to strengthen the family next door.”

This year, Illuminate is giving away 10 Free pinwheels to anyone interested in getting more involved and asking all Coloradans to pledge to grow a better tomorrow for all children, together. “When parents, caregivers, family, friends, neighbors, employers and elected leaders work together to increase five critical protective factors in families’ lives that is when we can prevent child abuse, strengthen families and build brighter childhoods,” continued Besha Moore.

Every one of the more than 1.2 million children in Colorado today deserve to be valued, healthy and thriving, including the children in my community. And, every day, we each help positive childhood experiences take root.

Beverley Besha Moore

Board Member, Illuminate Colorado

Conditions in communities where people live, learn, work and play affect a wide range of health risks and outcomes – including child abuse and neglect – a serious problem affecting every segment of our community. The occasion focused on effective community-based solutions including home visiting, homeless shelters, family resource centers and other local community supports that support all families thereby reducing the likelihood of child maltreatment.  In October 2018, I experienced every parents worst nightmare; my three and a half year-old son pasted away. After that tragedy, I was offered a whirlwind of supportive services, counseling, classes, family and friends coming to offer support. Every single one played a part in my healing process. What I found most life-altering was my home visiting program,” shared Alexa Chenoweth, a mother of two girls under the age of four from Rifle, Colorado. 

Another father opened up about his journey through parenthood having experienced homelessness. “I never thought I would ever become homeless until it happened. A number of events led me to a point in my life where I needed to find a temporary home so that I could start working to rebuild my life from the ground up and continue to support my basic needs and be there for my son,” said Dave Ehlert the Colorado Springs father of a nine year-old boy.  “Parenting isn’t always easy. There’s no book to follow on how to be a perfect parent and it can be difficult at times. The good news is there’s so many resources in all of our communities that are reaching out to us to provide services, programs and support as we navigate our parental journey.”

 

In addition to the more than 50 campaign partners displaying pinwheels in April as a show of support for the prevention of child maltreatment, promoting the campaign messaging on social media using #GrowingBetterTogether, and encouraging Coloradans to take part in the campaign; campaign sponsors including the presenting sponsor SafeCare Colorado of Colorado’s Office of Early Childhood, and organizing sponsor Colorado’s Office of Children, Youth & Families and media sponsor Colorado Parent, also supported the event.

As added incentive to make a commitment to strengthening families this month, one person who takes the pledge to grow a better tomorrow for all children, together will be selected at the end of the month to win an opportunity to choose a Colorado nonprofit, school or child care organization to receive a $2,500 grant, thanks in large part to the campaign sponsor Colorado Child Welfare Scholars Consortium, part of a statewide effort to invest in the education of selected students in order to attract qualified social work professionals into the field of public child welfare services in Colorado.  For more ways you can to strengthen families and take the pledge to Grow a Better Tomorrow for All Children, Together and learn more about child abuse and neglect prevention and activities happening around the state all-month long, visit COPinwheelsForPrevention.org

Following a message from Governor Jared Polis, Minna Castillo Cohen, director of the Office of Children, Youth and Families, and Mary Alice Cohen, director of the Office of Early Childhood from the Colorado Department of Human Services addressed the crowd to thank the thousands of professionals, parents and caregivers who have strengthen families throughout the pandemic. “I’ve seen amazing collaboration happen with partners across the state throughout this pandemic to take care of families in their communities and ensure they have what they need to be successful and help their kids grow up healthy, strong and ready for school,” said Castillo Cohen. “We know that when families are connected and have access to concrete support in their communities, child maltreatment can be prevented. It truly takes all of us to ensure every child has the opportunity to thrive.”

“The last two years have been so challenging for children and their families. I know many of you have first hand experience with this,” shared Cohen. “Our routines and our support systems were changed abruptly. In the Office of Early Childhood we were heartened to see the creativity and resilience all of our partners showed to ensure the youngest Coloradans continued to thrive; yet we also recognized the significant needs families faced, and continue to face.”

The event ended on a heartfelt note with Besha Moore share a personal story after reflection on the work going on inside the Capitol. “You see, I was a teen mom. When he was just three and half years old. At that time, I was handling the financial struggles of being a single mom. I found myself in a position when I was wondering do I purchase diapers or purchase sanitary items that I needed. And of course, the diapers won. So I swallowed my pride and I did whatever was needed. But, just imagine if there was such a thing as not having a tax on diapers back then,” shared Besha Moore referencing a bill Colorado lawmakers are working on this legislative session to make essential items, like period products and diapers, more affordable.  “That definitely could have helped me. And If I had really felt confident about these wonderful services that we have here in Colorado, if those things were made available to me, I definitely would have taken them.” 

Growing a Better Tomorrow for All Children, Together

Every one of the more than 1.2 million children in Colorado today deserve to be valued, healthy and thriving, including the children in your community.

Take the pledge to grow a better tomorrow for all children, together. 

Show your support for strengthening families in Colorado and take the pledge to build protective factors and prevent child abuse in your community.

Get Your 10 FREE Pinwheels

Illuminate Colorado, a statewide nonprofit working to strengthen families, organizations and communities to prevent child maltreatment, is giving away 10 FREE Pinwheels for Prevention® to Coloradans to inspire our communities to grow a better tomorrow for all children, together.

>>Interested in getting more involved or sharing your lived experiences?

Parents: It’s Time to Talk About Strengthening Our Families

Parents: It’s Time to Talk About Strengthening Our Families

For more than ten years now, you may have seen gardens of pinwheels planted at your child’s school, day care or a local hospital or nonprofit organization, and wondered, why? It’s because pinwheels are the national symbol for child abuse prevention meant to start a conversation about how to strengthen families. 

“What research has shown, and what our experiences have borne out, is that people respond to the pinwheel. Child abuse is a hard topic for most people to think about, let alone talk about. By its very nature, the pinwheel reminds us all of the bright childhoods we want for all children,” said Jade Woodard, executive director of Illuminate Colorado, the statewide nonprofit organizing this annual grassroots effort to raise awareness during child abuse prevention month. As the Colorado Chapter of Prevent Child Abuse America, the organization leads the national Pinwheels for Prevention® Campaign in Colorado which has grown exponentially over the years, giving away more than 40,000 FREE pinwheels last year as many families were under significant stress doing their best to parent during a pandemic. 


“Families get overloaded with stress when facing significant challenges like unemployment, substance misuse or mental health struggles, making it incredibly hard to parent and keep your child safe. That’s when kids are at greater risk for abuse or neglect. Just like a truck carrying too much weight, they can’t move forward. But when other parents, friends, family, employers, neighbors, community organizations and even elected officials increase protective factors around families, then we lighten the load. That’s how we prevent child abuse and strengthen families,” continued Woodard. “We are encouraging Colorado communities to have a conversation about helping families upstream- reducing stress on parents and building resources and systems that work together to help us raise our families. Every one of the more than 1.2 million children in Colorado today deserve to be valued, healthy and thriving.” 

Locations where pinwheels tend to sprout up are usually: 

  • organizations that are working every day with young children like elementary schools, child care centers and home visiting programs; 
  • organizations that recognize their role in strengthening families like family resource centers, medical offices and hospitals; 
  • businesses supportive of family-friendly work environments and the children and families in their communities;  and, of course,
  • nonprofit and human services agencies doing the incredibly hard job of helping children and families heal from child maltreatment. 

This year, many of those same organizations are doing more to empower parents who are passionate about making sure their neighborhood protects children and strengthens families. On April 1st, parents are joining Colorado legislators and representatives from more than 50 campaign partners to gather on the West steps of the Colorado State Capitol at 11:00 am to promote positive childhood experiences and launch a month-long campaign to Grow a Better Tomorrow for All Children, Together

Organizers plan to share more about ways to show your support and earn a $2,500 grant for your favorite Colorado nonprofit, school or child care provider at the event. Illuminate is also giving away 10 FREE pinwheels to anyone who wants to get more involved and join this movement. You can order your free pinwheels online at COPinwheelsForPrevention.org or stop by the public family-friendly campaign launch event to pick up your pinwheels. Each pinwheel comes with a small greeting card to give to someone else or display to help inspire other people in your community to learn more about how we can strengthen families.

Five Way to Use Pinwheels for Prevention®

Display your pinwheels in a pot in your front yard or window to show your support and get people talking about strengthening families.

Organize a pinwheel parade in your neighborhood, school or child care center.

Give your pinwheels to a child you care about along with the Pinwheels for Prevention® coloring sheet, available in the campaign community activity guide

Ask your favorite restaurants, pediatrician and dentist offices to display a small bouquet of pinwheels at the front desk to let customers know they support children and families in the community.

Leave one pinwheel on the doorstep of 10 of your neighbor’s homes to build the movement or say “thank you for keeping me strong.”

“We’ve done this for many, many years in person at the Capitol with our pinwheels and we are so excited to be back together in person for the first time since 2019. We definitely did our best virtually during the pandemic, but it is just nothing like the energy that we get when we are all together at the Capitol to launch Child Abuse Prevention Month,” continued Woodard.

Five Ways to Build Stronger Families

Protective factors are conditions or attributes in individuals, families, communities or the larger society that help people deal more effectively with stressful events and mitigate or eliminate risk in families and communities. Protective factors help buffer from the negative consequences of exposure to risks by either reducing the impact of the risk or changing the way a person responds to the risk. Consequently, enhancing protective factors can reduce the likelihood of problem behaviors arising.

Research by the Center for the Study of Social Policy has shown five protective factors increase family strengths, enhance child development and reduce the likelihood of child abuse and neglect. Throughout the month of April, campaign partners will be highlighting ways parents, employers and community members can build the following protective factors to strengthen families.

1 – Be Strong in the Face of Stress – Build Parental Resilience 

Resilience is managing stress and dealing with your life, even when things get difficult.

Right now, stress is HIGH. You’ve likely felt a little short-temper, yelled or not been your best-self at moments. Everyone needs to practice self-care right now, especially parents. Take care of yourself, to take care of your kids. Share a mindfulness or stress management tip, encourage others parents to give themselves permission to not be perfect.

2 – Connecting With Other People Matters – Build Social Connections

Having a network of friends and family helps us feel secure, confident and empowered. Accept help from others and look for opportunities to give back. Reach out to others, talk about what is going on in your life. You’ll be amazed at how much better you feel. Focus on nurturing relationships where you feel respected and appreciated.

3 – Grow Your Knowledge of Parenting and Child Development – Build Knowledge of Parenting and Child Development

There is no perfect parent, but knowing what to expect does make the job easier. Discover what to expect as your child grows. Try new skills and tips to help your child progress and thrive. Pause to understand why your child is acting out and respond in a positive, nurturing, and developmentally appropriate way.

4 – Every Parent Needs Support Sometimes – Build Concrete Support in Times of Need

Some problems are too big to solve alone. Knowing where to get help in the community can make life easier. Know what help is available in your community. Make a plan for what programs you might need if you were faced with unemployment or severe illness. Reach out and ask for support when needed. Share your story with others about programs and resources that have helped you along the way.

5 – Help Your Child Manage Feelings and Relationships – Build Social and Emotional Competence of Children

Help children develop skills so they can manage their emotions and build healthy relationships with their peers and adults. Respond warmly and consistently to your child. Allow your child to express their emotions. Model how to be kind and interact positively with others.

Most parents, including those known to child protection, are truly doing the best they can and want to do well by their children. All families need help sometimes. Some are overburdened and close to breaking points as they struggle with child care and work, the threat of unemployment, food or housing insecurities, and other intense pressures. Creating better outcomes for children starts with ensuring families are supported and strengthened when they need help – rather than penalized. 

The Colorado Department of Human Services recently reported that calls to the Colorado Child Abuse and Neglect Hotline, 844-CO-4-Kids (844.264.5437), have rebounded after a significant drop during the COVID-19 pandemic. “Most of the calls that come into the hotline are really around a parent’s lack of resources, so, one of the ways that we can really support families is by making sure that we are connecting them to those resources -those concrete supports that families need,” said Minna Castillo Cohen, director of the Colorado Office of Children, Youth and Families, one of three organizing sponsors of the campaign. 

“I am very excited about the campaign because it gives us an opportunity to work outside of our child protection system and really talk about human services, so instead of child welfare, thinking about child well-being,” said Castillo Cohen. “ I just really hope that people put out the pinwheels in their yard, encourage their elementary schools and the businesses in their own communities to get involved and recognize strong employees who have families are even stronger when they have a support network,” said Castillo Cohen.

“I am very excited about the campaign because it gives us an opportunity to work outside of our child protection system and really talk about human services, so instead of child welfare, thinking about child well-being,” said Castillo Cohen. “ I just really hope that people put out the pinwheels in their yard, encourage their elementary schools and the businesses in their own communities to get involved and recognize strong employees who have families are even stronger when they have a support network,” said Castillo Cohen. 

Ways to Get Involved

Join Together on April 1

You can promote positive childhood experiences and preventing adversity by wearing blue on April 1 – National Wear Blue Day – and share your picture online letting others know you support #GrowingBetterTogether. 

Colorado Campaign Launch to Grow a Better Tomorrow for All Children, Together
April 1 @ 11:00 am – 12:00 pm
Colorado State Capitol West Steps
200 E Colfax Ave., Denver, CO 80203

RSVP to let campaign organizers know you plan to support the cause and help the campaign get off to a strong start. 

Come down to the Capitol to meet other parents passionate about making sure their neighborhood protects children and strengthens families. Be the first to learn more about how you can WIN a $2,500 grant for your favorite Colorado nonprofit, school or child care provider! 

Organize Your People

Become a campaign partner, download the campaign community activity guide and encourage your friends, other parents and your child’s school or day care to order their FREE 10 Pinwheels. 

Join the Movement

Follow #GrowingBetterTogether to connect to the movement in your community and tag us on Illuminate on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram to show you support. 

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