Please don’t shy away from workshops

Published 10:21 am Saturday, August 22, 2015

To the Editor:

On Aug. 8, Smart Beginnings Western Tidewater and the Franklin Southampton United Way partnered to host the first annual End of Summer Bash at Southampton Head Start in Courtland. The event consisted of fun and games for children and family-centered workshops for parents. Seven community agencies were also on-hand to distribute information to families. However, largely due to poor weather, the event was only a small success.

I spent the days following wondering what we could do better: Advertise more? Be sure we are not hosting the event on Virginia’s tax-free weekend? Allow school to begin so that flyers may be sent home via students? I was even unsure of what to submit to The Tidewater News regarding the event until I came across the following quote by Kentaro Toyama in July’s edition of The Chronicle of Philanthropy: “We’ve become so worried about blaming the victim that we are afraid to suggest that the people that we most want to help need to change in some way for things to get better for them.”

While the truth is tough to handle, I believe this statement highlights why parent workshops are largely unsuccessful in this area. When organizations like Smart Beginnings Western Tidewater promote parent workshops we inadvertently send the message: “Parents! You must change for the better — or else!” Parents view an invisible forefinger pointing out failures or passing blame.

In order for our next event to be a larger success, I believe it is necessary to remove the finger-wagging stigma that is attached to the parent workshop. Workshops of any kind are an opportunity to learn and grow. Change is not forced and only occurs if an attendee sees fit.

Because our event participation was minimal, I was able to sit in one of the workshops hosted by Southampton County School’s Lorraine Greene Whitehead. As a single female with no children you may question why I even bothered; nonetheless, I learned much regarding human interaction and I have already used what I learned on several occasions. A workshop’s purpose is to serve as an avenue for an individual to better themselves, and if that by chance means becoming a better parent then that’s great!

My point is this: the Western Tidewater community should not shy away from the parent workshop when advertised. Workshops are not filled with harsh messages to change or tactless preaching of how one has failed. A parent’s income or marital status does not matter. What does matter is a parent is a child’s first teacher and the parent workshop can help parents to become better teachers — and perhaps better employees, employers and citizens. Workshops do not exist as a way to demean. The parent workshop allows growth as a learning community and provides information that is often not easily accessible.

I realize not all parents will read this. But for the ones that do, I ask you to help Smart Beginnings Western Tidewater and the Franklin Southampton United Way in our attempt to create a stable and informative parent learning community. Attend our events and help spread the word. If we work together as a community, we will see great success in our sons and daughters — they are the future of Western Tidewater.

Hattie Francis