Parenting classes before you're even a parent? Yep, it's a thing and you should definitely check it out it if you are looking to grow your family. Bringing Baby Home instructor Stephanie Johnston is a psychotherapist and mom of two young daughters. She has recently opened up The Healing Arts Studio on Cantrell. Sound familiar? I'm not surprised. Stephanie and her studio were the March cover story for Little Rock Family Magazine - the same one you find at the entrance to most public places in the Central Arkansas Area. As the article says, Stephanie started the studio with the core values of healing, creating and connecting - and these same values inspired her to become a Bringing Baby Home educator. With a focus on women's issues in her private practice it was a natural fit to make a resource available for new parents. As a parent of young children herself she knows how few local, in person resources there really are. Case in point: Stephanie is the only one doing these classes in the state of Arkansas at this time. I recently spoke with her about the course and what it can do for parents and expectant parents in the Central Arkansas area.
So what is Bringing Baby Home?
"The creators of the course, the Gottmans, are a married couple - the premiere couples therapists in their field. As they were doing therapy they noticed that some couples did really well during difficulties and tragedy while others did not. They did lots of research on which did and which didn't make it. They looked at the ones that made it and created this program to help foster those skills that will help relationships navigate the waters of changing family dynamics - and of having kids in particular. The course provides solid one on one time with your partner focused on bonding, learning and growing together."
Why do you think it is so important for families to have this base level of relationship skills before bringing baby home?
"In all the fuss and business of gearing up to become parents it's easy to skip some very important conversations. Such as: what kind of family and couple do you want to be? How do you want to do holidays? Which of our core values do we want our child to learn? It's fairly easy to sign up for the hospital childbirth classes but plenty of people wouldn't know where to go to learn couples skills - how to fight, how to make up, maintaining intimacy and sex, or how to communicate. These are all just as important for upcoming parents but no one is encouraging them to go seek out these skills. One thing I think is interesting about this curriculum is that it's super dad heavy: it kind of breaks the stigma and hesitation of dad not being involved. It can help teach hesitant dads how to interact with baby - and why his specific interaction style is important. Studies show that when dads are involved moms are less likely to be depressed. Babies show the benefits as well - they have better social-emotional involvement with others, better language skills, are less likely to get in trouble, and have a more positive self image, just to name a few."
When is the best time to do it?
"Ideally when pregnant because thats when you have the most time, energy and flexibility to focus on this. You'll have to hit the ground running once baby arrives: you'll be tired and won't want to leave the house and one day you'll look up and it's five years later and you never did it. But don't worry if that's already you: if you already have kids but feel like you missed out on getting a better start, get a sitter for the weekend. Take the time to nurture your couple and parenting relationships and make some real conscious and informed decisions on how you want to raise your kids. It's far better to be proactive about those kinds of decisions rather than reactive at some point in the future when habits built on shaky foundations aren't working for your family anymore.
How much does it cost?
Only $300 - the price of a bassinet or 10 outfits that - lets face it- will be worn once or twice before they're outgrown. A price well worth it to lower the incidence of divorce, reduce postpartum depression, improve your children's language development, strengthen friendship, improve intimacy and enhance dad's comfort and confidence.
If you think these classes sound like something you'd be interested in, be sure to contact Stephanie at the Healing Arts Studio. As she says, "Even just making the commitment to booking these classes - you'll be ahead of the curve. You would be showing that you care about these things and your family."