A west Vancouver coalition striving to create a healthier younger generation is turning its attention upstream — to parents of toddlers and young school-aged children.
In January, West Van for Youth launched its first 18-week parenting course for residents of the Vancouver’s west side (ZIP codes 98660, 98661 and 98663). Research has shown children whose parents complete the evidence-based course, called Incredible Years, are less likely to have behavioral or school problems or to use drugs later in life.
“West Van for Youth tries to go as far upstream as possible,” said Alaina Green, West Van for Youth coalition coordinator. “If we’re supporting parents raising young people, and we’re helping parents of 2-year-olds, we’re going as far upstream as possible.”
West Van for Youth is a community coalition working to promote healthier choices and reduce substance misuse among youth. The coalition was created in 2011 as part of the Community Prevention and Wellness Initiative, which is funded through the state Department of Social and Health Services.
For the last five years or so, the coalition has offered similar classes, called Guiding Good Choices, for parents of older children. But this year, the coalition added the Incredible Years curriculum to its strategic plan. Tax money collected on the production and sale of marijuana, and dedicated to prevention efforts, is being used to fund the classes, Green said.
West Van for Youth worked with the nonprofit Children’s Home Society of Washington to offer the parenting classes for 10 local parents. The course began in January and runs through mid-May.
The organizations had to close registration before the classes began because the interest was so high, Green said.
“You can tell parents really want this and are seeking this,” she said.
The Vancouver office of Children’s Home Society has offered Incredible Years courses for the better part of a decade, said Andy Tucker, Vancouver community director.
“At a general level, what the program does is promote positive connections between parents and kids,” he said.
The course teaches parents about child development, which is important for understanding how to effectively manage a child’s behavior and establish realistic expectations, Tucker said. The course also teaches parents how to connect with their child. If parents struggle to connect, he said, that can lead to other issues.
“Of course parents love their children. It’s not about whether a parent loves their child,” Tucker said. “It’s about the minutia or the technicalities about how a parent connects with that child.”
The goal for both groups is to support parents who, in turn, can raise healthy, resilient children.
“When you invest in building resiliency in a child, the return on investment for that kind of support is just impossible to quantify,” Tucker said.