By Melissa Ford
Kathy Kern has been helping parents and children her entire life as a mother, a secondary education teacher and a early childhood development expert. Kathy has even taken on the task of designing childcare centers through the process of construction, licensing and developing programs based on how children learn naturally in their worlds. Then, nine years ago, Kathy came to Parenthesis to fill the key role of Executive Director and Parenthesis took a new direction.
Kathy envisioned Parenthesis as the first tier in helping families with concerns or issues their children might have before they entered school. If children exhibited behaviors that needed addressing, instead of labeling a child as a “problem,” Parenthesis could offer support, guidance and other resources. Kathy felt strongly that if kids received services early on they’d have a better chance of starting preschool or Kindergarten on equal footing with their peers.
Kathy believes all parents and children need support and Parenthesis does just that:
- Morning Family Drop-In Program: For parents and children (birth to five-years-old) to socialize and learn with peers in play-based classrooms while parents connect with other parents, attend workshops or take advantage of Parenthesis' wireless internet. There’s also a Drop-Off Program for members so your children can enjoy play-time with friends while parents work or play outside of Parenthesis.
- Mothering On Our Own: Focuses on the special needs of single parents providing weekly meals, transportation, childcare, parent support meetings, counseling and case management as well as the opportunity to connect with other single parents.
- Teen Moms: A comprehensive program supporting pregnant teens and teen moms ages 13 - 21. This program helps teen moms draw support from each other as they take on the important role of parent.
With years of rich experience under her belt, I was excited to ask Kathy for her “pearls of wisdom.” What advice would she offer parents today? She thoughtfully remarked, “Take care of yourself. Don’t think that having your own agenda is wrong compared to being a mom. They can co-exist and balance one another. Give yourself a break and don’t be so hard on yourself. Everything doesn’t have to be perfect.” Then, she laughed and added, “It took me forty years to figure this out. If it takes you five years - that’s great!” Reflecting further, Kathy expressed concern for parents today due to the added pressure and stress of achievement. She quietly commented, “Things have changed and the tide has turned so as parents we are suppose to assert more, achieve more, do more. . . more is better. It’s difficult to swim upstream against the current, but we need to slow down. It’s okay to slow down.”
I’d like to thank Kathy and Parenthesis for all they do in supporting, guiding and caring for families in and around our communities.