Parenting is the most important vocation one can undertake. It is a vocation that requires a vast variety of skills, a special attitude and a diverse set of tools to get the job done. But there is no university where parents can go to get a PhD, Master’s or even a Bachelor’s degree in parenting to be better prepared for meeting the challenges of this demanding job. If the degrees were available they would likely offer majors in caring and giving; right and wrong; and pride and disappointment. Minors could include managing tantrums; tumultuous teenagers; answering embarrassing questions; potty training and perhaps most important, use of patience and endurance.
When most people become parents they find they know next-to-nothing about being a mom or a dad. And even if there was formal education it would be much like the fire department managing a major disaster; set the policy book aside and let common sense guide the process. Still, being able to find information, gain knowledge and get the support of peers is crucial to helping parents on this happy but frightening experience. And that is why the Parent Link Centre is such a valuable resource for new parents.
Having recently opened in a new location at 4415A – 49 Street, the Centre provides programs around parent education and play-based early learning and care. They also offer parenting support through consultations on common parenting challenges and childhood development by connecting parents to other parents and with information and community resources.
Julia Karg-Magas, Coordinator of the Centre is happy they have this new facility for the next 5 years. “I want people to know where we are and that we are here to stay. With all the transitions in the past 2 years, some people have lost track of us or assume that we left the community or that we lost funding. But we are strong, thriving, we believe in what we do and we are here to stay and now you can find us at 4415A – 49 Street (next to Nut and Bolt) for the next 5 years and hopefully many more after that. The big challenge in today’s world for a grant-funded program is to compete on the rental market. Since Wetaskiwin has little to no vacant “public or civic buildings
Parent Link has found it challenging to find a permanent location. “We have to rent from the regular ‘retail market’. Our grant has stayed the same over the years while rental prices continue to rise, which makes it tricky to secure a sustainable long-term location. These financial restrictions forced us to relocate twice in the last two years and we are now very excited to have found a long-term ‘home’ for our Centre. We plan to put down roots here and hope to develop this location with further upgrades such as developing an outdoor space in the back.
Wetaskiwin Parent Link Centre has been serving Wetaskiwin families and caregivers since 2009. Since then they have continuously offered a variety of structured and unstructured programs that engage children (age 0-6) and parents, build skills, expand knowledge and offer unique experiences for families to share with one another. The new Centre is loaded with play areas, games, toys and other equipment that makes it a pleasure for the children and parents/caregivers.
Parent Link is not like a day care where you simply drop your child off and let someone else interact with them. All the programs at Parent Link are intended for parents/caregivers and children to interact. Parents/caregivers are encouraged to get involved; to get down to the child’s level, interact with them, follow their lead and just play. Karg-Magas explains, “In our society that is so focused on ‘outcomes and objectives’ that we have lost the art of play, especially child-led play. But by playing with our children we learn and teach so much. A parent is the child’s first and most important teacher and role-model, as well as their favourite toy. In play parents can strengthen the relationship with their child. They teach new skills, practice important social skills, monitor developmental milestones, determine how the child is coping with emotions and whether the child’s speech and language is developing. Parent Link lays the foundation for a healthy lifestyle and so much more.”
In an average year the Parent Link serves over 500 individuals (around 200 families) from Wetaskiwin and the surrounding area and offers over 1000 hours of programming. Parent Link is coordinated with a 0.8 staff position and some casual staff. They also rely on their families to volunteer in many ways.
Karg Magas notes, “Last year a total of 36 volunteers provided 275 hours of time towards our Centre, which allowed us to use staff hours in the best possible way to run programs year-round, including the summer when many other programs shut down. We offer both morning and afternoon programs to accommodate younger children who often nap in the afternoon and preschoolers who may be in school in the mornings. We also offer evening and weekend time slots to allow working parents to utilize the Centre.