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The Young Mothers of Tumana

by Rachel Ann Rosales Parr

The MLAC team, spearheaded by Dr. Ma. Lourdes “Honey” A. Carandang, went to Barangay Tumana (Marikina) on April 22nd 2017 to conduct a parenting workshop with about 30 young mothers of the community. This was the 6th of an ongoing annual series of parenting activities organized and facilitated by MLAC in partnership with LINKS School for Life for the residents of Tumana.

The workshop started off with the main idea phrased as a question, “Paano maging mahusay na magulang?” (How does one become a good parent?) This may sound like a daunting question but it is one that falls squarely in place with the MLAC flagship advocacy entitled, “Parenting is Nation-building.” This advocacy was given its name by Dr. Honey Carandang and was borne out of her unwavering belief in the critical role of parents/caregivers as co-builders and shapers of our children’s identities – the very identities that will create and impact the future of our nation.

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Dr. Honey talks to the mothers on how to become a good parent

Unpacking this huge question was done through an informative talk wherein Dr. Carandang discussed the importance of communication; disciplining with dignity; truthfulness; family bonding; having fun with your child; finding a support group; and most importantly – taking care of oneself. Participants were then divided into smaller groups, each assigned with an MLAC team member to act as moderator/facilitator. The young mothers in each group were invited to reflect on the talk, identify the points that resonated with them, and impart ideas on how they could apply or use these take-home points.

Learnings shared

One of the more salient points noted was about the challenges involved in disciplining a child. While many mothers talked about not wanting to curse, shout, or become violent towards their children; the stressors of being hard-up, having poor role models, and the lack of support systems often led to lapses in their efforts to be kind and respectful parents. Several mothers talked about the difficulties in shielding a child from learning how to curse or how to unlearn the behavior of using foul language. This is an impossible task for so many who continue to live in conditions where swearing and the use of offensive language are rampant in the community, in social media, and in local television where well-known public personalities are constantly seen touting this behavior as a sign of power and bravado. There were several young mothers who, despite the harsh living conditions, recognized the value of being truthful and being able to talk to their children in a way that does not hurt or diminish the child. For some of them it was time to break the cycle of being hardened and desensitized to violence and cruelty.

It was also observed and noted that a significant number of the participants were single parents who lived with or near the houses of other family members. This was seen as a highly valued social condition that allowed them to leave their child in the care of relatives in order find work and earn a living. Unfortunately, there were quite a few single mothers who did not have the same supportive family conditions. As a result, some have become despondent, while others talked about abandoning and neglecting their children.

The value of self-care appeared to be relevant to many of the young mothers. Several of the participants saw themselves as young adults who should give importance to looking good whenever possible, notwithstanding the stressful and worrisome lives they lead. However, the lack of social support, resources, and the lack of time prevented many of them from even fulfilling the most basic tasks of eating on time and bathing as regularly as they would want to. Those who were married and those with common-law partners mentioned the need to find ways or strategies to get their partners to participate and be more engaged in taking care of the children. This, in turn, would create more “bonding time” for father and child and allow more “me-time” for the mothers. Some mothers seemed to find the concept of relaxation and doing things for the “self” alone as ideas they haven’t thought of for a long time.

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The MLAC Team, Dr. Cecile Palma, and the young mothers

Reflections and conclusions

In the small groups, each young mother appeared to listen intently to the other, seemingly in quiet acceptance of their differences and perhaps smiling as if to echo the oneness and interconnectedness of their experiences – as mothers and as Filipino women. Part of the value of these small group sessions is in the way that the interactions reaffirm the uniqueness of each participant within the context of the shared experiences that connect and bind them to one another. Dr. Honey Carandang and the MLAC team work with Filipino families through a dynamic process that involves communicating knowledge and creating shared spaces, which participants may use to appreciate their individual and common experiences in a deeper way. It has always been a main objective of these parenting projects to have participants emerge with renewed energy and gain insights that they can own. Hopefully, being able to claim and give meaning to their own stories will give these young mothers the courage and the optimism they need as caretakers and co-builders of the next generation.

A Reflection on the MLAC Tumana Parenting Session

 
A Reflection on the MLAC Tumana Parenting Session

By: Nina Chan

(Photos c/o Nina Chan unless otherwise stated)

 The night before the Tumana Parenting Workshop which was to be held on May 14, 2016 at the LINKS School for Life, I prepared myself. I made sure everything I needed was in my bag, my camera had full storage and battery; I was determined to come prepared and ready to face any possibility. Little did I know that no amount of preparations would prepare me for the shock I would experience upon reading through the list of participants for the workshop. Instead of browsing through a list of names along with their ages which ranged from 20-30, which is what I had expected; I was in a state of disbelief as I realized that most of the participants were below the age of twenty, with some women being even younger than me. I definitely did not prepare for that. 
 The session began with Tita Honey giving introductions and a clear overview of what would happen throughout the session. The audience listened attentively as they absorbed each word that was said. From the way they listened, it could already be concluded that they were more than eager to learn more about the unfamiliar territory known as parenting. After the introduction, the mic was passed over to Tito Chris, who led the audience into a mindfulness activity. An activity designed to help the audience reflect over the circumstances of their lives, and at the same time serve as an opportunity to get some anxieties and worries off their chests. I observed that throughout this activity, the young mothers would take a deep breath in and let a long heavy breath out; as if they are letting go of their problems. Problems that I cannot begin to comprehend; being a teenager as well, I already find it quite a challenge to take care of myself in terms of getting my errands done, taking care of my own health or keeping my emotions in check. I cannot imagine having to do all this for another person as well and especially not for three more people. 

 

Tita Honey talks to the young mothers

  

Tita Honey talks to the young mothers

  

The young mothers participate in the Mindfulness exercise at the start of the seminar


 After the mindfulness activity, Tita Honey began her lecture which highlighted some of the main points of struggle in the field of parenting. Tita Honey emphasized the importance of practicing discipline in every household. She also mentioned that discipline is a very delicate instrument that may go the wrong way if the child and parent have a miscommunication or misunderstanding. Tita Honey gave an example by stating that, a parent may scold a child for misbehaving but in the eyes of the child he is only doing what children are programmed to do, playing. The parents may then unknowingly hurt the child, if dignity and respect are absent while discipline is being implemented. Tita Honey also explained the importance of maintaining an honest relationship with the child, which is a crucial step in keeping the trust between each other. There was also a Question and Answer portion wherein the audience shared their doubts and thoughts, such as how to manage raising a child despite being a single parent. Tita Honey addressed the question by stating that it is essential to have the humility to ask for help from others and to acknowledge one’s capacity and knowing when it is time to accept the help of others.  

 The next activity was the small groups; the participants were distributed into six separate groups, each group being facilitated by one of the MLAC team members. Through these small groups, the participants were able to share their various struggles with raising their children; some would recount their experiences, both pleasant and haunting. After the small group activity, the facilitators of each small group then gave a summary of the insights, sharing and experiences that were discussed in each respective group. One of the stories that struck me was the experience one of the participants has gone through wherein she unknowingly found her children drowning as she left them to play, this served as an eye opener to her and the other parents as well. The other experiences that were summarized gave a sense of security to the whole audience because these stories served as proof that every parent goes through various struggles, which means they are not alone in the journey of parenthood.  

 

Tita Bless facilitates the discussion with her small group

  

Tita Dindi facilitates the discussion with her small group

  

Tita Tessibeth facilitates the discussion with her small group (picture c/o Dr.Cecile Palma-Del Rosario)

 
 

Tita Bebeth facilitates the discussion with her small group (picture c/o Dr.Cecile Palma-Del Rosario)

 
 The entire experience made me realize the gravity of being a teenage parent. Being a parent is already difficult as it is because a life is literally in your hands. As a teenage parent, it becomes even more of a struggle because despite having another person’s life in your hands, you are still discovering bits and pieces of yourself each day since the teenage years are known to be the peak of self-discovery. One cannot focus on self-growth if he/she is occupied with the obligation to raise a child. 

 In conclusion, I was glad that MLAC conducted this parenting session because the issue of parenting is very timely, especially for new teenage mothers who were suddenly thrown into the responsibility of becoming a parent as soon as they stopped being considered children. Since, time cannot be reversed, it is important that they be made aware of the difficulties and tips in raising a child, which is why parenting seminars and sessions are crucially relevant for young parents. 

Ending with a song for the mothers led by Tito Chris, Tita Olive, and Tita Honey