Benedictine Sisters of Erie Home Home

Parenting Class at SBEC


[See past story, Remember the children.]

As disruptions, uncertainty, and fear continue to impact the lives of everyone due to the COVID-19 pandemic it is not surprising to hear of the multiple ways this is being expressed:  reports of domestic violence and abuse have increased; increasing numbers of children of all ages are showing symptoms of depression or anxiety; frustration is growing among families overwhelmed by the challenges and expectations of distance learning; gun sales are surging; alcohol sales have risen sharply.  While the American Psychological Association did not have COVID-19 in mind when it developed ACT (Adult and Children Together Program) the program characteristics, objectives, and parental skills offer a response needed for this time.

As discussed in the article Remember the Children, Cynthia M. Legin-Bucell, Ph.D. and the Children’s Advocacy Center of Erie introduced ACT to the staff and parents of Saint Benedict Education Center.  One of the program objectives is to teach parents and caregivers to create safe, healthy, stable, nurturing home environments.  Each session offers information and ways to address specific situations that SBEC participants who took the class can now resource and that their case managers can reference.  Evaluation studies have indicated that parents throughout the country and the world have experienced lasting benefits by participating in this program.

It is expected that, due to both the approach used and the issues considered, SBEC parents who took the ACT Parenting Class are drawing from what they learned even during these days of extreme challenge.  

The students were expected to be on time and stay engaged for the entire class.  Dr. Legin-Bucell, in her role as facilitator, introduced the topic and issues to be considered each day.  The wide range of information and real-life situations offered exposed each parent to a wealth of information and provided opportunities to discuss and apply it to their own life experiences.  The curriculum includes sessions entitled:  Motivation and Behavior Change; Child Development; Adult Anger Management; Understand and Help Angry Children; Impact of Electronic Media on Children: Discipline and Punishment; Positive Discipline Options; and Community Participation.  

Because of the nature of the topics and the relevant experiences that were discussed, sensitive personal issues were shared.  Dr. Legin-Bucell observed, “It took courage.”  She added that the students collaborated with each other; they discussed situations and ideas with and gained answers from their peers.  She spoke of an “ownership of participants.”  

The learning process includes nine two-hour sessions.  Each class includes “journaling” and “homework” as well as two “take-aways”.  Parent-participants could miss no more than one of the sessions. 

The most recent Parenting Class began March 9 but was interrupted after the second session because of the school closings announced by PA Governor Tom Wolf.  Dr. Legin-Bucell explains, “Due to the abruptness of the closure we had no opportunity to transition.   ACT is currently not validated for an online program….Everything is in a bit of a standstill at this point.  I am hoping we have the opportunity to review and continue but don’t know when that will be.”

For now, SBEC case managers continue to maintain contact with their clients, encouraging them and helping the many students who took this class draw from what they learned as they maneuver through these challenging times.   In addition, Dr. Legin-Bucell prepared a hand-out, “Navigating Life at Home”, that draws together some basics from the class.  The intent of this short, succinct summary is to provide a quick review of their new learnings and approaches to parenting that they gained through their class and to offer incentive to stay grounded during these unsettling days.   

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact the lives of everyone, Dr. Legin-Bucell and the staff at SBEC believe they have provided the Parenting Class students with some tools and new skills from ACT and the sharing of life experiences with their peers to assist them with the challenges of these days.