by Sharisa McDaniel, Transitional Living Program Manager at Catholic Charities of Eastern Oklahoma
The setting of a Maternity Home and Transitional Living offers a unique opportunity to influence the parenting practices of residents and family dynamics for generations to come. At Madonna House and St. Elizabeth Lodge in Tulsa, Oklahoma, team members observe parenting practices that range from healthy and loving to harsh and disconnected. In an effort to positively shape the futures of the families in the programs, the Transitional Living team at Catholic Charities of Eastern Oklahoma regularly examines the environmental influences and program initiatives to promote bonding and connectedness. As the family programming at Madonna House and St. Elizabeth Lodge has developed and evolved, the following adjustments have been made to the environment:
- Most “containers” (bouncy seats, swings, bumbos, exersaucers, etc.) removed from the maternity home to promote mothers holding their babies.
- Rolling basinets were removed to promote mothers holding their babies rather than pushing them down the hallways.
- “Stroller Parking” was established to promote mother’s holding and carrying their babies in the home, rather than pushing them in strollers or keeping them contained in car seats.
- “No Phone Zones” established in offices to encourage mothers to find more appropriate means of entertaining their children during provider appointments (toys instead of screens).
- Songs, rhymes, and games are posted throughout the home to promote positive interactions between mothers and their children.
- The program curfew establishes healthy routines for mom and baby.
Catholic Charities has also established a Family Enrichment position to pro-actively educate parents on child development and to offer experiences that help to build healthy bonds. With a background of teaching early childhood education for nearly 20 years, Angela Grissom brings her experience and her passion for educating parents to the Family Enrichment role. Residents of Madonna House and St. Elizabeth Lodge meet with Angela every week to participate in parent-child activities and learn positive parenting practices. The Family Enrichment program offers:
- Talking is Teaching, a city-wide campaign that promotes reading to children ages 0-5 and provides free books and parenting curriculum.
- Readers to Leaders, another early childhood reading program that also includes songs, rhymes, and games that provide bonding experiences for mothers and their little ones.
- Education and guidance on the PACEs (the flip side of ACES (Adverse Childhood Experiences) – Positive and Compensatory Experiences), 10 experiences children need to live successful lives.
- I Love You Rituals by Dr. Becky Bailey– bonding songs, rhymes, and games that include eye contact, touch, playfulness, and presence.
- The Whole Brain Child by Dr. Daniel J. Seigel and Tina Payne – Parenting strategies that promote connection before correction.
- The Parents as Teachers Home Visiting Program – Each session includes a parent-child interaction, development-centered parenting education, and family well-being guidance.
With these efforts, mothers report:
- learning new parenting methods that focus on a bond of love,
- creating healthy routines that benefit their babies development and sleep schedule,
- establishing rituals that provide a sense of meaning in their family routines,
- establishing habits of reading with their children,
- using Whole Brain strategies to successfully navigate difficult behaviors,
- greater awareness of the experiences that influence their children’s success in life and school.
The Family Enrichment program at Madonna House and St. Elizabeth Lodge is a pro-active approach to influencing strong bonds within resident families for years to come.