SCCC’s Best Practice Parenting Program – Counselor Matthew Shima’s Reflections

SCCC offers a unique ten-week class called Best Practice Parenting that we developed to support parents with mindful awareness tools, child development knowledge and interactive explorations of the challenges of raising children in our society.  The curriculum is designed to help parents feel respected and valued, to honor their strengths and to help them feel safe to share their struggles.  Matthew Shima, one of our Best Practice Parenting facilitators, wrote the following piece about his experience in the class.

“I begin every new Best Practice Parenting course with the introduction, “My name is Matthew, and I’m not a parent.”  I imagine this lands with the participants of the course in a variety of ways, some giving nods of acceptance while some show a look of skepticism.  Many participants come with experiences of others around them giving advice, making suggestions, “educating”, or flat out telling them what to do with their children.  I know that the last thing I would want as a parent is to be told what I’m doing wrong, why I’m an unfit parent, or how I should be raising my own children.  I especially would hate to hear this from someone who is not a parent.  Yet this seems to be what a lot of the parents I work with encounter in their lives on a daily basis.
Luckily for me, this class does not require me to instruct “Ten Easy Steps to Parenting Success.”  Instead, I have the privilege of sitting with parents in a way that recognizes, supports, and respects the inherent qualities, knowledge, and strengths that reside within each participant.  In the class we have parents from all walks of life who share with each other their own individual journey of parenting with all of its joys and struggles.  As they share their stories over the course of ten weeks, what becomes clear is how unique each family is, and at the same time, how similar of an experience all parents go through.  This is one of the things I like most about this class: acknowledging our sameness and celebrating and supporting our differences.
I originally got into this work as an advocate for children.  I felt called to be a voice for treating children with respect, understanding, and acceptance.  In order to support children, it was natural for me to begin working with parents.  As I listened deeply to what they go through, I began to reflect on what it takes to create this world; for us all to be here.  In other words, I began thinking about how it is a result of the effort, intention, love, smiles and tears of our families (however we define them) that we all can exist to live out our lives.  It may seem cliche to point this out here that without our parents, we wouldn’t be here.  Being a part of the parenting classes has let this idea really start to sink in for me.
These classes have been an opportunity to look at my own life and the way in which my upbringing has impacted me and how I see the world.  With this lens, I am able to reflect on the question, “How is it that I would like to impact this world?”  I feel it is a blessing to get to be a part of the parenting class at the center.  I am humbled, I am grateful, I am inspired by the families who I meet.  Though I am an “instructor” of the course, the participants are always teaching me some of the most fundamental qualities in parenting: understanding, acceptance, and compassion.
I would like to end with a prayer:
May all families be happy.
May all families be healthy.
May all families be free.
May all families be loved.”

-Matthew Shima

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