Worldmaker International is providing free resilience education to Eastern Iowa families. The Pandemic Parenting program, developed as part of a $200,000 CARES Act grant to Worldmaker, provides practical strategies to help parents meet today’s increased demands, keep a healthy perspective, and respond to their child’s social, emotional, and mental health needs.
Structured as brief virtual modules, the program can be conveniently accessed any time of day or night. The training videos are supported by an interactive workbook and an online library of age appropriate resilience tools to use with children. Programming coordinator Kristen Hayes explains, “Designed in response to a broad survey of parent needs, all modules are less than 20 minutes long. The first five focus on helping the adults improve their own wellness and then we move into equipping them to support their child and build family resilience. Our ultimate goal is to help parents create a home environment where each person within the family can thrive.”
Stephanie Neff, Director of Wellness and Community Partnerships for the Cedar Rapids Community School District, oversees the district’s resilience programming and is grateful for this next level of support. “We received overwhelmingly positive feedback after more than 1,400 of our staff participated in WorldMaker’s Educator THRIVE program. We know that many of our staff also are parents and all staff are working directly with parents and families to find ways to best support students. Offered through the lens of how we strengthen ourselves so that we can be resilient role models alongside our children, there is no doubt that Pandemic Parenting will provide timely insight and tools for all adults who care for and take care of children.”
Program development is overseen by Dr. Mollie Marti, a social psychologist and founder of Worldmaker. The nonprofit organization grew from work Marti started a decade ago after her Iowa community lost three teens by suicide. The research-based THRIVE Model that she developed serves as the foundation of resilience building in diverse areas beyond education. “We are excited to build on the longstanding success of our programming and innovate new ways to support parents as they face the demands of working and schooling from home within the stress of a global pandemic,” says Marti. She added, “Many parents are feeling that the hits just keep coming, from mass destruction by the recent derecho to the uncertainty of a heated election. Parents and families need this support more than ever.”
With more than two decades of experience as a resilience researcher and educator, Marti is a passionate advocate of community-based resilience work. “Life can bring us difficult and heartbreaking experiences. Too often our society either assumes that PTSD is inevitable or offers an expectation of personal grit as the best answer. This is not what the science of resilience shows. What people most immediately need in the face of adversity is social support and resources. We heal and grow strength in relationship with each other. When a community comes together to actively support each other, they can create powerful paths to repair, heal, and grow. Iowans, with our neighbor helping neighbor philosophy, have a strong foundation from which to build on.”
The Pandemic Parenting program will be available at no cost to East Central Iowa residents through the end of 2020. Hayes encourages parents to register as soon as possible and emphasizes that the workbook will continue to provide support long after the program is completed. “The THRIVE Workbook supports each person to start where they are, add tools to their resilience toolkit, and track progress over time. We often hear how the workbook becomes a valuable and dynamic resource that participants refer to again and again.”
While Worldmaker currently is providing resilience education across the United States and in several other countries across four continents, Marti says that introducing new programming in Iowa is special to her. “There has been no shortage of resilience work within the pandemic, which has made clear that helpers benefit from a research informed framework to grow strength within their homes, schools, organizations, and communities. Resilience building is humanitarian work and our mission is to equip worldmakers in every community without borders. Yet, it’s always personally rewarding when I get to play a role in strengthening Iowa’s kids and families.” Through another grant from Mental Health Disability Services, East Central Region, Worldmaker is currently providing its Educator THRIVE program at no cost to several Iowa school districts.