“Evenings for Parents”


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In Spring 2016 the Elphin diocese held a pilot programme of “Evenings for Parents” in Summerhill College Sligo.   Following the success of the pilot programme, two more “Evenings for Parents” programmes are being organised in the Sligo end of the diocese this autumn.

The provisional dates and likely venues are:

  • Commencing Monday 7th November 2016 and the five following Mondays (probably in Grange National School, Co Sligo).
  • Commencing Tuesday 8th November 2016 and the five following Tuesdays (probably in Summerhill College, Sligo.

“Evenings for Parents” is a family relationship building experience through more effective communication, rather than a parenting course per se.

It is most definitely not a “how to parent” course.

The program is based on a management training course designed by Thomas Gordon (see http://www.gordontraining.com/thomas-gordon/about-dr-thomas-gordon-1918-2002/) to facilitate “non-confrontational conflict resolution strategies” for business managers in California in the 1950’s.

Gordon was asked to modify that programme by a group of interested parents and introduced his “Parent Effectiveness Training” with great success.

Fr. Kieran Barry Ryan SJ,  recognising the potential of Gordon’s Parent Effectiveness Training programme adapted it to reflect a “Gospel” value system, and called it “Evenings for Parents”.  He also presented it very successfully in the US, before bringing it to Ireland.

While the programme has evolved over time to keep in tune with contemporary social developments it retains its core Christian values.

Over the course of six weekly 2 hour sessions, everyday examples of family dynamics are presented, explored and discussed in a group situation.

The facilitators also demonstrate skills that can reduce conflict and promote positive relationships both within and outside the family.  These active demonstrations, coupled with the group discussions, frequently present participating parents with moments of revelation.  For example, many discover that their perceived family relationship ‘problems’ are not unique to them and that there are uncomplicated ways of resolving these perceived ‘problems’ in a non-confrontational manner.

In November 2014 Bishop Kevin gave an address in Roscommon entitled Marriage and the Common Good.  He concluded by saying “ In the meantime, it remains for us, in our local communities and in our diocese, to ask ourselves how we can, not simply defend the family founded on marriage, but how we can actively support it and encourage those who seek to live that vision in each of our parishes”.

Some weeks later the diocese received encouragement to review both the content and success of “Evenings For Parents” in other places.  The review highlighted the high standing among parents who had participated in other Irish dioceses.

More recently (March / April 2016), through the generosity of trained facilitators, Micheál and Tess Mac Giolla Ri of St. Joseph’s & Calry parish, and as a direct response to Bishop Kevin’s challenge, the diocese piloted “Evenings for Parents”  in Summerhill College.

All who participated said they would unhesitatingly recommend it to parents of children of any age and that since doing it their family interactions and relationships have significantly improved.

Written feedback sent in after the program was positive.  The following are some of the parents’ comments (slightly adjusted to protect anonymity):

“It was good to meet other parents and hear their experience and we also got good advice on communication in general.”

“I find it difficult to deal with teenagers and was wondering what I or we might be doing wrong.  The program motivated us to stop and think before speaking to the children and we learned how to change the way we talk to them so as to be more effective.  We learnt a lot about the importance of communicating within the family.”

“I learned to listen non-judgementally and I feel this is an important key to happier relationships.”

“We generally found it very helpful and also fun.  It is really badly needed for couples.  We hope it will continue on.  The notes were very helpful and we plan to continually look back.”

“I learned a lot about good communication, listening and ‘I messages’”.

“It enriched my relationship with my husband.”

“I found it useful to identify the feeling behind the behaviour, how to actually listen.”

“The whole program was very good, particularly the areas that covered children learn from what they see parents doing, not what parents say, the purpose of the family, responsible parenting area and ‘I messages’.

“This journey over six weeks has had a very positive effect on my relationship with my husband and children.  I found it strengthened my faith.”

“I think I will benefit more in my relationships with others as a result of things I learned.”

“I think that ye were not open sometimes to comments that did not agree with the course content.  I felt it limited a broader discussion.”

“Such evenings can easily degenerate into a box ticking exercise in which the chocolate biscuits become the highlight of the evening. In this program however the leadership of the trainers produced a series of enriching, thoughtful and constructive engagements for which I am very grateful.”

“It was great to see how other parents struggle with similar things.  Also to see that there are no easy answers, but that there are tools to use.  It reinforces things that are known, but easy to forget the importance of.”

“I can cope better with stressed situations within the family.”

“Our little boy age 9 disobeys regularly, fights with his sister and with us.  We managed to change this.  He now cleans up and is doing jobs and listens to us a lot more.”

“It was good to meet other parents and hear their experience and also we got good advice on communicating in general.”

“It provided me with the confidence to be a more responsible parent.”

Further information on planned “Evenings For Parents” is available from Micheal and Tess Mac Giolla Ri.  Tel. 0872444548 or email michael.tessmgr@yahoo.com


Bishop Kevin Doran with “Evenings for Parents” presenters Tess and Micheál Mac Giolla Rí