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Developed in response to a recent Iowa parent survey conducted by the nonprofit Worldmaker International, the organization is providing free resilience education this month to Eastern Iowa families. The Pandemic Parenting project is funded by a 2020 CARES Act grant.

According to the more than 580 parent survey responses, parents reported that their top challenges are supporting their child's social and emotional well-being, dealing with changes in schooling, and managing their child's screen time. Parents indicated high levels of overwhelm with 80% asking for help learning how to manage stress and prevent burnout. While 50% of parents indicated that they want to learn resilience and coping strategies, nearly as many (45%) said that they would use this information to support family and others.

In response to the survey, the Pandemic Parenting program is designed to provide immediate relief. It delivers brief videos with practical strategies to help parents manage stress and respond to their child's social and emotional health needs. Each 20 minute video includes an interactive workbook. The program is supported by an online resource library of age-appropriate resilience tools.

Stephanie Neff, Director of Wellness and Community Partnerships for the Cedar Rapids Community School District, joined the program development team after a positive experience with staff resilience training after the derecho. "We received overwhelmingly positive feedback after more than 1,400 of our staff participated in WorldMaker's Educator THRIVE program. There is no doubt that this new Pandemic Parenting program, as a collaboration between researchers and parents, will provide timely insight and tools for all adults who care for children." Neff emphasized that additional program supports are being created as needs are identified, "We recently added weekly facilitated sessions for our parents, allowing them to connect with experts and other parents to ask questions and share ideas."

Program development is overseen by Dr. Mollie Marti, a psychologist and parent from Iowa. The Worldmaker organization grew from work Marti started a decade ago after her community lost three teens by suicide. The research-based THRIVE Model that she developed serves as the foundation for the program.

"Many families feel like the hits just keep coming. With recovery from the derecho disaster added to the stress of the pandemic and demands of working and schooling from home, our local families need help now," said Marti. "This program provides practical ways to adapt and grow through these challenges, step by step. Our ultimate goal is to help parents create a home environment where each person within the family can thrive."

Program coordinator Kristen Hayes encourages parents to start with whichever module is most needed at the time. "The website provides a detailed overview so a parent can log in for 15 or 20 minutes and get some relief and tools. Some modules focus on helping adults improve their own wellness while others equip them to support their kids."

Funded by a 2020 CARES Act ECR grant, project partners include a parent taskforce, the Cedar Rapids Community School District, and Keystone Area Education Agency. The program is available at no cost until December 30, 2020 to residents of Benton, Bremer, Buchanan, Delaware, Dubuque, Iowa, Johnson, Jones, and Linn Counties.

To register for Pandemic Parenting, go to www.worldmakerinternational.org/pandemicparenting.

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