Supporting Parents To Help Children Thrive

Legacy (Legado) families celebrating graduation.

Parents are the frontline public health workers–they nurture and support, supervise and teach healthy habits, make sure their child is safe and supported in their community, and help their child get the education and health care they need. Parenting can present many joys and challenges. For parents who don’t have many resources, these challenges may be harder to tackle. Parents may need help facing those challenges. Learn how CDC helps parents get the support and information they need.

Parents play a critical role in a child’s brain development. They are their children’s first teachers and prepare them for increased independence. As the child grows and develops, there are many things parents can do to help their child. CDC provides tips to help parents learn more about positive parenting and their child’s development, safety, and health at each stage of their child’s life. Parents can track their child’s developmental milestones and act early if there is a concern.

I don’t care how big your child is, we always need information. It is not just for babies but for older kids. Because they grow and we keep needing information because when they become an adolescent and they start being rebels, we don’t know what to do with them.

– A Legacy mom

A Legacy mother reading to her child during mother-child time.

Legacy for Children™—supporting mothers

Parents need information, but they also need support. Parents often turn to each other for information and support, but not all parents have access to what they need. Legacy for Children™ (Legacy) is a group intervention for mothers and children to help children from families with few financial resources grow and learn. The goals of Legacy are to

  • Support sensitive, responsive mother-child relationships;
  • Help mothers feel good about themselves in their role as parents; and
  • Foster relationships among mothers so that they can support each other.

Legacy works toward these goals through several avenues: group meetings where mothers can talk with each other and a group leader; mother-child time where they can practice skills; one-on-one sessions with the group leader to talk about individual mothers’ needs; and participation in community events. Learn more about the Legacy program. Legacy was developed through studies at two research sites: Miami, Florida and Los Angeles, California. Learn more about the research behind Legacy.

Legacy has been used in many different communities, while studies continue to collect information about how the program works and how it could be improved. Mothers who participate in Legacy express interest in learning about how children develop and how to improve their parenting skills, and value the support they receive from the group leaders and other mothers. However, attending a parenting group that meets weekly for 3 years can be very challenging for mothers due to work schedules, family responsibilities, and problems finding transportation to attend the group meetings.

For me it is appropriate for all the cultures. Because I want to do something different for my children. I feel it is appropriate because it is education. Education is welcome because it is good for us to learn new things on how to educate our children.

– A Legacy mom

Legacy—reaching across language barriers

Legacy‘s promise among primarily English-speaking mothers has motivated efforts for translation and cultural adaptation as a way to reach more families. Recently, Legacy was translated into Spanish to reach mothers who have less access to information and support due to language barriers. Mothers who attend these groups in their preferred language report learning a lot about their child’s development, interacting more openly with their child, and feeling more confident as parents. Like many other Legacy participants, these mothers also report that finding transportation and time can make it difficult to attend group meetings. Mothers who primarily speak Spanish in the home report additional challenges; more so than fluently English-speaking mothers, they report feeling socially isolated. Many expressed appreciation for the opportunity that the Legacy (or Legado in Spanish) groups provide to connect with other mothers, to improve their relationship with their child, and for their child to socialize with other children.

Legacy mothers talking with their children during creative play with shaving cream.

Legacy—empowering mothers

It is important to note that Legacy does not tell mothers how to raise their children. The group sessions encourage exploration, discussion, and trying a variety of ideas and practices that have led to positive results, allowing mothers to decide what is right for themselves and their children.

This is good because they have their space and we are more focused on them. In our house, we are doing chores, doing things and we don’t focus just on them. Here we are talking directly to the baby, singing to the baby; that is why I say here is good.

– A Legacy mom

Legacy was built on the philosophy that

  • Parents can have a positive influence on their child’s development, even when they are facing other big problems in their lives;
  • The quality of the parent-child relationship is more important than any one parenting practice;
  • There is no one “right” way to parent;
  • Successful parenting involves thoughtful decisions and a sense of responsibility for the child; and
  • Parents can best develop and sustain a commitment to responsibility when they belong to a community of parents who share that sense of parental responsibility.

Legacy—a piece of the puzzle

Parents need help as they support their own child’s mental and physical health and well-being, and CDC works to fill the gaps. Legacy is one approach that public health can use to help families thrive. Parenting groups can help, but they are only one piece of the puzzle. Different communities may benefit from different approaches to meet unique needs and build on unique assets.

Legacy is also only one piece of the puzzle because it is designed for mothers. Fathers need support as well. Based on what we know, mothers and fathers parent and build community in different ways, and fathers may benefit from a different approach. And many more people can play the role of parent in a child’s life—such as grandparents, relatives, guardians, and other caregivers. Further research could help us understand how this type of program might be changed to help other caregivers who are helping children grow and learn.

CDC’s Resources for Parents and Caregivers

References

So M, Almeida Rojo AL, Robinson LR, Hartwig SA, Heggs Lee AR, Beasley LO, Silovsky JF, Morris AS, Stiller Titchener K, Zapata M (2020). Parent engagement in an original and culturally adapted evidence-based parenting program, Legacy for Children™. Infant Mental Health Journal. Published online April 10, 2020. https://doi.org/10.1002/imhj.21853external icon

Kotzky K, Robinson LR, Almeida Rojo AL, Stanhope K, Beasley LO, Esparza I, Silovsky JF, Morris AS (2020). Supporting early brain development through parenting: A qualitative evaluation of changes in knowledge and practice among Spanish-speaking mothers participating in Legacy for Children™. Journal of Child and Family Studies. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10826-020-01749-7external icon

Beasley LO, Silovsky JF, Espeleta HC, Robinson LR, Hartwig SA, Morris AS, Esparza I (2017). Legacy for Children™: A qualitative study of cultural congruency for Spanish-speaking mothers. Children and Youth Services Review. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.childyouth.2017.06.022external icon

Beasley LO, King C, Esparza I, Harnden A, Robinson LR, So M, Morris AS, Silovsky JF (in press). Understanding initial and sustained engagement of Spanish-speaking Latina mothers in the Legacy for Children™ program: A qualitative examination of a group-based parenting program. Early Childhood Research Quarterly.