As a first-time parent in 2017, I found that returning to work after my parental leave meant parting ways with more than just my infant. It also meant leaving behind my parenting support group and the parent-infant programs we participated in. When Snowpocalypse 2018 happened, I remember being home with my then-toddler and feeling incapable of being the parent I wanted to be. Like many modern parents, I hadn’t grown up in a large family, I hadn’t babysat since “Barney” was on the air, and no one had encouraged me to take Parenting 101 in college. Apparently, I had been prepared to be a professional and not a parent. I knew my instincts had value, but I felt deficient in experience and support. I yearned to return to the parenting group, but my work schedule wouldn’t allow for it.
Fast-forward to summer 2020. I’m working from home and decide to spend my lunch hour each Monday in an online parenting course through Hand in Hand Parenting. It was like having a blood transfusion. In a matter of weeks, my relationship with my daughter and my confidence as a parent feel restored.
Fast-forward another year, and my son is born. The parenting programs I’d had to abandon upon returning to work in 2017 are now available to us fully online, and research says this modality is just as effective as in-person classes. Talk about a pandemic silver lining! Virtual options are now making parent education more accessible to all of us, or at least to those of us who don’t love spending our 2.5 seconds of free time each week sitting in traffic and parallel parking.
But that’s not all. While online parent education is not entirely new, the local scene is undergoing a renaissance, becoming more inclusive and expansive on multiple fronts. More options have opened up at low or no cost; Program for Early Parent Support (PEPS), for example, now has a wonderfully simplified sliding-scale pay structure and offers programming for parents of teens as well as affinity groups for LGBTQ parents, single parents and others. Programs that lead with racial equity, such as Families of Color Seattle, are finally out at the forefront where they belong. And long-established institutions such as the University of Washington are spinning out events (many of them for free) that better represent the broader community.
Here is a roundup of new offerings from key players in local parent education, along with favorites from throughout the United States.
Around the sound: Local leaders in online parent education
In its own words: “Sound Discipline offers parenting workshops in a relaxing, fun environment. All of our parenting workshops are currently offered online. You can choose to attend a two-hour introduction class or a four-week series. Parents build community and participate in activities designed to help them understand themselves, deepen an understanding of their children, and bring more peace and joy into the home.”
Online options: Most workshops/events are currently offered online.
Pricing: While most are fee-based, some workshops are free. Sound Discipline often partners with local organizations that will cover costs so that its members may attend for free.
The workshop recommendation of workshop recommendations: “Teaching Parenting the Positive Discipline Way” is a renowned workshop with an international following.
Age range: Relevant for parents of children ages 0–18
Testimonials: “I think this is the only parenting class I have taken where I felt empowered and not riddled with guilt afterward.”
“In my five-year journey with Sound Discipline, I’ve come to appreciate the deep inequity in our school system and the powerful transformation that is challenging, but possible, through Sound Discipline’s integrated, relationship-based program.”
In its own words: “We are committed to serving as a resource and partner in promoting the well-being of children and families through evidence-based programs, workshops and courses.”
Online options: Most workshops and events are currently offered on Zoom.
Pricing: Drop-in sessions are free and open to the public. See the full list on the website.
Age ranges: Varies by event/workshop. Some workshops cover topics related to parenting children and teens, while others are oriented toward parental self-care and education.
Retreat-like topics: I’m breathing easier just reading the titles of these workshops: “Nature & Nurturing: Parenting With Your Child’s Temperament in Mind,” “Rooted in Compassion,” and “Cultivating the Mind-Body Connection.”
In its own words: “Families of Color Seattle (FOCS) is a nonprofit organization that is connecting parents to build a loving community of families of color. Founded in 2013, FOCS is led by mothers of color. Our programs include parent groups, community resources and events, and racial equity consulting. … We equip parents and educators with tools to talk with children on identity, racism, inclusion and equity, and trauma-informed practices.”
Online options: Affinity group programs for parents of newborns, waddlers and children of multiple ages meet virtually for 8–10 weeks. Virtual consultations/presentations for the broader community are also available.
Workshops that wow: FOCS presentations on anti-racist parenting techniques are worth every penny. The organization delivers pre- and post-presentation materials and provides an interactive workshop that will get you thinking, talking and acting.
Pricing: Participation in affinity groups is free to families.
Ages: Offerings for parents with infants, waddlers or children of multiple ages are available.
Testimonial: “As new parents of a young infant, we thought it was imperative that we connect with other parents of color on parenting, social justice and community [topics]. Having the ability to be exposed to other cultures, opinions and backgrounds has really benefited us as a family. FOCS is the bridge of those relationships, conversations and experiences.”
In its own words: “Since 1983, the Program for Early Parent Support (PEPS), a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, has helped parents connect and grow as they begin their journey into parenthood. PEPS’ parent support programs educate, inform and create community.”
Online options: All groups are now virtual.
Not just for babies anymore: PEPS may have been born in the ’80s, but it’s still hip! The organization has expanded its traditional infant-parent groups to run the range of development from expectant parent through parenting teens. PEPS also now offers affinity groups for families with children with developmental needs, LGBTQ families and single parents.
Pricing: PEPS offers flexible pricing, ranging from $0 to $399, depending upon your financial circumstances and the program you are choosing.
Age range: Prenatal–teen
Testimonial: “[Parenting is] a difficult journey, but it gets easier if you have a support network. If you don’t have a support network, then create it. ... I am not from around here — I’m from Argentina — so my community is far away. PEPS allowed me to build my village in Seattle, and three years after our first meeting, our group remains strongly connected with not only our first kids growing together but also our second kids starting to interact.”
In its own words: “These parenting classes incorporate the latest research in ways that touch both the head and the heart. Classes are designed for the ages of your children. You’ll hear real-life stories that make the ideas come alive. You’ll be able to apply what you are learning immediately with your own kids.”
Online options: Once you register for an online parenting class, you can start immediately. The classes take about eight hours to complete. Go at your own pace. You will be invited to join a monthly group coaching call for the first three months. You will receive a certificate of completion at the end.
Pricing: All of the above is included for $89.
Age range: Courses are broken up into three age groups: 0–5, 6–12, 13–18.
Fun fact: Founder Kathy Slattengren is a Seattleite and a mother of two.
National leaders in online parent education
In its own words: “There is a growing body of research and evidence that makes clear that children’s racial sensibilities begin to form in infancy, that almost all children develop racial and other biases by kindergarten, and that those biases become fairly entrenched by adolescence. And yet, most national organizations dedicated to children’s racial learning direct their resources mainly to middle- and high-school educators. There are too few resources for young children available for parents, grandparents or other caregivers, or for early childhood educators. EmbraceRace helps fill that gap.”
Topics so fresh: The folks at EmbraceRace show up with relevancy and courage. Webinars explore topics such as “Why & How to Talk to Young Kids About Race,” “Asian Americans, Racism and Anti-Racism in the COVID Era” and “RaceTalk Among White Families Post-Floyd. Now What?”
Pricing: Free. Of course, it’s good to donate if you can!
Age range: While EmbraceRace is filling the gap in race-based education for parents of the 0–12 crowd, its topics reach into the teens and beyond.
In its own words: “Peace at Home Parenting Solutions is passionate about helping parents raise confident, resilient children from prenatal development through young adulthood. Our diverse experts translate research into practical tools that parents use to solve problems and increase cooperation while inviting more joy into family life. Classes, conversations, coaching and community connections are facilitated from the heart by seasoned specialists who can answer questions on the spot.”
Online options: All content is presented online and includes live classes, on-demand recordings and a video solutions series. Hay clases en español también.
Pricing: Courses are free. If you’d like to add personalized coaching, this is a fee-based service.
Every topic under the sun: By far the most comprehensive of all the resources I know of, Peace at Home has a vast catalog of courses to choose from as well as a well-rounded, highly credentialed crew of teachers and coaches.
Age range: Relevant for every stage of a parent’s journey
Testimonials: “Truly life-changing webinar. I even went home and bragged about it to my friends and family.”
In its own words: “Hand in Hand Parenting helps parents when parenting gets hard. The Hand in Hand parenting approach builds resilient families and supportive communities of parents and professionals.”
Online options: Classes and support groups with built-in coaching are offered. Most classes are in a series and are fee-based. Articles and prerecorded videos are available for free on the website.
Not just a workshop: It’s the combination of the course with the personalized instruction and coaching that distinguishes Hand in Hand. Two years after I took the Hand in Hand Starter Class, I still say that it has made a lasting impact on my parenting abilities.
Age range: 0–18
Testimonial: “Your method … helped us connect with [our child] during a critical time in her development when she could have easily become more isolated and disinterested in other people.”
As they say in Positive Discipline courses, “Practice makes better.” May these resources help you gain perspective and confidence in your parenting practice and help you to become the parent you want to be, more often than not.