FORT MCPHERSON, Ga. Aca,!" Children may not come with instruction booklets, but the Army Community Services Family Advocacy Program has a lot of information to provide a healthy blueprint for parenting.

"Children are amazing," said Anne Murray, parent education specialist for the ACS FAP. "You do what you can to mold them."

As a parent educator, Murray said her job is to help parents know how to help their children. Such help covers all areas of a baby's development, both inside and outside of the womb.

The parenting classes (see the schedule below for classes and times) are designed to help mothers, those planning, expecting and new, learn about their baby and provide them with steps to ensure their baby is as healthy as possible. Classes are also designed for fathers, with some classes, like the fatherhood group, designed specifically for dads.

Steve Bratton, an expecting father and school teacher, was one dad taking advantage of the classes offered. He, along with spouse, Capt. Ashley Bratton, executive officer for Army Central's Operation Protection Directorate, attended the Baby Care Workshop Jan. 31. Ashley is pregnant with their first child, a son, Barret, due April 9.

"We want our influence to be good," Steve said of his and Ashley's goal as parents.
So far, the couple has attended five classes.

"We just want to gain some general knowledge about pregnancy, birth and being a parent," Ashley said, adding the best information received so far was about what to expect during pregnancy. "It helps with eliminating some of the uncertainty in a very intimidating time, and gives you more confidence that you can handle whatever may come up."

The class the couple attended was designed to help them learn how to communicate with their child.

"Just because you don't speak their language doesn't mean they aren't communicating," Murray said. "The most important thing is you understand the baby. If you can read a baby, you can better respond."

Murray said a baby has five states of consciousness: deep sleep, rapid eye movement sleep, drowsy, quiet alert and active alert, and it is important to know what state they are in to be proactive instead of reactive.

"Parenting is a thinking profession," Murray said. "If you're only reacting to your baby, it is going to be tough."

Besides parenting classes, people can also learn about being good parents from their own parents.

"Look at your parents' skills. Look at what you want to emulate and what you don't want," Murray said.

Books are also available from many sources, including ACS and the Fort McPherson Post Library. The Brattons have been reading both "What to Expect When You're Expecting" and "Childbirth Without Fear."

From her own parenting experiences, Murray, a mother of five, said it is important to stay connected with your child's life.

"Responsible parents know who their child's friends are, who the parents of their friends are, their parents' values," she said.

By keeping in touch with a child's life, a parent is better able to build a relationship with them, as well as values, Murray said. These values, if proper, will help the child grow up to help contribute to society, she added.

Wondering how their child will grow up and how they will be as parents are exciting concepts for the Brattons.

"I think we both just look forward to getting to know our child and how we will actually end up being as parents," Ashley said. "I know everyone has this picture in mind about what a great parent they are going to be, and how they are going to be different than their parents. But you never know for sure until you're actually in that situation. We are really just excited about seeing what our son is going to be like and become."
Murray's most valuable piece of advice for the Brattons and other couples raising children is to provide unconditional love.

"None of us are perfect. None of us will be perfect. Be there for them through thick and thin," she said. "Treat your children with dignity, courtesy and respect and expect the same from them. Have patience in the growth process, relish and encourage every phase of development in a child's life and help him or her move from one to another."

"The classes have been a good experience for us," Ashley said. "We leave ACS every time saying that we have learned something new."

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16