Today, I reflect on the Skátne Ionkwatehiahróntie’ – “Our Families Grow Together” program in my community.
It was almost one year ago, I approached a good friend of mine at the Native Youth Sexual Health Network with an idea: “I want to run a parenting program for parent’s under the age of 25. I want to address the stigma we face as young parents and I want to create a space where we learn our traditional teachings with our children. I want to do it through art”
Having a background in Circle of Security Attachment parenting as well as formal training in Art Education gave me the confidence to dream the program, but being a young mother myself gave me the courage to chase it.
As young parents, we tend to be labeled as “failed”, “irresponsible”, or “unsuccessful”; there is stigma that follows us when we leave the house that sometimes affects our own confidence in parenting. Even in safe spaces like parenting groups or support groups, our needs and experiences tend . All of the sudden, becoming a young mom meant I no longer had access to sexual education or support resources for my age.
And I know I was not alone.
Together, we actively sought out funding and networking to create something unique for the other young mothers in the community; I wanted to create a space for us to grow together WITH our children–not just as people or parents, but as Kanienkeha’ka. I wanted to empower our young women and remind them of how important they are, not just to their little ones but to our whole community–to themselves.
Fast forward two phases, each lasting 10 weeks, we now have a group of young women actively learning their language, their traditions and their teachings through our relationships to the land and our culture.
Together, we explore healthy relationships, rites of passage, parenting struggles and life struggles through cultural knowledge.
Granted, curriculum planning, funding hunting and coordinating elders/knowledge keepers in the community is no easy feat, but I wouldn’t trade facilitating this program for the world.
Just hearing the young women share their stories in how they changed how they parent as well as relate to their children (and themselves!) is enough to keep the fire going.
Each of them have gifts and it is through programs like this one, that they are able to grow each of them.
Their little ones have a strong future ahead of them.