Parents and tots learning together

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Heather Killen
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Family Matters Resource Centre offers support to young families

Melanie and Brigitte play with Cooper, Natika, and Mahingan during the Parent Time session held in Middleton on Thursday mornings.

Thanks to the programs offered by Families Matters Annapolis County Family Resource Centre, young families can find a home away from home.

Brigitte Deveau, mother of two (and expecting a third), said they moved to Annapolis from Yarmouth after her husband was accepted into the two-year Sustainable Energies program at the Nova Scotia Community College.

When the young family packed up their belongings two years ago, they left behind their support network of friends and family and at first it was a little lonely in the new town. But when Deveau started taking her children to the Family Matters play groups, she said she found a home away from home.

Like any young mother she was experiencing feelings of isolation and now living in a new community, this struggle was even more difficult, she said. Family Matters is a Lawrencetown-based resource center dedicated to supporting families and children with various programs and services, including the playgroups, delivered in communities throughout Annapolis County.

Family Matters offers a variety of programs for young families in Annapolis County through satellite locations in Bridgetown, Middleton, Annapolis Royal, Wilmot and Cornwallis.

“Not every county has this kind of support system,” she said. “It’s an excellent program. I don’t know if people realize what they have here isn’t just everywhere, it’s special.”

She said she first heard about the playgroups one day while they were still living in Bridgetown. She was talking to another mother at the playground at Jubilee Park when she was invited to one of the Parent Time sessions.

Parent Time, a weekly support program for parents and caregivers, offers the chance to learn new parenting skills, connect with other families and access resources. 

Other organized playgroups are geared towards other specific more needs and ages. Circle of Friends is a weekly interactive early learning playgroup for children aged from birth - six years with parents/caregivers.  Each session is lead by an early childhood educator and includes lots of learning activities. 

The Mother Goose playgroup for mothers and babies is based around songs and rhymes and stories. Curious Kids is offered to children aged 18 months to school age, while Kindergarten Kids is a weekly school-readiness program helping to prepare children for the classroom. This group encourages skills such listening, sitting quietly at a table, waiting for turns, and learning cooperation.

Many new mothers struggle with feelings of depression and isolation and the playgroups can offer support in a variety of ways, Deveau added.  On the one hand, caregivers support each other while their children develop their own friendships. 

The groups give caregivers and children an opportunity to have fun while learning together. Deveau said that during her first visit to the playgroup, she met another young family from Yarmouth and immediately felt at home with the group.

The Family Resource Centre brings in special speakers to host workshops on a variety of topics relating to nutrition, health and parenting. So while the children are learning new skills, the parents are also building their own confidence.

Deveau said aside from these weekly playgroups, Family Matters organizes and offers affordable events and trips for families. She and her family will not forget their visits to Oaklawn Farm in Aylesford, or the time they visited the corn maze in Wilmot.

There were fun group get-togethers such as trips to the library, tea parties and Christmas dinners, that Deveau says she’ll miss attending. Now that her husband is graduating, the young family will move back to Yarmouth.

 “I’ve made new friends that I plan to stay in touch with after I leave,” she said. “I’m really going to miss it, these groups have been a part of my life for a year and a half.

“These groups are a great way to learn about the communities and what resources are here and introduce the children to places and activities they may not otherwise see and do.”

For more information on Family Matters playgroups and other programs, visit http://www.family-matters.ca/

Organizations: Nova Scotia Community College, Family Matters, Family Resource Centre Annapolis Royal

Geographic location: Annapolis County, Yarmouth, Bridgetown Jubilee Park Aylesford

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