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Girls learn from instructor, each other in parenting class at Oklahoma City's Emerson Alternative High School

Emerson High School offers a parenting class for girls who are new or expecting moms. Students graduated from the program Wednesday.
BY CARRIE COPPERNOLL Modified: February 27, 2013 at 9:02 pm •  Published: February 28, 2013

In a small library crowded with books, Stephanie Brill talks to young moms about how to take care of their babies.

Brill answers questions and clears up rumors and misinformation. Are boys harder to potty train? Is it true that girls mature more quickly? Does teething in older children cause aggression? Do babies really know what their parents are saying?

“Words can shape the way a child feels,” Brill said.

Brill is an instructor with Family Builders, a nonprofit group that teaches a free class called “Parenting the Young Child” to pregnant girls and young mothers attending Emerson Alternative High School in northwest Oklahoma City.

The program began in October and wrapped up Wednesday. It's funded by a grant from the Potts Family Foundation designed to educate parents of young children.

“This first session is really kind of a pilot,” said Laura Gamble, executive director of Family Builders. “It seems to be successful. The girls are enjoying it. They're getting some good training, good skills.”

The students give up their lunch time to come once a week. The group is fluid. Some come and go because of maternity leave. Others have to stay home with sick children.

Posters listing questions about potty training were taped to the front wall of the library.

Other posters list the girls' ideas for how to nurture their children: Hugging and holding your child. Not calling your baby names. Spending time together. Reading. Singing. Modeling respect.

“We throw around these vague terms, like everybody in the world knows what they mean,” Brill said. “‘I want to be a better parent.' Well, what does that mean? What does that look like?”

During a recent class, Brill talked to the girls about potty training. They asked her how they would know it was time.

“Kids are different,” Brill said. “Be attuned to who your child is and accommodate that.”

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