What to Know About Parenting Classes

Medically Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on August 05, 2022
4 min read

There’s no one way to prepare to be a parent. Understanding developmental milestones and perfecting your discipline style is challenging in even the best cases. These concerns are essential if you’ve never been around babies or children. If you want to know more about how to prepare, consider enrolling in a local parenting class. Parent education classes give adults a set of reliable skills and research-based information about raising children. Learn more about how to find the right parenting class in the following guide.

While looking forward to loving your future child and getting to know their unique personality, you might benefit from parent education activities. Experts will, for example, train you how to soothe a newborn, discipline a toddler, or deal with issues kids commonly have in elementary school. Getting more information will only benefit you if you’re a new parent or need support handling your child’s behavior. 

If you’re in one or more of the following categories, consider taking a parenting class to aid you in safeguarding your child’s mental health.

  • First-time parents-to-be of a newborn.
  • Parents of an older child with behavioral needs or a new diagnosis you don't understand.
  • Parents who wish to learn new skills.
  • Grandparents, extended family, or people who regularly care for your child.
  • Foster parents who wish to forge a bond with their new foster children.

Parent education classes help people develop the skills necessary for disciplining kids, offering them support and helping them to grow as people. These classes also help prevent child abuse and poor treatment of children.

Educational sessions support the family and build community. The skills parents learn help them interact healthily with their children and the rest of the family. They also foster strong communication with others involved in their children’s lives, such as teachers, social workers, and mental health counselors.

Parenting classes also introduce parents to a community they may not otherwise encounter. A class allows you to share your worries and concerns with other parents-to-be. For example, if your child was just diagnosed with autism, you’ll meet others facing the same medical and educational journey. Or if your foster child experienced trauma in a previous home, you might be able to share tips and advice with other foster families.

Adults in the United States today typically live with their nuclear families. They don’t have the extended network of grandparents, aunts, uncles, and in-laws to rely upon for childcare advice. Parenting classes fill this knowledge gap by providing targeted advice for your child’s current needs.

What you learn in a parenting class depends upon the type of class you’re taking and the age and needs of your child. If you’re a first-time parent, you might wish to choose a general parenting class that covers the basics of what a newborn needs. Basics include feeding, sleep, and infant mental health. Suppose you’re dealing with a specific behavioral challenge or a unique life situation. In that case, it’s best to look for a parenting educator who intentionally serves your demographic. The following includes examples of what you'll learn in a parenting class:

  • How to soothe a newborn who cries at nighttime
  • How to decrease aggressive behavior in your elementary schooler.
  • How to empathize with your child more effectively.
  • How to practice positive parenting to prevent developmental issues in at-risk children.
  • How to bond with your adopted or foster children.
  • How to parent a child when your partner or spouse is in prison.
  • How to overcome your trauma to be a better parent.

Parenting classes aren’t one-size-fits-all. As you work to select the right parenting class for you, the following considerations may help guide you.

Consider the age and needs of your child. It may be too early to take a class about toddler tantrums if you haven’t given birth yet. Alternatively, you don’t want to register for a session that involves discipline if the instruction doesn’t account for your foster child’s traumatic past. Focus on finding a class for your child’s age and developmental stage while concentrating on learning how to meet their current needs.

Factor in relevant diagnoses. If your goal is to learn more about parenting a child with autism or another neurodivergent diagnosis, the skills learned in a regular class might help you expand your parental tool kit. For example, parents of children with autism can choose to learn behavioral therapy tactics, play therapy, and sensory skills. Such training will help parents navigate their child’s behavior and the expectations of their role in their child’s life.

Think about what you want to learn. Do you need to learn specific skills for when your child has challenging behavior? Maybe you’re feeling insecure about soothing your newborn and want to sign up for parenting classes for new parents. Perhaps you struggle to talk to your foster child about their past. Use the gaps in your knowledge to help in your search for the right parenting class.

No single class can teach you everything you need to know about your child. However, enough similarities exist between children at specific developmental stages that parental education activities and tips will benefit your family. Speak to your doctor or contact a local community center to learn more and find available classes near you.