Oklahoma State University-Tulsa has established Oklahoma’s University for Parents, a statewide initiative to help Oklahoma families strengthen parent-child relationships and build positive parenting skills.
OK-UP will host its inaugural event at 6 p.m. on May 9 in the OSU-Tulsa Auditorium with a showing of the documentary ‘ScreenAgers,’ a film praised for its examination of how digital technology affects child development and parenting.
“OK-UP is one of the first parenting initiatives of its kind in Oklahoma,” said Dr. Amanda Morris, George Kaiser Family Foundation Endowed Chair in Child Development and professor of human development and family science at OSU-Tulsa. “Our goal is to meet a critical need for parenting education through community outreach.”
Morris and Dr. Michael Criss, OSU associate professor of human development and family science, are leaders of the effort. OK-UP services will first roll out in the Tulsa area and eventually expand statewide.
Parenting groups will be led by OSU faculty and trained facilitators and will include live presentations, videos, panel discussions and networking among families. Topics include discipline tools, school readiness, building positive parent-child relationships, stress management, family routines, finances and family resilience.
“Parents, particularly those from disadvantaged socioeconomic backgrounds, often struggle raising their children as they deal with exposure to poverty, financial insecurity, family instability, lack of social support and violence outside the home,” said Dr. Martha Zapata Roblyer, research scientist in the Child and Adolescent Development Lab at OSU-Tulsa and OK-UP project coordinator. “These factors contribute to chronic stress in the family and sometimes lead to child neglect and abuse.”
According to the 2015 Kids Count report, nearly a quarter of Tulsa County children live in poverty.
“During the past few years, state and federal funding for education, health and social services that traditionally provide a safety net for disadvantaged families has decreased considerably,” said Morris. “A significant proportion of parents in Oklahoma would benefit from a free program that provides them effective discipline strategies and helps them establish a social support system.”
OK-UP has partnered with Tulsa Public Schools, Greenwood Cultural Center, Catholic Charities and Teach Not Punish. The initiative is sponsored by Oklahoma State University’s Department of Human Development and Family Science and the Oklahoma Cooperative Extension with funds provided by the George Kaiser Family Foundation.
Using the Active Parenting™ curricula, OK-UP will host events and offer specialized parenting classes throughout the community. The initiative targets all parents of children from infants to teenagers.
Faculty affiliated with the Department of Human Development and Family Science and the Center for Family Resilience at OSU-Tulsa, OSU-Tulsa graduate students and OSU Extension educators will volunteer as facilitators for parenting groups and community workshops.
In addition to the documentary screening, OSU-Tulsa also will provide a light dinner starting at 5:30 p.m. and host a panel discussion about the film. The event is free and open to the public.