New approach to parenting classes – and new NFP course in Spanish
For more than a decade, parenting classes required by the archdiocese for couples bringing children into a marriage have been offered in large-group settings.
Starting in August, a new option will be available: one-on-one sessions provided by up to 75 trained couples across the archdiocese.
And a second, new effort in marriage preparation ministry – a new approach to natural family planning (NFP) courses in Spanish – started last year. That’s when Kristina Maldonado, a part-time staff member with the Archdiocese of Omaha’s Family Life Office, volunteered to provide a method titled Family of the Americas.
Both initiatives reflect the Family Life Office’s attempts to meet couples’ changing needs as they prepare for marriage, said Valerie Conzett, director.
For example, couples increasingly are aware of the challenges bringing children into a marriage can pose, and they want counseling specific to their concerns, she said. And in the NFP effort, offering additional courses in Spanish helps meet the needs of a growing Hispanic population in the archdiocese, Conzett said.
While the archdiocese’s four- to five-hour, large-group parenting classes teach effective ways to raise children, couples involved sometimes hesitated to ask follow-up questions specific to their situations, Conzett said. And in session evaluations, many couples suggested it would be helpful to have more personal counseling, she said.
"One-on-one is different than 20 to 25 couples coming together with generic educational sessions. Many did not want to get into really personal situations," she said.
Those personal situations can vary widely, from a man or woman bringing a young child into a marriage to older couples creating a new family among teenage or even adult children, said Peter Kennedy, manager of family life ministries. The one-on-one counseling sessions will help facilitators address couple’s needs head-on, he said. They also will be shorter, perhaps lasting up to two hours, instead of up to five hours, Kennedy said.
Facilitators of the one-on-one sessions often will be people already working in parishes with engaged couples on marriage preparation, Kennedy said.
The NFP method taught by Maldonado was founded in Guatemala, and it has been well-received by Hispanic communities in the archdiocese and around the country, Conzett said. It teaches couples through photos as well as words to understand women’s fertility cycles.
Thus far, Maldonado has given eight introductory sessions in Omaha, and 22 couples have participated. Half of those couples either have or plan to have at least three, individualized follow-up meetings to solidify their use of the method, said Maldonado, a specialist in marriage and family ministry.
The plan is to expand the program by having couples trained in the method teach it to others, she said.
Maldonado, who joined the staff in 2013, said she has been particularly pleased with the number of couples returning for multiple sessions, to be certain they fully understand the method. Unlike artificial contraception, natural family planning has no side effects, it promotes communication and it works with, rather than suppresses, women’s God-given fertility, Maldonado said.
"They’re learning to communicate with each other," she said of the couples. "Using contraceptives puts a barrier between couples – the church in her wisdom has shown us that."