“Being a single parent is difficult,” said Elizabeth Hernandez of Salinas who struggled juggling parenting her two girls, Evelyn (4) and Esmeralda (14). The gap in age between her daughters made it difficult to focus on doing right by them, she admits; that’s when a counselor referred her to Partners For Peace for help.
“To be honest we're not raising the kids in the same kind of world we grew up in,” she said. “Everything is different, everything is virtual; it’s a totally different generation so I take all the help I can get.”
She joined the class series to meet other parents and build a support system. In the last two years, she has taken both the Parent Project® and Loving Solutions®. At the classes, Partners For Peace taught her that love and daily structure are important. It has helped her create an effective homework and bedtime schedule for her daughters.
As a result of her attending both programs, things have changed at home and her oldest daughter has been a straight A student for 2 years! This is a lot different than what she was experiencing prior to finding Partners For Peace.
“We're coming from constant truancy violations, so that's a big accomplishment for her,” Elizabeth said and added that she now has better communication with her teen daughter.
Elizabeth says she is able to teach her children a lesson without physical discipline. Her youngest daughter is also going to school and is proactive about homework and balances that with friendships.
Elizabeth says that the program is great and wants to thank the Facilitators at Partners For Peace for everything they have taught her, the support they provided and the safe space for her to be able to open up.
For Elizabeth, this program has taught her that life is an ongoing learning experience. “Sometimes you have to change things in order for them to keep working for you,” she said. “Just the same way as children grow, we have to grow as parents.”
Participating in the programs was transformative for Elizabeth. She enjoyed the teachings so much that she decided to train to become a Facilitator. This month, she started working with Partners For Peace as a facilitator for the Parent Project®.
“I can help other people with the same problems I had to overcome,” she said. “Being a single parent is hard and one lesson I learned was to let go of toxic relationships - I completely changed my whole life for my kids.”
For Fernando Martinez, 36, of Salinas attending workshops offered by Partners For Peace has been a blessing in his family of three. He is married to Brenda Lizet Zuniga and they have one son, 11-year-old Mateo Sahid Martinez Zuniga.
Martinez attended an information session at Boronda Middle School and came across the Partners For Peace table; that is how he was introduced to its wonderful programs.
Fernando became really interested in Loving Solutions. He decided to sign up because his son’s emotional well-being means a lot to him. In addition, him and his wife are contemplating adoption and so they want to learn to be the best parents they can be.
“We don’t have an instructions’ manual and sometimes we need guidance or support, basically someone else’s help,” he said. Due to his work schedule, he was not able to complete Loving Solutions the first time, but he returned the second time and he was able to go all the way – this time, classes were completely virtual.
Things have changed in this household. Fernando admits that he used to be more flexible with his son; for example, if he did not want to do something it would be fine. Now, he feels he is firmer and there are consequences if rules are not followed. “We have always been affectionate with our son,” he said. “We always tell him ‘I love you,’ ‘good morning,’ ‘take care.’”
Fernando and Brenda are so thankful that programs like these at Partners For Peace exist. They agree that new parents or parents who are having problems with their children, should sign up as soon as possible because each lesson teaches important tools to benefit children’s growth.
“Sometimes we aren't educated enough about how to tell our kids that we love them and this program helps us tremendously to remind us that we have to do it,” said Fernando. “It is really important.”
They look forward to participating in other workshops because they feel continuous education in parenting will only make them better in everything that they do.
While browsing through her Facebook feed last March, Karla Jimenez, 35, came across an ad for upcoming workshops offered by Partners For Peace in collaboration with Monterey County Behavioral Health. This mother of four (14, 9, 4, and 1) was drawn to Loving Solutions workshops and called to enquire immediately. The 30-minute sessions delivered virtually each week, served as a nice introduction to the program and on how to become a more loving and involved parent.
Jimenez, a Soledad resident, was already in therapy due to depression and anxiety after having her baby girl. “For some reason I was rejecting my little girl,” she admits. “I have three boys and I guess I was not ready for a girl in the household.” Her therapist recommended her to look for other programs in the county that could help her.
“I took the classes to change myself, not to change my children but to help myself,” she said. “With Partners for Peace, I now listen to my children, I understand them, and know what their needs are.”
Karla used to be strict, harsh, and cold with her children. With Parent Project, Jr. © - Loving Solutions, she learned to show emotion and love to her children. She was so excited to continue learning that her next step was to sign up for the Parent Project Sr. ©. Her goal was to be a better mom for her older boys as well. She wanted them to know that she was on their side.
“My family went from being on the edge of a cliff to now being a solid family unit,” she said. “We are not at 100% just yet, but we are so close; I see it in me and I see it in my children.”
For her, the investment in time doing the workshops was well worth it and she is thankful to Partners For Peace for the great work they do to bring families together. She is particularly thankful for Program Manager Leticia Molinero and facilitators Mirna, Esmeralda, Hernan, and Pascuala.
“God bless them and that they continue to have the strength to keep helping and supporting more parents,” Karla said. “I feel the support from them; they know that parents are not perfect and they help us. They help us to try to be the best for our kids.”
(In photo, Karla with sons Santiago, Diego, Fermin and daughter Camila)
Rosa Ruiz of Salinas came to Partners For Peace under the advice of a police officer due to communication challenges with her 16-year-old son. She was having problems with her son and felt that she needed professional help in order to help him and herself.
She also has a nine-year-old daughter and it is her goal to set a good foundation for her as well. Rosa signed up for the Parent Project® and found the help she was looking for. She went through the 10-week program and found it to be transformative.
She realized in her first session that changes needed to happen and knew the program would become the support she needed in order to succeed. She often found herself coming home from work – tired and stressed – and she would unload all of that negative energy on her son. As she continued taking classes, she realized that she needed to change first, so he could change too.
In the workshops, which were given online (virtual), she learned that her son needed more attention from her; which led her to take action and soon after she decided to adjust her work schedule in order to provide quality time for her children. After going through the Parent Project®, Rosa sees and feels the difference in her relationship with her children, especially with her son. “He talks more, he lets me give him a hug, he hugs me,” she said. “These are things that he did not like to do before; he would reject me.”
Rosa would like to thank facilitators Hernan Chavez and Pascuala Rios because they have helped her enormously. Her son continues to receive professional support, which she believes is helping him, especially in their mother-son relationship.
“I have taken other parenting classes in the past,” she admits. “But the workshops for the Parent Project® at Partners For Peace were the ones to really help me and my son.”
She feels satisfied, happy, and thankful for Partners For Peace. “I strongly recommend the program,” Rosa said.