Nurturing care is essential for human health, growth, resilience and flourishing. Nurturing care is an irreducible need for children’s health, growth and development, and parents are the primary, though not the only, source of a child’s nurturing. This means that parents and parenting are determinants of child health.
As we recover and heal from the pandemic and navigate an increasingly complex world, nurturing care is more important than ever. Yet, parents are depleted.
Parents have been depleted from their efforts to navigate the multiple stresses of the pandemic The safety of social distancing caused isolation and cut parents off from the health of their social and emotional support networks. Parents had the added labor of constantly toggling between reaction-mode parenting and searching for parenting advice to help them through. The online parenting advice exploded making survival possible and also more challenging than ever.
Many parents worked in person without the time or resources to dedicate to searching for parenting advice. Parents fortunate enough to have the resources to search online exhausted themselves sifting online advice and returning again and again for still more clarification and different sources.
Nurturing parents means that we offer parents resources that replenish them instead of add stress. Nourishing parent knowledge with broad, research-based information that fits their situation is ultimately more effective than the variety of quick-fixes that drive constant searching and fine-tuning. Sustaining, thoughtful encouragement for parents to use effective skills is more helpful than parents putting effort into one-size-fits-all advice that doesn’t fit, through no fault of their own. We know how to nurture parents so that their efforts lead to child and family flourishing.
Communities are critical partners in nurturing parents because they’re well-positioned to help parents build strong social ties with each other. The existence and strength of these ties social ties help form an outer concentric ring of nurturing relationships that begin with the communities, transfer to and among parents, then into families where the children are the ultimate beneficiaries. This outer ring of connection for parents is an essential resource for parents. When parents find connection and belonging inside these rings, their children and families flourish.
Nurturings is a different kind of parenting resource that delivers research-infused parenting tools to parents at the community level with an aim to spark cycles of flourishing for children, families and communities.
Nurturings is centered around three health-giving relationships:
- Children can only flourish when their parents have the social, emotional and informational resources and support to provide effective nurturing. [8, 9, 18, 28, 31, 33, 34, 40, 46, 53, 55, 56, 64, 65]
- Parents most effectively learn and feel able to use healthy parenting skills when they are connected in a wider circle of nurturing, social relationships. [2, 6,15, 20, 41, 44 54, 55, 58] Online parenting advice can inadvertently increase stress by encouraging frequent interaction with multiple shallow relationships and opinions that don’t promote effective parenting. [23, 26, 27,37, 38, 60, 63]
- Wider circles of nurturing social relationships are resources that communities can provide for parents. Building and encouraging health-giving relationships with families can spark cycles of flourishing. [5, 7, 8, 16, 26, 36, 61, 62, 67]
Parents are depleted, children’s outcomes have declined, but there is hope.
Parents, and their parenting skills, are the primary determinants of child health and parents are depleted. [48, 49] Parents face unique stresses under normal conditions and these last years have been chaotic and destabilizing, especially for families.  Families have scrambled for resources including parenting advice and they’ve been on their own as never before in an epic struggle to avoid a downward spiral for themselves and their children.
Family resilience and positive childhood experiences decline while adverse childhood experiences rise when parents don’t have access to healthy parenting resources. Parent stress transfers to children directly and indirectly through parent illness, absence and less healthy parenting and disrupts and undermines healthy child development. These situations are linked to negative short-term and lifelong consequences in education and health. [10, 12, 19, 50]
Parent health and child health and education challenges have already shown critical strains [11, 29, 35, 45] despite a seemingly infinite availability of online parenting advice. It’s clear that we must collectively address the systemic problems families face, such as racial health inequities, childcare and family leave policies. We can all boost this work by building new, concrete parenting resources closer to home.
Despite the daunting circumstances, flourishing is still possible and well within reach. [3, 4, 17] But parents cannot do more on their own. They need the support of the wider community working with them, together, in order to step out of the pervasive and well-meaning, but depleting do-it-yourself (DIY) self-help ethos that keeps them stuck. Family resilience can only grow from broader nurturing relationships capable of dissolving stress and channeling healthy parenting resources.
Online parenting advice is the most available parenting resource. It’s both a lifeline and a source of stress.
Online parenting advice has been a lifeline for parents during the pandemic, and yet it also causes stress, sometimes more than it relieves. [30, 59, 66]
The pandemic drove parent advice completely online, where new, self-styled individual gurus mushroomed along with the volume and rate of advice production. Answers raise more questions and lead to variations of workarounds for workarounds, creating a neverending treadmill of parent advice. 
The online parenting advice treadmill turns on the dominant, stock advice formula of one-size-fits-all, quick child-behavior fix techniques. The simplicity and promise implied by the quick-fix nature of the advice, clouds reality. The infinite comment threads attest to the ”do-it-yourself” (DIY) struggles parents face as they attempt to fit stock advice to their ever-evolving needs and situations with tips from well-meaning strangers. 
Parents are left to choose between stress-inducing stress relief from online advice or stress as usual in the default reaction mode of parenting. These are not the only possible, but they are the dominant choices. We can do better by parents and children.
Parents want access to meaningful resources that make a difference for them and their children and communities have the resources that will make a difference, reverse the stress and spark flourishing.
Parents want different resources, ones that help them flourish.
Parents are increasingly looking for more meaningful and lasting resources that nurture them and their families and help them flourish. They recognize that the infinite formulas to fix each child behavior are only temporary, at best, and that parenting by serially fixing child behaviors doesn’t add up to parenting that fits their values or serves them well.
Parents are looking for resources that helps them build nurturing relationships that lower stress, replenish them emotionally and socially, nourish for their parenting knowledge in a way that lasts and encourages them to use effective parenting skills that fit their family. They’re looking for what helps them flourish as parents.
Communities can provide meaningful parenting resources.
As a 25 year-old international parent education organization, parents tell us that they feel adrift without a raft in what appears to be an ocean of online advice that looks like all there is. They tell us how long and hard they searched for advice, how many things they tried, and how their stress climbed.
We’ve come to understand that it’s hard for parents to see the stress that continual online advice-seeking causes. Even pyrrhic victories seem helpful, which encourages them to stay on the advice treadmill. We’ve also come to understand that even parents who recognize the added stress find it hard to quit because it’s the only resource available. We see the toll it takes on parents and, by extension, their children and how this trend leads parents away from flourishing.
Our experience shows a path to family flourishing hidden in plain sight. We combined our experience and a broad bench of research to bring parents and communities together in nurturing relationships that provide a different kind of lasting, parenting resource that leads to flourishing.
Let’s spark flourishing, together.
Nurturings recenters parenting as the social activity that it has always ever been by inviting parents to engage in Nurturings peer groups and unplug from the stressful and depleting online treadmill of quick-fix advice. Actively engaging parents in a wider social network is a determinant of health.
Nurturings guides and connects communities and peer-leaders in forming and leading nurturing relationships with parents using a research-based and timeless peer group structure.
Nurturings continuously draws on what is already known and successful from a broad range of scholarship and practice so that parents use effective skills that are known to promote family and child flourishing.
Ultimately, children flourish when their parents do and parents flourish with access to resources every community is able to provide. Children thrive when their parents have access to the natural benefits of healthy social interactions with peers, nourished by infusions of research-based information about effective parenting. The enjoyable social format produces a buzz of insights and sharing that encourages parents to use effective parenting skills. Parents sharing their experiences helps other parents and widens the Nurturings. These relationships generate the core of positive energy that sparks cycles of flourishing for children, families and communities.
- Alianmoghaddam, N., Phibbs, S., & Benn, C. (2019). “I did a lot of Googling”: A qualitative study of exclusive breastfeeding support through social media. Women and Birth, 32(2), 147-156.
- Barlow, J., & Stewart-Brown, S. (2000). Behavior problems and group-based parent education programs. Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics.
- Bethell, C. D., Gombojav, N., & Whitaker, R. C. (2019). Family resilience and connection promote flourishing among US children, even amid adversity. Health Affairs, 38(5), 729-737.
- Bethell, C., Jones, J., Gombojav, N., Linkenbach, J., & Sege, R. (2019). Positive childhood experiences and adult mental and relational health in a statewide sample: Associations across adverse childhood experiences levels. JAMA pediatrics, 173(11), e193007-e193007.
- Berkman, L. F., & Glass, T. (2000). Social integration, social networks, social support, and health. Social epidemiology, 1(6), 137-173.
- Borkman, T., & Munn-Giddings, C. (2017). Dialogic sharing of lived experience in different self-help/mutual aid groups. Groupwork, 27(3).
- Byers, K., Johnson, T., Davis-Groves, S., Byrnes, K., & McDonald, T. (2014). Elevating stakeholder voice: Considering parent priorities in model development for community mental health center services. Children and Youth Services Review, 43, 124-130.
- Child Trends. (2020). Being Healthy and Ready to Learn is Linked with Family and Neighborhood Characteristics for Preschoolers. (Policy Brief). Retrieved from ttps://www.childtrends.org/publications/being-healthy-and-ready-to-learn-is-linked-with-family-and-neighborhood-characteristics-for-preschoolers
- Callejas, E., Byrne, S. & Rodrigo, M.J. Parental Self-regulation and the Promotion of Healthy Routines in Early Childhood. J Child Fam Stud 30, 1791–1802 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10826-021-01981-9
- Crandall, A., Miller, J. R., Cheung, A., Novilla, L. K., Glade, R., Novilla, M. L. B., ... & Hanson, C. L. (2019). ACEs and counter-ACEs: How positive and negative childhood experiences influence adult health. Child Abuse & Neglect, 96, 104089.
- Christner, N., Essler, S., Hazzam, A., & Paulus, M. (2021). Children’s psychological well-being and problem behavior during the COVID-19 pandemic: An online study during the lockdown period in Germany. PLOS ONE, 16(6), e0253473.
- Crnic, K. A., Gaze, C., & Hoffman, C. (2005). Cumulative parenting stress across the preschool period: Relations to maternal parenting and child behaviour at age 5. Infant and Child Development: An International Journal of Research and Practice, 14(2), 117-132.
- Crouch, E., Probst, J. C., Radcliff, E., Bennett, K. J., & McKinney, S. H. (2019). Prevalence of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) among US children. Child Abuse & Neglect, 92, 209-218.
- Cucchiara, M., & Steinbugler, A. C. (2021, August). “The Books Make You Feel Bad”: Expert Advice and Maternal Anxiety in the Early 21st Century. In Sociological Forum.
- Day, C., Michelson, D., Thomson, S., Penney, C., & Draper, L. (2012). Evaluation of a peer led parenting intervention for disruptive behaviour problems in children: community based randomised controlled trial. BMJ, 344.
- Daly, M. (2015). Parenting support as policy field: An analytic framework. Social Policy and Society, 14(4), 597-608.
- Daines, C. L., Hansen, D., Novilla, M. L. B., & Crandall, A. (2021). Effects of positive and negative childhood experiences on adult family health. BMC Public Health, 21(1), 1-8.
- DePasquale, C. E., & Gunnar, M. R. (2020). Parental Sensitivity and Nurturance. Future of Children, 30(2).
- Fredriksen, E., von Soest, T., Smith, L., & Moe, V. (2019). Parenting stress plays a mediating role in the prediction of early child development from both parents’ perinatal depressive symptoms. Journal of abnormal child psychology, 47(1), 149-164.
- Gardner, M. R., & Deatrick, J. A. (2006). Understanding interventions and outcomes in mothers of infants. Issues in Comprehensive Pediatric Nursing, 29(1), 25-44.
- Griffith, A. K. (2020). Parental burnout and child maltreatment during the COVID-19 pandemic. Journal of family violence, 1-7.
- Harries, V., & Brown, A. (2017). The association between use of infant parenting books that promote strict routines, and maternal depression, self-efficacy, and parenting confidence. Early Child Development and Care.
- Hutchings, J., Owen, D., & Williams, M. (2018). Web-based parenting support: Development of the COPING confident parenting programme. Education Sciences, 8(2), 59.
- Inagaki, T. K. (2018). Neural mechanisms of the link between giving social support and health. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 1428(1), 33-50.
- Inagaki, T. K., & Orehek, E. (2017). On the benefits of giving social support: When, why, and how support providers gain by caring for others. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 26(2), 109-113.
- Ireys, H. T., Chernoff, R., Stein, R. E., DeVet, K. A., & Silver, E. J. (2001). Outcomes of community-based family-to-family support: Lessons learned from a decade of randomized trials. Children's Services: Social Policy, Research, and Practice, 4(4), 203-216.
- Jang, J., Hessel, H., & Dworkin, J. (2017). Parent ICT use, social capital, and parenting efficacy. Computers in Human Behavior, 71, 395-401.
- Jones-Gordils, H.R., Sturge-Apple, M.L. & Davies, P.T. Maternal Executive Functions, Maternal Discipline, and Children’s School Readiness: A Process Oriented Approach. J Child Fam Stud 30, 1393–1405 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10826-021-01949-9
- KFF. (2020). Children’s Health and Well Being During the Coronovirus Pandemic. (Policy Brief). Retrived from https://www.kff.org/coronavirus-covid-19/issue-brief/childrens-health-and-well-being-during-the-coronavirus-pandemic/
- Kirchner, S., Sakaguchi-Tang, D. K., Michelson, R., Munson, S. A., & Kientz, J. A. (2020, July). " This just felt to me like the right thing to do" Decision-Making Experiences of Parents of Young Children. In Proceedings of the 2020 ACM designing interactive systems conference (pp. 489-503).
- Kochanova, K., Pittman, L.D. & Pabis, J.M. Parenting Stress, Parenting, and Adolescent Externalizing Problems. J Child Fam Stud (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10826-021-01996-2
- Knight, C. (2017). Group work with homeless mothers: Promoting resilience through mutual aid. Social Work, 62(3), 235-242.
- Law, N.K., Hall, P.L. & Cheshire, A. Common Negative Thoughts in Early Motherhood and Their Relationship to Guilt, Shame and Depression. J Child Fam Stud (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10826-021-01968-6
- Lee, A. H., Kuzava, S., & Bernard, K. (2020). Sociodemographic Risk and Infants’ Emerging Language Ability: Examining the Indirect Effects of Maternal Sensitivity and Nurturance to Distress. Parenting, 1-21.
- Leeb RT, Bitsko RH, Radhakrishnan L, Martinez P, Njai R, Holland KM. Mental Health–Related Emergency Department Visits Among Children Aged <18 Years During the COVID-19 Pandemic — United States, January 1–October 17, 2020. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2020;69:1675–1680. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.15585/mmwr.mm6945a3
- Leitch, L. (2017). Action steps using ACEs and trauma-informed care: a resilience model. Health & justice, 5(1), 1-10.
- Lewandowski, J., Rosenberg, B. D., Parks, M. J., & Siegel, J. T. (2011). The effect of informal social support: Face-to-face versus computer-mediated communication. Computers in Human Behavior, 27(5), 1806-1814.
- Li, X., Chen, W., & Popiel, P. (2015). What happens on Facebook stays on Facebook? The implications of Facebook interaction for perceived, receiving, and giving social support. Computers in human behavior, 51, 106-113.
- Lin, T. C., Hsu, J. S. C., Cheng, H. L., & Chiu, C. M. (2015). Exploring the relationship between receiving and offering online social support: A dual social support model. Information & Management, 52(3), 371-383.
- Luby, J. L. (2020). Early Childhood Nurturance and the Sculpting of Neurodevelopment.
- McConnell, D., Breitkreuz, R., & Savage, A. (2013). Parent needs and family support service outcomes in a Canadian sample. Journal of Social Work, 13(5), 447-470.
- Moon, R. Y., Mathews, A., Oden, R., & Carlin, R. (2019). Mothers’ perceptions of the Internet and social media as sources of parenting and health information: Qualitative study. Journal of medical Internet research, 21(7), e14289.
- Montesi, M., & Bornstein, B. Á. (2017). Defining a theoretical framework for information seeking and parenting: Concepts and themes from a study with mothers supportive of attachment parenting. Journal of documentation.
- Niccols, A. (2008). ‘Right from the Start’: randomized trial comparing an attachment group intervention to supportive home visiting. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 49(7), 754-764.
- Patrick, S. W., Henkhaus, L. E., Zickafoose, J. S., Lovell, K., Halvorson, A., Loch, S., ... & Davis, M. M. (2020). Well-being of parents and children during the COVID-19 pandemic: a national survey. Pediatrics, 146(4).
- Ponomartchouk, D., Bouchard, G. New Mothers’ Sense of Competence: Predictors and Outcomes. J Child Fam Stud 24, 1977–1986 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10826-014-9997-1
- Rosenwald, M., & Baird, J. (2020). An integrated trauma-informed, mutual aid model of group work. Social Work with Groups, 43(3), 257-271.
- Roskam, I., Philippot, P., Gallée, L., Verhofstadt, L., Soenens, B., Goodman, A., & Mikolajczak, M. (2021). I am not the parent I should be: Cross-sectional and prospective associations between parental self-discrepancies and parental burnout. Self and Identity, 1-26.
- Roskam, I., Aguiar, J., Akgun, E., Arikan, G., Artavia, M., Avalosse, H., ... & Mikolajczak, M. (2021). Parental burnout around the globe: A 42-country study. Affective science, 2(1), 58-79.
- Sanner, C. M., & Neece, C. L. (2018). Parental distress and child behavior problems: Parenting behaviors as mediators. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 27(2), 591-601.
- Sasaki, J. Y., & Kim, H. S. (2017). Nature, nurture, and their interplay: A review of cultural neuroscience. Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, 48(1), 4-22.
- Saxbe, D., Rossin-Slater, M., & Goldenberg, D. (2018). The transition to parenthood as a critical window for adult health. American Psychologist, 73(9), 1190.
- Scannell, C. (2020). Parental self-efficacy and parenting through adversity. In Parenting-Studies by an Ecocultural and Transactional Perspective. IntechOpen.
- Scharfe, E. (2011). Benefits of Mother Goose: Influence of a community-based program on parent-child attachment relationships in typical families. Child Welfare, 90(5), 9-26.
- Seebohm, P., Chaudhary, S., Boyce, M., Elkan, R., Avis, M., & Munn‐Giddings, C. (2013). The contribution of self‐help/mutual aid groups to mental well‐being. Health & social care in the community, 21(4), 391-401
- Senehi, N., & Brophy-Herb, H. E. (2020). Role of maternal affect and regulatory strategies in toddlers’ emotion and behavior regulation. Infant Behavior and Development, 60, 101472.
- Shepherd, A., Sanders, C., Doyle, M., & Shaw, J. (2015). Using social media for support and feedback by mental health service users: thematic analysis of a twitter conversation. BMC psychiatry, 15(1), 1-9.
- Smith, M. M., & Holden, G. W. (2020). Mothers affiliated with a positive parenting program report rearing their children differently. Journal of child and family studies, 29(4), 955-963.
- Strange, C., Fisher, C., Howat, P., & Wood, L. (2018). ‘Easier to isolate yourself… there's no need to leave the house’–A qualitative study on the paradoxes of online communication for parents with young children. Computers in Human Behavior, 83, 168-175.
- Swinton, J. J. (2020). Extension needs outreach innovation free from the harms of social media. Journal of Extension, 58(2), 1.
- Telleen, S., Herzog, A., & Kilbane, T. L. (1989). Impact of a family support program on mothers ‘social support and parenting stress. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 59(3), 410-419.
- Teti, D. M., Cole, P. M., Cabrera, N., Goodman, S. H., & McLoyd, V. C. (2017). Supporting parents: How six decades of parenting research can inform policy and best practice.
- Tingly, Kim (2021, August 18). We Need to Understand the Difference Between Isolation and Loneliness. The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2021/08/18/magazine/isolation-loneliness-health.html?referringSource=articleShare
- Thoits, P. A. (2011). Mechanisms linking social ties and support to physical and mental health. Journal of health and social behavior, 52(2), 145-161.
- Uchino, B. N., & Way, B. M. (2017). Integrative pathways linking close family ties to health: A neurochemical perspective. American Psychologist, 72(6), 590.
- Ward, K. P., Lee, S. J., & Chang, O. (2021). “Tell me what I’m doing wrong”: Criticism of parenting choices and mental health during COVID-19.
- Zlotnick, C., Wright, M. A., Cox, K., Te'o, I., & Stewart-Felix, P. (2000, April). The family empowerment club: Parent support and education for related caregivers. In Child and Youth Care Forum (Vol. 29, No. 2, pp. 97-112). Kluwer Academic Publishers-Plenum Publishers.
- Gassman-Pines, A., Ananat, E. O., & Fitz-Henley, J. (2020). COVID-19 and parent-child psychological well-being. Pediatrics, 146(4).
References supporting select Nurturings posts
- Sensory Processing Sensitivity -
- Acevedo, B. P., Santander, T., Marhenke, R., Aron, A., & Aron, E. (2021). Sensory Processing Sensitivity Predicts Individual Differences in Resting-State Functional Connectivity Associated with Depth of Processing. Neuropsychobiology, 80(2), 185-200.
- Peer support -
- Drummond, J. A. N. E. (2005). Parent support programs and early childhood development: Comments on Goodson, and Trivette and Dunst. Tremblay RE, Barr RG, Peters RDeV, eds. Encyclopedia on Early Childhood Development, 1-6.
- Goodson, B. D. (2005). Parent support programs and outcomes for children. Encyclopedia on early child development.
- Emotional vocabulary -
- Paavola-Ruotsalainen, L., Rantalainen, K., Alakortes, J., Carter, A. C., Ebeling, H. E., & Kunnari, S. (2018). Social-emotional/behavioural problems and competencies in toddlers: Relationships with early vocabulary development. Journal of Early Childhood Education Research, 7(2), 184-206.
- Coping skills
- Thoits, P. A. (1995). Stress, coping, and social support processes: Where are we? What next?. Journal of health and social behavior, 53-79.
- Resilience Theory - Positive Psychology.com
- Lowering Anxiety - Mount Sini blog
- Social support and mental wellness - Verywellmind
- Why children struggle to follow directions - Anne Wahlgren
- Positive Childhood Experiences - HOPE
- Gentle Parenting - Wverywellfamily