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Stephanie Hardesty and her three daughters who are ages 3, 5 and 6.

Stephanie Hardesty, her husband and their three young children were living with her in-laws while building a house. Balancing a full-time job in health care with mom life, she was usually exhausted and stressed by the end of the day. It felt like constant chaos.

When Hardesty’s sister-in-law enrolled in Triple P classes with the Knox County Parent Support Initiative in preparation for foster care, she invited Hardesty to go along. The courses sounded like an excellent resource, and she agreed to go—with some hesitance.

“At first, (I thought), ‘Oh my gosh, what do people think?’” Hardesty said. “I'm going to this parenting class. Are they thinking that I can't parent my children?”

Once the classes started, Hardesty’s hesitancy quickly faded. She met people from all walks of life, including older parents, younger parents, foster parents and even parents with 30 years of experience looking for help as grandparents. Everyone had a unique perspective and insights to share, and everyone had room to learn.

Right away, it was eye-opening for Hardesty to learn how potentially chaotic situations could be extinguished with a few simple tips. Before learning these, she remembered the slightest things escalating into yelling, like her children fighting about who would be the first one out the door.

“Some of the tools they gave us were, honestly, really, really simple,” Hardesty said. “Counting to 10, taking a step back and saying, ‘Alright, what's the real issue here?’”

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Hardesty's husband and their daughters.

“My favorite one, and the one that helped us the most, was to really set up a routine,” Hardesty said. “Every night at this time, we brush our teeth, we sit down, we read a story and then it's time to lay down in bed. When I started putting that into effect, it really only took one or two nights for them to be like, ‘Okay, it's time to brush teeth,’ or, ‘What are we (going to) read tonight?’”

Hardesty also discovered one of the underlying causes of chaos in their family was her oldest child’s anxiety about the unknown. When clear routines were introduced, worries went away, and her behavior changed.

Knox Parent Support Initiative Coordinator Susan McDonald works with many parents like Hardesty to tackle everyday parenting challenges with resources and group support.

“Everybody needs some support at some point,” McDonald said. “Triple P is available at no cost to every parent In Knox County.”

Classes cover a wide range of everyday parenting topics like bedtime routines, shopping with children and sibling rivalries. Pandemic parenting resources are also now available.

Another facet of the classes is promoting health for the parents themselves. “You need to do things that help you feel healthy as a parent, and one of the key components of the Positive Parenting Program is taking care of yourself as a parent,” McDonald said.

McDonald recalled when she first had children, and her own mother let her in on a little secret: when she was young, her mom hid Clark Bars in the bathroom and sneaked away for five to ten minutes to read a magazine and enjoy a treat. “Sometimes we forget that taking care of ourselves as a parent lets us be a calmer parent. Triple P helps us remember that just a few minutes to reset can make a huge difference.”

And while it is always necessary for parents to practice self-care, the COVID-19 pandemic has only made it more important, with changes to routines and more stress for everyone. Hardesty’s classes ended right before school shutdowns in Spring 2020, and she looks back with gratitude for what she learned before the pandemic hit.

“I had one in kindergarten and one in preschool, and they both were sent home for remote learning. That just turned their world upside down,” Hardesty said. “That was probably the biggest test of it—right after (it ended), getting thrown all together in one house and out of school.”

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In Triple P classes, Hardesty gained tools to handle challenging behaviors and remain calm in times of chaos.

Life with three young children still has its challenges for Hardesty, but the tools she learned helped her family move beyond the chaos and find understanding for each other instead.

“Do I remember every single time to use those techniques? No, but I will 75% of the time,” Hardesty said. “Both me and my children have been able to not escalate those situations. . . They've seen me put these things into play and they're like, ‘Okay, mommy doesn't overreact all of the time.’ They’ve seen that change in me too.”

For all parents struggling with the ordinary, everyday challenges of parenting, Hardesty highly recommends Triple P classes.

“We all need help,” Hardesty said. “I would say go, because you're going to come out of it a better parent, and at the end of the day that relationship with your child and that ability to parent your child successfully is more important than anything else in the world.”

To learn more about the Triple P Program and the Parent Support Initiative of Knox County, visit the Facebook page or call 740-397-2840 to get started.

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