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Montana politics, elections and legislative news

State Launches Website To Help Parents Raise Their Kids

The state health department has launched a new website to help parents raise their kids.

It’s called Parenting Montana, and offers videos like this one that portray a sample of parents of various backgrounds talking about the challenges they face, their goals for their children and how they’re trying to accomplish them.

"In the end, we all want and hope for the same thing for our kids," says Gov. Steve Bullock.

Bullock spoke at the website’s launch at the state Capitol.

"We want them to be confident, we want them to be respectful, we want them to be making healthy choices all through their lives," he said.

Healthy choices that it’s hoped will help drive down some scary statistics.

"Motor vehicle crashes, overdoses and suicides account for six out of every 10 deaths of children and young adults between the ages of 5 and 25 in Montana," Bullock said.

Montana got a $1.8 million federal grant a couple of years ago aimed at preventing youth drug and alcohol use. The state health department used the money to do a parent survey, and then come up with a set of tools to address the more than 500 skills parents said they needed the most help with. Researchers say 90 percent of those boiled-down to helping kids with social and emotional skills.

The grant also funded development of the Parenting Montana website, and training for 35 “prevention coordinators” who staff offices across the state offering parents help keeping kids on the right track.

All the advice and tools offered on the website are based on extensive research, says Jay Otto, with Montana State University.

"There’s extensive evidence about ways of growing social and emotional skills with children. And there's more and more research that's ongoing to look at the roles of encouraging parents and working with parents so that they can work with their children to grow those skills."

Otto helped develop the Parenting Montana website. He says less is known about the approach the state is taking - building a website to help parents learn parenting best practices.

"There are not tools like this out there. This is really the first of its kind. So there is not extensive evidence of this very tool. And that's part of what we will continue to do research over the years. We really view this launch as building a platform -- a platform that we can build on over the years. And so we’ll do additional research there."

The website is aimed at and has targeted information for all kinds of parents, including foster parents and grandparents, anyone in a parenting role, its backers say. And it’s also supposed to be a resource for those 35 prevention coordinators scattered across the state, a place they can refer parents to when they come to them with questions.

Eric Whitney is NPR's Mountain West/Great Plains Bureau Chief, and was the former news director for Montana Public Radio.
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