Fitness Saturdays Empower Parents to Be Well
It’s a Saturday morning, and a dozen women fill a conference style room which has, for a few hours, been transformed into a yoga studio. Rainbow colored yoga mats cover the floor, chairs and tables have been moved off to the side and the atmosphere is… tranquil. The instructor cues the students to focus on their breathing as she begins to lead them in practice of the ancient eight-limbed system of yoga – a practice much revered for its myriad healing properties. From the determined looks on the participants’ faces and the energy building in the room, these women are all in. That momentum is sustained as the instructor leads them deeper into a series of postures and then eventually into a few minutes of quiet Savasana (rest) on their mats as the class concludes. The instructor is Certified Nutritionist Belkis Fermin, and yoga represents just one portion of the three-part Fitness Saturday wellness curriculum offered monthly at Family Services of the Merrimack Valley’s Family and Community Resource Center. The physical wellness component is bolstered by a nutrition-centered lecture and cooking demonstration. While their children are cared for on site, the freely offered programming allows area parents to pause and take some time out for themselves to focus on their own well being as well as that of their family.
Education, Exercise and Cooking… Ms. Fermin takes care to distribute equal weight to each of these areas throughout her two hour workshops. “I try to relate our curriculum to things that are of concern for the parents who participate. I often begin my lesson plan by curating a recipe, and then making certain modifications (i.e., swapping out brown sugar for white, or using whole wheat flour where flour is called for). Parents need to be aware of what they are feeding their kids.” Last month’s Fitness Saturday focused on nutrition problems commonly experienced by adolescents, such as anorexia nervosa and bulimia. Sharing content from Kids Health, Fermin centered her lesson on warning signs for parents and best practices for supporting children who present symptoms of these types of eating disorders. Serious medical illnesses, eating disorders often go along with other problems such as stress, anxiety, depression, and substance use and can lead to the development of serious physical health problems, such as heart conditions or kidney failure. Throughout the program’s educational session, the parents are invited to chime in with their own personal questions and concerns of which there is plenty.
The exercise, or movement, session provides participants with an opportunity to engage in some self-care which the instructor believes is the foundation of a family’s well being. During this component accessible practices (such as yoga) are demonstrated and (gently) prescribed as a wise antidote to the stress that naturally presents when balancing the responsibilities of a job with caring for children and a home. Next up is the cooking – where, once again, the approach is hands-on. Cutting boards and knives are dispersed upon which green and red peppers are diced and cilantro and onions are chopped. “The cooking component is our last portion of these wellness sessions,” shares Ms. Fermin. “Participants really enjoy this 30 or so minutes. It’s where the lesson comes alive!” As her recipe unfolds, the conference room is once again transformed (this time into a kitchen), and the scent of garlic and tomato fills the air. There is continued conversation and inquiry which the instructor fields in real time before the group sits down to enjoy their finished product and an exhale after a full morning devoted to being well.
Family Services of the Merrimack Valley partners with the Department of Children and Families to provide the Family & Community Resource Center, located at One Union Street in Lawrence to help families raise children in healthy, stable homes. All services are free and open to all families in Essex County. To learn more about upcoming wellness or programming or other offering at our Family & Community Resource Center, please visit their program page, or call 978-975-8800.
- Assessment and family support planning.
- Peer-to-peer support groups for youth, grandparents raising grandchildren, and “Parents Helping Parents”.
- Life skills workshops for youth, parents and families, such as bullying prevention, financial literacy and behavior management.
- Cultural, social, recreational, and community service activities, including holiday gatherings, bingo nights, and National Night Out.
- Information and referral services.
- English as a Second Language classes.