Cathy Walters-Gilhuly with baby Sylvia Rose Ruttan
Cathy Walters-Gilhuly with baby Sylvia Rose Ruttan

It’s easy for parents to feel overwhelmed by the heavy responsibilities of raising children, especially when parents are also studying, working or both. But where do you go for answers to your questions about your child’s behaviour? Where do you meet other parents dealing with the same challenges? Or find support in making your family food budget stretch a bit further?

The U of G Child Care and Learning Centre (CCLC) is now offering three new programs for parents, led by Cathy Walters-Gilhuly, a master’s of social work student at the University of Windsor, who is doing her placement at the CCLC. The programs are open to everyone in the community, but Walters-Gilhuly hopes students in particular will find them helpful.

“I was a student parent myself at one time so I know it can be difficult,” she says. “But parents tend to have less support than in the past. When my children were little, my mother lived across the road from us. My grandmother would come over and wash the diapers. That doesn’t happen anymore, especially for those who are new to Canada and may be living a long way from their families.”

The first session is a 10-week resiliency skills training program for parents with young children under the age of eight called Bounce Back and Thrive. Walters-Gilhuly describes this program as being based on the evidence-based Reaching In, Reaching Out program, and says it is designed to help parents learn how to teach their children to be more resilient and handle difficult situations.

“The program is a lot of fun with crafts and activities and lively discussion,” Walters-Gilhuly says. “It’s not just someone talking at you.” The current session started in September, and registration is open for another session that starts in January.

A parent/caregiver and baby program for children up to 18 months runs Tuesday mornings from 9 to 10:30 a.m. “We’ll have toys and do some finger plays and activities with the babies,” says Walters-Gilhuly. “But we’ll also be sharing ideas and suggestions, building relationships and acknowledging the struggles we go through.”

For this group, she uses several books and resources, including Happy Kids, Happy You: Using NLP to Bring out the Best in Ourselves and the Children We Care For (NLP stands for neuro-linguistic programming).

The third program is a supper club from 3 to 5 p.m. Participants will share recipes as they prepare and cook a meal together. They’ll leave with dinner in a bag that’s ready to heat up. The dinner is also an opportunity to discuss how to make low-cost yet nutritious meals.

“I know that especially for students, food budgets can be very tight, so we will focus on food costs and compare fast food versus home-cooked meals and look at how to stock the pantry for quick and easy cooking,” says Walters-Gilhuly. During each session the group will prepare enough servings of one recipe to feed all the participants and their families. The group size is limited to what the CCLC’s kitchen can accommodate.

“The cook from the childcare program will be managing the food preparation component of the program,” she adds. “She has passed the Red Seal cooking exam and is used to preparing a variety of meals, including those for children with allergies or food sensitivities.”

All three programs are offered at no cost and are open to the public. For more information or to register, contact Walters-Gilhuly at with the subject line “program sign-up.”

“An important part of all these programs is that people will have opportunities to talk with each other and to make new friends. Parents can feel very isolated, and this is a chance to make some new connections,” she says.