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Family Values: Babies in Common


By Andriana Trang '12

Published Oct 1, 2011 12:00 AM


(Above, left) Working out in the Junior Bruins Martial Arts class. (Above, right) The Family Commons space. Photos courtesy of the UCLA Family Commons.

Wellness and balance might be the last words to come to mind for parents of a newborn baby, let alone the idea of "mini-yoga" for kids. The UCLA Family Commons aims to change that.

The UCLA Family Commons Toolkit

Dr. Mary-Jane Rotheram Borus demonstrates the tools involved in the Family Tool Kit.

From UCLA Family Commons YouTube channel

Under the direction of Dr. Mary Jane Rotheram-Borus, the Bat-Yaacov Professor in Child Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences at UCLA, the Commons, which opened in 2010, offers "innovative, science-based opportunities for wellness in homes, schools and communities" to bring mental and physical well-being to families. A unique aspect of this model is the concept of family coaching.

"Family coaching is the backbone to all programming," says Kelle Taylor, marketing and community outreach manager. As a short-term alternative to the traditional forms of family therapy, family coaching helps families without the hefty price tag by helping parents identify realistic solutions to home issues. Innovative tools like the Family Wellness Checkup and Skype coaching support families in flexible and customizable ways.

"The Family Wellness Checkup helps parents align their lives with their values to achieve a sense of balance," explains Rotheram-Borus. Using the checkup, family coaches like Eileen Escarce and Denise Carlin work with parents to develop "models" — or guidelines — to deal with a variety of problems. Each coach specializes in different age ranges, recognizing that the challenges of a newborn child differ from those of a 12-year-old girl.

Then classes like Junior Bruins Martial Arts and Mini Yogis Yoga for Kids reinforce the models of behavior taught in coaching, while regular Mindful Awareness classes help Mom and Dad relax. And crafting classes provide a relaxed setting for kids to discuss feelings.

Unique touches like walls that can be written on with dry-erase markers and touch-screen TVs make the Commons a family environment that encourages parents and children to interact.

Next up is a partnership with the Robert E. Kennedy Community Schools to bring the models developed at the Commons to a lower-income demographic. In the meantime, Escarce has some advice for new parents — "Sleep!"