Mom Power: Building Stronger Keiki and Mākuahine Bonds

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Photo: Staci Hanashiro

By Staci Hanashiro

“I ulu no ka lālā i ke kumu; The branches grow because of the trunk.”
Without our ancestors, we would not be here.
– ʻŌlelo Noʻeau #1261

Liliʻuokalani Trust’s (LT) vision is “nā kamalei lupalupa” (thriving Hawaiian children). For generations, our ancestors built the foundation and demonstrated how to help our kamaliʻi thrive through Hawaiian practices. For many, this was interrupted by cultural-historical trauma. One way to transform our vision into reality is by focusing on early childhood efforts, among the most powerful strategies for improving long-term outcomes for keiki and ʻohana.

Photo: Mother with her keiki
Building pilina between keiki and makuahine is the objective of LT’s “Mom Power” program. – Photo: Courtesy

LT explored many successful early childhood programs across the paeʻāina and U.S. continent and selected the University of Michigan’s Zero to Thrive Mom Power (MP) program to pilot.

MP has the potential to help family pilina. It is a 10-week program for mākuahine with keiki under 6 years of age. Core components include attachment-based parenting, self-care, enhancing social supports, connecting to community resources, and supporting parent-child interactions.

The program mirrors what our ancestors practiced – strengthening pilina through ways to mālama self and keiki and building peer support. MP uses a tree metaphor that helps mākuahine understand that keiki need a safe and secure base (strong roots) to branch out and explore. The program supports mākuahine as they reflect on their upbringing and their interactions with their own keiki.

LT piloted MP during Fall 2021 with two groups of 16 mākuahine. Curriculum was adapted to ensure cultural responsiveness for our mākuahine by connecting the content to Hawaiian values and incorporating traditional moʻolelo and protocol.

Feedback has been positive. Many participants expressed interest in continued connections with each other and for in-person sessions (COVID-19 has been a challenge for connecting). Mākuahine also reported feeling closer to their keiki, enjoying time together, increasing support by sharing their experiences, and having a more hopeful view of their future. Mākuahine shared stories of growth in, for example, new ways of responding when their keiki are expressing “big emotions” by addressing their keiki’s needs versus reacting to their behaviors.

Based on the success of our initial pilot programs, we believe these positive impacts will continue as we engage mākuahine in future programs that continue to connect them to ʻike kūpuna and their culture. We will continue to expand MP throughout the paeʻāina in 2022 while adapting to meet the needs of mākuahine and ʻohana.

If you would like more information regarding LT’s early childhood work, contact Staci Hanashiro at shanashiro@onipaa.org. For more information on the University of Michigan’s Zero to Thrive, visit www.zerotothrive.org.


Staci Hanashiro is the Early Childhood Development program manager at Liliʻuokalani Trust. She discovered her passion for supporting expecting and new moms through her previous work at a community health center’s perinatal program. She received her bachelor’s in social work from the University of Hawaiʻi and her master’s from Boston University. Staci was born and raised in Kāneʻohe, where she returned to help care for her parents and raise her keiki.