11 resources for parenting - families and early years
Centre for Social Justice research shows that families are the best anti-poverty measure ever invented. They are a welfare, education and counselling system all wrapped up into one. Children in families that break apart are more than twice as likely to experience poverty as those whose families stay together.
When it comes to life chances, it isn’t just the relationship between parents that matters. What is just as important is the relationship between parent and child. On the one hand, we know the severe developmental damage that can be done in these so-called foundation years when babies are emotionally neglected, abused or if they witness domestic violence. Children who suffer ‘toxic stress’ in those early years are potentially set up for a life of struggle, risky behaviour, poor social outcomes. On the other hand, we also know – it’s common sense – how a safe, stimulating, loving family environment can make such a positive difference.
The key themes of families and early years are; parenting, creating resilience, relationship support. Let’s drill down some more and take a look at actual initiatives being run by churches on these themes according to my 3rd biennial National Church and Social Action Survey 2014 (Ranking in brackets ):
Parent and toddler groups  (there are reportedly 27000 of these)
Children's club - up to age 11 
Debt counselling 
Parenting help/courses 
Preschool nursery 
Relationship advice (apart from Marriage Course) 
Adoption services 
If you are not active already, there are some course providers for aspects of parenting for early years whose materials are helpful and could be integrated as part of other initiatives around the community:
Care for the Family:
Parentalk – The Primary Years. Parentalk is a ready-to-run course for all parents of children aged up to the early teenage years. In six sessions, Parentalk looks at the topics that affect just about every family.
Time Out for Parents: The Early Years - bringing together mums and dads to look at building healthy relationships with their babies, toddlers and pre schoolers and develop learning through fun and play.
Time Out for Parents: The Primary Years - help guide your children through the next stage of childhood and build stronger family relationships as they journey through the rollercoaster of life.
Time Out for Parents: Dads - whether you’re parenting as a couple, a single parent or away dad, this course aims to help you share your feelings and experiences and build an even better relationship with your children.
Family Caring Trust
Parenting in the Early Years - from Pram to Primary School. Parenting small children from birth to age six or seven. The programme provides material for seven or eight weekly sessions offering effective parenting support to parents of babies, toddlers, pre-schoolers and children in the first few years of primary school.
Parenting School-Age Children - What Can a Parent Do? Practical skills to help parents (of children aged 5-12) be happier and more effective. The programme offers eight weekly sessions to help parents of children five to twelve years old to improve their communication skills and create a framework of discipline and respect in their families.
Welcome to the World antenatal groups. The ‘Welcome to the World’ programme is an 8-week group for parents expecting a baby. Parents attend the group from approximately 22 weeks of pregnancy. Topics include empathy and loving attentiveness, infant brain development, healthy choices, managing stress and promoting self-esteem and confidence, and effective communication.
The Nurturing Programme - 10 week course designed to provide adults and children with the understanding, skills and ability to lead emotionally healthy lives, build resilience, empathy, self-esteem and support positive relationships. Research in 2015 showed; 8 out of 10 parents attending groups report significant improvements in their children’s behaviour and family life. significant reductions in conduct problems and hyperactivity, improved mental health outcomes for both children and their parents, more parents entering education, training and employment; and a reduction in the number of children subject to safeguarding plans.
Parenting Puzzle - a shorter intervention based on the Nurturing Programme. Four 2-hour workshops for parents of children under 4 years old that help develop parents’ understanding of empathy and importance of listening and communication; explore the power of praise and positive interaction; increase parents’ understanding of the power of play; promote positive approaches to discipline and boundary setting and develop an understanding of the importance of nurture of self and others in family relationships.
Parentplay is a fun, 7-week parenting course focusing on parents of children under 5 years old. It depends to a large extent on informal, small group discussions followed by parents and children sharing an exciting, messy play-time together. The shared experience of the messy play-time allows the opportunity for parents to put into practice some of the principles and new ideas that they have learnt during the course.
Who Let the Dad's Out
Daddy Cool! is a five-session parenting programme for dads and father figures. It's not touchy, feely, pink and fluffy stuff. It's about food, activity, competition and facing up to the challenges of being a dad. Working through crunchy subjects like making memories and inspiring respect is made easier by a relaxed take-away meal at the heart of each session. At the end of a Daddy Cool! programme, take the group of dads with their children for a day out.
Some questions for leaders to think through:
How can we involve lots of people from the community in these courses, not just church attendees?
Is this something we can build into say our parent and toddler group?
Could we link with a local maternity unit or doctor surgeries?
Could we run these in local businesses as part of staff well-being initiatives?
How do we reach troubled families?
In my next blog. I'll be taking a look at resources for relationship support.
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Geoff Knott, 24/03/2016