Finding strength in small changes

Children 1st local managers Froya Rossvoll and Lorna Mulholland explain how our work in Aberdeenshire is making a difference to children and families.

Here’s a story about an Aberdeenshire family: a mum, dad and three young children. Neither parents had a job. Mum was at college, but was finding juggling that with family life stressful. Dad, who had a traditional view of family roles and suffered from long-standing mental health issues, wasn’t helping out as much as he could. They lived out in the countryside and were quite isolated – some days their car worked, some days it didn’t. The children had limited routines, and home life was chaotic. The youngest, age three, wasn’t speaking yet, which was a worry.

We offered to support the family with regular visits from a Children 1st worker. We got a clear picture of what would help with a lens called ‘My World Triangle’. We discussed the Triangle with the couple to establish a shared understanding of what was working well, what they were struggling with, and what could be improved. We agreed priorities to focus on. But we knew we’d need to be flexible, always reviewing progress, and adjusting support as family needs and circumstances changed.

We helped the mum who struggled with cooking, to prepare meals. We demonstrated how mealtimes could be made sociable and enjoyable for the whole family. We supported both parents to establish family routines and good habits: for getting up and going to bed, for helping out, for doing homework, and for treating each other with courtesy. We used play sessions with their youngest designed to develop language skills. We brought books and other resources to encourage learning and make it fun.

We were proactive. We challenged dad to do more to help mum, and to understand how his behaviour was affecting his family. We worked in partnership with mental health services to ensure he was getting the full range of support he needed.

Things began to look up. The couple started planning ahead. They got better at agreeing and sharing tasks and at sticking to routines. Dad, feeling more confident, began looking for volunteering opportunities. Having set routines allowed mum to find time for study. Their youngest child’s language came on. They moved to better accommodation in a town and became less isolated. They were now a stronger family, so we were able to say goodbye.

Without Children 1st the family’s situation could have reached crisis point. We helped prevent that. And we’re doing the same for families, with children from birth to age eight, across Aberdeenshire. We’re introduced to families by professionals such as health visitors, who have spotted issues such as a developmental delay in a child or that a family is isolated and disconnected from their community. These professionals know that whether a family sinks or swims can be down to small changes – a load lightened, a habit changed, strengths found. That’s our speciality.