Strengthening relationships in South Ayrshire

Children 1st local team leader Edie Scobie explains how we’re making a difference to children and families in South Ayrshire.

Much of our family support work in South Ayrshire is based around parenting programmes. That phrase, ‘parenting programme’, might seem a bit cold and mechanical: are we re-programming parents, or giving them a pass or fail mark? No. What we are doing is enabling them to have more fun and less stress with their children.

We are typically introduced to families who could benefit from what we offer by professionals such as social workers. There may be a multi-agency plan in place to address their problems, but getting support from Children 1st will always be an optional part of that. Our contribution can include one-to-one support for a child or work with the whole family group. A place on one of our two parenting programmes – Mellow Parenting and Incredible Years – will often be a big part of the support package.

Mellow Parenting is for parents and carers with pre-school children. We make it easy for them to take part by offering free child care. We encourage them to look back at their own childhood, what happened, and how it felt. Through this they gain insights that they can apply to their current role.

We tell them about strategies that other parents have found helpful for strengthening relationships with their children and for encouraging them to behave well. By observing them having a lunch and play session with their child we can offer feedback on how they’re doing putting these strategies into practice. And if they would like a bit more help, we can pop round to their home and do an individual play session with them and their child.

Incredible Years is our programme for parents and carers with children age five and older. As with Mellow Parenting, it’s about learning and trying out positive parenting strategies. These strategies may appear basic such as proactively praising children for good behaviour, and ignoring behaviour you want to discourage (unless it’s dangerous!) But it can be quite an intense experience for parents and carers – up to fourteen weekly sessions plus homework.

Alongside Incredible Years we run a complementary ‘Dino-School’ programme. In it children learn many of the same strategies. By focusing on both sides of the parenting coin we can achieve great results, as Lisa and Gillian’s* story illustrates.

Lisa attended Dino School and Gillian, her Nan, was on Incredible Years. Gillian told us that one day Lisa came home, said that someone at school had been unkind to her, then shut herself away in her bedroom. Later Gillian found that Lisa’s room had been given a thorough tidy. Asked why, Lisa explained that they’d been practising problem solving skills at Dino School and talking about doing something positive with anger. So she’d decided that tidying her room would take her mind off what had happened. Gillian was able to practice something she’d been learning about – giving praise. Both of them felt good, and their bond was strengthened.

* Names and identifying details have been changed