Practitioners in Hartlepool have found that helping parents improve their relationships helps improve children’s education, safety and physical and mental health. Read more to learn about how they helped make things better for children, and for the family.
Parent Support Advisor, Teesside
The child and their education
A teacher noticed that one of the children in their class seemed to have become very withdrawn and anxious.
The child has told her teacher that her Mam and Dad do not live together anymore and that they shout at each other when Dad comes to collect her and her sister. Contact with dad was breaking down. Mum and dad were unhappy. She blamed herself for how things were.
How to help…
A Parent Support Advisor (PSA) at a school had the skills, knowledge and was best place to get involved and make a difference for this withdrawn, anxious child. She did this by:
- Sharing the teacher’s observations and the child’s feelings with Mum, who she lived with, then Dad, separately
- Read “Mum and Dad Glue” by Kes Gray with the child. This broke the ice with the child and encouraged her to speak about how she felt the boy in the story felt and related it back to her own feelings.
- During another session together the child drew pictures of their family and talked about different types of family
- Another session involved drawing houses we like to visit
These planned sessions with the child gave the PSA a good understanding of the situation and how the child felt. At this point she spoke to both parents and invited them to come into school separately to discuss what had been shared.
“When it was shared with them what their child had shared during our sessions they were both visibly moved. They admitted that they had argued but had not realised that the children could hear”.
Both parents agreed that they would benefit from some mediation, which they then went on to access.
“They arranged set days and times for the children to see their Dad and Mam had arranged to meet Dad’s new partner with the children. Since then the children had been away on holiday them and had enjoyed visits to other family members. They admitted that it could still be difficult but felt that they had come a long way and were planning to continue moving forward for the children”.
This is a powerful example of how the voice of the child can be used to motivate a change in parent’s behaviour. Breaking up is really tough, and in the hurt and chaos that often goes with separation parents can sometimes miss the way it effects the children. School staff are often ideally placed to see the impact and to act.
The difference it made
The PSA observed:
“My final session with this pupil was very different to the ones which had had previously. We drew a picture showing what we did over the holidays and the child filled her page with a picture of going on holiday with Dad. She said that they had seen lots of animals and had been on really fast rides. She said that they all had lots of fun and everybody was happy. She said that she now knew which days she was going to see her Dad and said that her Mam and Dad weren’t angry with each other anymore. She appeared to very happy and said that she did not think that she needed to come to see me anymore”.