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Time for Parenting...

...because raising children is a full-time job

January 2001 Newsletter

Editorial; Voices; Baby to child: the importance of emotional well-being; The Nurturing Programme; New members write

The 'Nurturing Programme'

'Nurturing is THE most important skill on this planet - meaning the nurturing of each other and society no less than of this earth and all things in it,' These were the opening words of our second speaker at our 2000 AGM, Rosalind Hanbury, co-founder of Family Links. Sarah Douglas-Pennant reports

After working with families and in counselling, Rosalind Hanbury and others set up this Oxford-based charity in 1997. Its aim: to encourage and teach nurturing and relationship skills, and to promote public awareness of the need for emotional education.

Family Links offers its Nurturing Programmes to both children in school and to parents, as well as training courses for professionals. Such is the need for help in relationships and in building emotional intelligence that although founded in its present form only three years ago, Family Links has grown apace. The programmes have consistently been shown to have remarkable effects, sometimes quite dramatically. Self-esteem and ability to communicate can apparently be greatly enhanced and the whole atmosphere at school and at home become more calm, disciplined and respectful.

Key principles

The four basic constructs taught in the nurturing programme for handling children are:

¥ Appropriate expectations : knowing what a child can do at different ages or stages.
¥Self-awareness : the adult needs to understand himself and his own needs.
¥Empathy : the capacity to understand others and put yourself in their shoes. This includes the ability to sympathise with the cause of a child's fretfulness or belligerence, rather than react against it.
¥Positive discipline : firm, fair, consistent and without harshness.

The programme in schools is a ten-week one, repeated term after term, where the children and their teacher have a weekly session of 'Circle Time', or 'Special Time' together, working through issues such as: what is acceptable behaviour, praise and criticism, personal power, choices and consequences, touch, secrets, I'm Glad I'm Me, celebrating differences, and so on. When a school enrols in a programme, the whole school is involved, with not only children but staff, from the dinner ladies to the school governors, made aware of this new ethos where emotional intelligence prevails. The parents can be offered their own programme to run alongside.

Success of the scheme

Seventy schools have so far run nurturing programmes, and a total of 13,000 children and 500 parents have already participated. A very encouraging further development has been the training of health visitors: three quarters of those in Oxfordshire have done the course. Hull is now embarking on the same scheme for their health visitors. A total of 2,000 professionals have been trained to deliver the programme.

The whole theme of the programmes is of positive reinforcement, praising good behaviour, encouraging, thanking, always focussing on what is good.

Hearing the child's needs

In a role play performed to illustrate empathy, the scene enacted was of a child coming back tired and fed up after a day at school, throwing coat and satchel on the floor in a bad-tempered arrival home.

In Scene 1, mother has a large pile of ironing in front of her, and perhaps the television on. She is irritated by the bad behaviour, crossly tells the child not to misbehave and returns her attention to the telly and her own tasks. She has not 'heard' the child's need at all.

In the contrasting Scene 2, she understands the signals and says to the child, 'Oh dear, I can see that you must have had a hard time at school today' or words to that effect, describing what she sees. The child's distress is recognised so he does not need to hold onto it any more, but can hand it over to a sympathetic recipient and move on. The result is harmony not discord. (I have a feeling that the same technique could be well applied to an overtired spouse coming home!)

Step into their shoes

The rule is not to react to the frayed nerves of the other but 'step into their shoes' instead. To end, let me give you the Family Links slogan which must be another useful insight for any mother: 'What you pay attention to is what you get more of.'

Anyone interested in hearing more about the programme for their child's school should contact Family Links at The New Marston Centre, Jack Straw Lane, Oxford OX3 ODL Tel 01865 - 454004, or go to www.familylinks.org.uk