Charity's Lifeline Helps Families Ride the Storms of Adolescence; There Is No Definitive Guide to Child-Rearing, but a Scheme to Help Parents Cope Offers Some Invaluable Advice and Support. Jenni Ameghino Reports

The Birmingham Post (England), November 22, 2001 | Go to article overview

Charity's Lifeline Helps Families Ride the Storms of Adolescence; There Is No Definitive Guide to Child-Rearing, but a Scheme to Help Parents Cope Offers Some Invaluable Advice and Support. Jenni Ameghino Reports


Byline: Jenni Ameghino

A friend forgoes her lunch-hour and leaves work early to scour the shops for a top for her 13-year-old daughter. 'We've been getting on well after a difficult few weeks,' she says. 'It will be a nice surprise.'

It's a freezing evening and, typically, everywhere seems to have sold out but eventually she finds the top she wants. To add to her joy, it is reduced in price in an end-of-season sale.

Arriving home chilled, exhausted - and hungry after her missed lunch - she produces the item with a triumphant: 'Here you are, darling.' There is a stony silence. 'Great, mum,' says her daughter, storming upstairs in a dramatic sulk. 'No one's wearing those any more.'

Any parent knows the one thing you're unlikely to get from your adolescent offspring is thanks. While we shouldn't expect our children to be forever grateful - after all, we reproduce for entirely selfish reasons - it can be heartbreaking when you've moved heaven and earth and still nothing you do seems right.

But sneering disdain is just the tip of the iceberg. With so many pressures on families today, relationships between parents and children are often strained beyond measure.

It's all too common to feel you are falling short or, worse, failing altogether. Many of us end the day questioning our ability to raise children: Does anyone else's child say they hate them?

Should I have blown up this morning over his attitude? Why won't my daughter talk to me anymore?

So it's no wonder an initiative which helps parents to understand their children's behaviour, share common frustrations and find strategies for coping is fast winning fans.

Positive Parenting is a national charity running pilot programme in six areas of Britain. Birmingham is one of them. A variety of workshops, from one-day 'taster' sessions to five-week courses covering a host of subjects, are held in schools subscribing to the scheme.

Run by trained counsellors and experts in child behaviour, the 90-minute day and/or evening sessions offer confidence-boosting advice tailored to children's age ranges. And a welcome opportunity to let off steam.

Whether it's handling temper tantrums (yours and your child's), discovering how to approach sensitive issues such as sex, bullying and drugs, raising self-esteem or exploring individual family difficulties, there is something for everyone.

With a track record of more than 20 years' work supporting parents and the family, the charity's latest success has won a grant from the Home Office Family Policy Unit to set up workshops among pre-school, primary and secondary education providers in as many areas as possible.

'None of us has any training for the job of parenting. None of us is the perfect parent. No one tells you what to expect or how to cope when it gets tough,' explains Birmingham regional co-ordinator Mel Laird.

'This initiative is not about telling people what to do but about sharing experiences and giving parents a chance to reflect and discover better ways of communicating with their children, feeding off one another to find ways of making progress.'

A lone mother at 17, today Mel is happily married with three children. She says her past experience has made her aware of 'huge gaps' in support offered to parents.

'I've always been a confidente for my friends and I love being a mum but I've had problems along the way and I know what it feels like to struggle sometimes. …

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