A detailed approach to supporting a child and family. Episode Six:  Helping parents learn how to bring up their child

This series of short articles is intended to be relevant to you if you are in some sort of non-family early child and family support capacity for families who have a new baby or infant with impairments that are predicted to impact on health, development and learning

It is understood that in order to work in the long term with a baby or infant, it is essential to develop an effective relationship with parents. This will involve familiarity, empathy and honesty working towards mutual trust and respect. Practitioners who can work in this way are drawing on their human skills as much as on their professional skills. When a parent comes to feel one of the practitioners around their child is very special, it is usually because they have seen the practitioner’s humanity – and because the practitioner has been prepared to let her or his human qualities shine through.

But as both practitioners and parents are trying to support the child’s development and learning, how do they join it all together? What is the best fit between what the parents are doing and what the practitioners are doing?

In the Team Around the Child (TAC) approach, the roles are very clear:

It is the responsibility and role of parents to bring up their children.

It is a large part of the role and responsibility of practitioners to help them bring up their child.

Here is how it can work. When a parent or a practitioner feels the time is right for a baby or infant to learn a new skill, for example sitting or managing a spoon, the practitioner’s role is not to teach the child the new skill. It is the practitioner’s role to support the parent as they learn what they need to do to teach the child the new skill.

I talked of natural parenting skills in an earlier episode. If we assume it is the responsibility of parents all around the world to bring up their children, then we must also assume they have the skills to do it – or will soon learn them.

But these natural parenting skills can be suppressed or masked in the anxiety, stresses and strains that some families experience when their new child has significant challenges to their development and learning. In my experience, working with parents in a close supportive relationship and helping them learn the skills they need to bring up their child will allow the natural parenting skills to re-emerge.

When we work in this way a parent can grow in self-confidence. His or her self-esteem can increase as they start to feel more positive about the way they are bringing up their child. This in turn helps grow the bonds of attachment between child and parents and helps the family become stronger for the challenges that lie ahead.

For some practitioners this way of working, respecting the two clear roles described above, might feel very strange – moving the focus from child to parent. It will certainly require thought about what new skills the practitioner will need. But in my view it is an entirely valid and respectful approach to being genuinely child- and family-centred.

Peter Limbrick.

January 2023.

For a longer account of this approach see https://www.tacinterconnections.com/index.php/allnews/publications/3169-new-book-bringing-up-babies-and-young-children-who-have-very-special-needs-8-sample-pages

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