Published in Blog on February 4th 2022
The theme of this year’s Children’s Mental Health week is Growing Together and the week will provide an opportunity to encourage children and adults to consider how they have grown, and how they can help others to grow.
At Tavistock Relationships, we have been working in partnership with local youth charity, Fitzrovia Youth in Action, on a BBC Children in Need-funded project to help 11-18 years old affected by ongoing and unresolved parental conflict.
This innovative project sees Tavistock Relationships providing mentalization-based couple therapy to separated parents who are locked in disagreement and conflict about arrangements regarding their children, and Fitzrovia Youth in Action facilitating a six to eight session peer mentoring programme to the children of those parents.
We are now in the third year (of three) of the project, which has seen more than 50 young people benefit from this dual-track approach. Indeed, when asked to reflect on their feelings before and after the peer mentoring programme, there was a significant improvement in young people’s mental well-being, as measured on the Short Warwick Edinburgh Mental Well-being Scale.
The mentalization-based couple therapy being given to the parents in this project is also being delivered, on a much larger scale, to separated (as well as intact) parents through the Government’s Reducing Parental Conflict programme.
This approach helps parents to focus on, and think about, not only the feelings and emotions they are experiencing, but those of their children too, learning to modify their behaviour, by reflecting upon the feelings which underlie their conflict, helping them to be better able to think about their emotions instead of acting upon them in repetitive cycles of relationship conflict.
An analysis of data collected from parents receiving this approach in Hertfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Cambridgeshire and Essex has shown impressive outcomes on a range of adult and child measures, with those parents who provided CORE scores (a measure of psychological wellbeing) before and after the intervention, and whose score before the intervention indicated they were experiencing a clinically significant level of psychological distress, showing a significant alleviation in their psychological distress.
This analysis also shows a significant reduction in conflict between parents in intact relationships and separated relationships, violent problem solving for parents in intact relationships and for parents in separated relationships, and conflict about the children.
With such impressive findings, it is hardly surprising that more than half of the parents participating in the programme believe that the child/children’s wellbeing has improved as a result.
When asked how the intervention has helped provide them with a time to reflect and consider what is in the best interests of their child(ren), parents have said:
I would definitely recommend this programme. It has taught me to realise these triggers before the situation escalates into aggression, irritation and arguments. It has also taught me how to relate to my son to improve our relationship and get the best from my son.
The programme is invaluable to any parent going through separation. It is entirely different to anything else out there.
Learning to take a step back and really think what’s best for my child.
Helping me to think about how to we behaviour, things we need to do more together to come to a good conclusion. To get the best for our children. Sticking together as parents so children see consistency.
Funding for the current delivery of the Reducing Parental Conflict programme ends at the end of March this year, and it is expected that local authorities will then be able to bid for funds to deliver programmes such as our mentalization-based therapy for parents.
This Children’s Mental Health Week, it is more vital than ever that this invaluable work is continued and embedded within local settings, given its effectiveness in helping parents - and, as a result, their children - to develop and grow.