How relationship counselling helps families – real stories

Published in Blog on February 16th 2022

Working with parents, parents’ thoughts and a practitioner viewpoint from the Reducing Parental Conflict Team, Westminster.

By Charmain Jackulin

Stronger Families a Government/DWP programme run by Tavistock Relationships has helped thousands of families over a period of years. It was designed to be able to help where stress and conflict in relationships start affecting the family.

Many participants found that by taking professional counselling addressing conflict within the relationship as well as strengthening parenting skills to bring up their children, that both those elements improved.

With the programmme drawing to an end, here we feature two accounts, one from parents describing how relationship support helped them, and the latter form one of our trained practitioners on how she found working to strengthen relationships and families.

This case study reflects reality of the 12-14 hours we spend with a family and the lived experiences beyond intervention

Parents, living together, who have been helped to communicate better by the Triple P Enhanced Programme

“We have to be honest and say we still argue but it’s actually about different things, now we are more organised with a lot of the boys’ routines, they are not set in stone as we find flexibility works better for us. It’s about recognising what the other person needs…common sense really.

We will never forget when our son called us into the room and said, “Inside voice, use your inside voices when you talk to each other”. At three years old he knows the difference and it made us wonder why don’t we?

We argue about things when we haven’t properly communicated with each other, yesterday I had a tough day and just need ten minutes to myself, but she said. “Watch him, I just need to pop to the shops”. It was a reasonable request but I’m angry she hadn’t acknowledged my stress and she was angry that I snapped at her. So, we are practicing checking in, asking how each other is and, more importantly, communicating how we are feeling instead of assuming the other person knows AND using our inside voices”.

Working with a parent who is deaf, whose first language is not English, using a signer and the Triple P Family Transitions Programme for separated parents

I love a challenge but, I must be honest, as a practitioner facilitating the programme for a deaf parent for the first time left me feeling out of my comfort zone and a bit defeated; fortunately, one of my strengths as a dyslexic is persistence.

I also had to find an American Sign Language (ASL) signer not a British Sign Language (BSL) signer as the parent’s first language was not English and in her birth country ASL was used. All of this was made far more complicated as I needed to arrange it all via the parent’s social worker, this meant we could not be flexible at all. I quickly discovered the limits of the Triple P programme that uses lots of video vignettes – and has no closed captions.

Despite all the barriers delivering the programme was an amazing experience and felt so natural for me, the parent had a safe space to discuss and express concerns, we were able to look closely at strategies to support good co- parenting, the basis of the programme. This is what all parents who are referred for the work have the right to expect, and I was so pleased that this parent could have the same experience. This piece of work highlighted for me the lived experience of the deaf community; how hard they have to work to find support and the many barriers that are there for them in using services once they have found them.

This piece of work has made me reflect hard on the vital difference between parents’ views, “your services are hard for me to use”, and professionals’ views, “you are a hard-to-reach parent in in a hard-to-reach community”, and how we need to be ambitious about drawing people into the help they need. It has also made me aware that Deaf people have a language, and we need to be fluent in it to help or have access to signers as a matter of course. How good would it be to have two trained signers in Tavistock Relationships? We should treat it like being a Fire Warden and a First Aider perhaps.

The parent’s thoughts at the end of the work were:

“I’d like to share my experience in reducing parental conflict programme. This course was significant as it helped me to resolve the difficulties in communication as a co parent. The sessions enabled me to think about how to write to my ex-partner in a way that enabled him to respond without anger, so much better for our children. The workbook I worked through with Charmaine helped me to try different ways to reach my ex-partner and it certainly widened my perspective. I would like to thank Charmaine, my facilitator, who has led me through the sessions and made sure I would understand fully. I am so glad I was given the opportunity to take part”.

The parent ended with thanks to Charmaine, much appreciating the trouble Charmaine had taken to make sure the work was properly accessible. We thank her too.

You can see our current parental support programmes here.

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Stronger Families Parent Voices

Parent Voices

 BRSF Hear What Parents had to Say Square 200x200

"We felt our relationship wasn't strong and wanted to improve it so we could be better parents to our two small children ... I would definitely recommend the programme to a friend looking to improve their relationships and parenting.”

Hear here.

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