Children displaced by conflict, persecution, and economic pressures are exposed to multiple risks to their physical, social, and emotional development. Positive parenting and family functioning can protect children from these negative effects, and contribute to improved outcomes in spite of adversity. A growing body of research from low and middle-income countries suggests that parenting and family interventions can be effective for addressing risk factors for child maltreatment and negative psychosocial outcomes in low-resource settings.
To read about a parents support group as an additional element of a children’s programme, click the picture below:
When should we use a parents support group?
- At any time but especially in longer-term or protracted emergencies
- Where parents are under pressure to meet basic needs and previous community and family support mechanisms have been weakened
- Where children are showing signs of psychosocial distress or struggling to cope with their experiences
How to develop a parents support programme
Support groups or awareness raising for parents can take different forms, and may be highly programmed or simply a chance for parents to meet together for peer support.
Understand the needs and situation of parents and caregivers
Ensure that your needs assessment includes an understanding of the particular issues and stresses faced by parents and caregivers, and be aware of specific cultural concepts for discussion of sensitive topics such as physical punishment.
Establish regular parents meetings
Find a time and place which fits with parents’ daily routines and is a location that can be safely accessed. Consider the need for children to be cared for while parents attend meetings, and make provision for this, for example by running parents meetings at the same time as children are at school or attending a children’s programme, or provide access to childcare for young children. Establish a pattern of meeting which is realistic and appropriate for parents and caregivers, such as weekly or fortnightly.
Raise awareness of indentified issues
A parents group may include a series of facilitated sessions on parenting skills. Topics covered should be relevant to the needs of the community and could include:
- Child development
- Understanding negative consequences of harsh punishment
- non-violent discipline strategies
- Positive communication
- Problem-solving skills
- Stress management for caregivers
Some examples of parenting skills programmes are available at:
- Save the Children, Positive Discipline in Everyday Parenting
- War Child, Parents Deal
- IRC, Safe Healing and Learning Spaces Toolkit: Parenting Skills
Parents groups can also include training on child protection – understanding different kinds of abuse that children might face and how we can prevent and respond to these.
Provide a forum for discussion of challenges and needs
A parenting group can also simply provide a safe space for parents to share challenges and give advice to one another. Having a safe space to talk about worries and concerns can improve caregivers’ wellbeing and reduce stress. Organise meetings at which caregivers can discuss the past, present, and future, problem solve, and support one another to care effectively for their children. Orient caregivers on how to identify problems and to support children’s psychosocial health, and how to identify harmful responses to a child’s stress.
Provide referrals for support
Where caregivers have considerable difficulties caring for their children because of mental health issues, refer them to health services. Provide information and support for caregivers on protection issues for children, and refer to protection agencies or social services where needed.
Monitoring and Evaluation
- number of parents support groups
- number of parents/caregivers participating in support groups or training sessions
Outputs can be measured by e.g. attendance and registration sheets, activity schedules, training evaluations
- Quality of activities and programme
- Changes or effects on parents wellbeing – levels of stress, confidence in parenting skills and use of positive parenting practices with children
- Changes or effects on children’s wellbeing – psychosocial wellbeing, reports of treatment by parents
Outcomes can be measured by comparing baseline surveys of e.g. protection and psychosocial wellbeing, or community attitudes with later repeated surveys.
Additional tools and guidelines
Additional tools and resources on parents support groups are available here