Welcome parents, grandparents, foster carers, guardians … and anyone working in parenting education or support roles!
For countless people, parenting is one of the most rewarding, satisfying and meaningful roles we can ever undertake. And it can also be one of the most excruciatingly difficult roles at times. Just as big, big love can flow between a parent and a child, so too can really tough times.
At the core of a ‘strengths approach’ to working with families is the belief that all parents want the best for their children.
Anglicare Victoria’s Parents Building Solutions practice manual reinforces the importance of focussing on family strengths:
In strengths-based, solution-focused group work our intent is to provide space for parents to become aware of their own strengths and those of their family. This adds to their capacity to be the solution finders in their own lives. It has been our experience that in this way, parents discover the depth of their own capacities, become more resilient in their everyday encounters, find unique and respectful ways of addressing issues and take up the concept of life-long learning. In this way, over time, skills can be adapted to match the ages and stages of the children’s development and the new situations which arise. (Rutherford, E, Valentine, C & Ryan, F 2015, p. 16).
As any parent knows all too well, a baby, a child, a teenager does not come with a manual. We learn on the job, and without the power of reflection, education or awareness, we tend to unconsciously replicate the role models we’ve had growing up—good or otherwise.
One way to break the cycle and build parenting skills is through talking with others; hearing their stories of what works and what doesn’t, sharing our own stories of being a parent, and most importantly of all, getting in touch with what we most want for our children.
Two leading family practitioners with Anglicare Victoria–Jonathon Cummins, Manager, Strategic Development, and Cathie Valentine, Manager, Community Services Southern Region have written in the foreword for Strength Cards® for Kids:
Sometimes we find that parents are so overwhelmed by the problems in their family that they say they can’t pick even one strength for themselves. At other times their children’s behaviour has become so problematic for them that they can only focus on the ‘bad behaviour’ and they lose sight of their kids’ strengths. For others, their own family background means the concept of focussing on what you or your kids are doing well is a foreign concept.
In these instances, the facilitator, at times, will gently ask the group to pick a card [from Strength Cards® for Kids or Can-Do Dinosaurs] for a strength they see in the parent, and invite the parent to consider whether they also see that strength in themselves or their family. These moments can be powerful and illuminating. This type of reframing, when parents look at the child’s or their own strengths and potential, can be useful in enabling parents to reassess perceptions of a child and may open up new possibilities for dealing with a behaviour.
Reflecting on parenting and sharing with others is helpful for any parent regardless of whether there is smooth or rough sailing in the family at the time.