Some of the problems experienced by the children we help through our therapeutic work are caused by poor parenting.
We have therefore developed a school-based course Before Becoming a Parent for teenage boys and girls with the aim of ‘Meeting the emotional needs of their future babies, children and themselves as parents’.
There is no comprehensive preparation for all parents about the realities of parenthood, especially the emotional aspects. It is urgently needed to try to prepare young people in good time in ways which they will always remember.
B4BP is led by its own Steering Group and with Sir Richard Bowlby, Dr Christopher Clulow, Dr Clare Gates and Sue Gerhardt as Patrons and we welcome new members.
If want to help us implement this course, please get in contact.
We now want to:
build on our experience with piolts and plan a comprehensive ‘syllabus’
find further schools, youth clubs, colleges and prisons in which to run the project
evaluate the results
Background to the course
Pilot course at McEntee secondary school, Walthamstow, 2006
Carefree Kids ran a two term pilot:
A weekly session for 20 girls aged 14 during their Health and Social Care course for two terms.
A local mother with a toddler, and then a new baby, came in most weeks to talk about what parenthood is really like.
We discussed many aspects, sang a song, answered anonymous questions (about ‘anything’ — they had little sex education) and did role play.
The evaluations at the end, carried out by the University of East London, showed that all the girls found it of great interest. Most wanted it to continue for longer. One girl who skipped school regularly used to come in just for this lesson!
A weekly session for 15 boys and girls aged 14 during their drama lesson for one term.
We employed a drama teacher, experienced at working with teenagers, to do role play, dealing with difficult situations in family life.
All the young people participated with great gusto. In our discussion at the end, they all reported their enjoyment of the lessons.
‘I have learnt many ways of communication. It will definitely help me when I become a parent.’
McEntee Secondary Student
Frank Field is piloting parenthood education in Manchester and Liverpool. His method is to insert topics within existing subjects, e.g. family budgeting in maths lessons. The charity WAVE has been commissioned by the Scottish government to develop a course for young people in Scotland.
What we propose is a development of two pilots we have run in East London schools (Carefree Kids charity 2006 and 2014) on somewhat different lines from Frank Field's and WAVE’s. Our course is based on the premise that:
Human beings remember what they have learnt through experiential methods which involve their emotions, far more than what they learn through purely intellectual methods.
As a mental health charity, we organise, for example, role play showing the terrifying emotional effects on children of witnessing domestic violence between parents. Teenagers who have taken part in such a role play are likely to remember it for the rest of their lives (whereas they forget much of what they learn in other subjects once the exams are over!). We hypothesise that this learning will have beneficial effects in many cases in future, once they have children.
There have been several comparable courses in the USA with positive well-documented outcomes, although as far as we know, no one has had research resources to follow up the young people who have done a course and a control group into the years when they become parents.