Parent relaxing with child

Children's mental health

My Child & Me: Reforming ‘parenting programmes’

3 April 2024
5 min read

How can we reform ‘parenting programmes’ so they are culturally appropriate, compassionate, and factor in the inequities that families face? Our inspiring partner Margaret Taribo from ParentSkills2Go has written about their new approach to supporting parents.

Image of Margaret Taribo
Margaret Taribo
Director, ParentSkills2Go

What is the My Child & Me Initiative?

My Child & Me is the flagship initiative of ParentSkills2Go, a Community Interest Company (CIC) in London’s Lewisham Borough and working across Southwark and Lambeth. Our primary objective is to prioritise the mental well-being of parents, caregivers, and young children within Black and racially minoritised communities, and to provide comprehensive support for their overall physical, mental, and economic welfare.

We conduct week-long early intervention workshops for parents, drawing on their lived experience, to empower them with knowledge about mental health. This helps them to effectively support their children’s development from an early age and as they transition into adolescence.

“I had a very strict and hard upbringing but now understand that it can spill over in my relationship with my children.” (Local parent, Jojo)

“I am learning to listen to my 3- year old, and am now aware that I shouldn’t assume that my older daughter understands what I am saying.” (Local parent, Debbie)

How did it start?

For more than seven years, Parentskills2Go has been providing support to Black and racially minoritised families through a variety of peer-led parenting programmes. In Southwark, it was observed that there were different levels of understanding about mental health issues within Black and racially minoritised communities and that there was a lack of culturally appropriate support and processes in place.

Consequently, these communities faced challenges identifying and accessing the right support for their children’s developmental needs. This problem became even more prominent during and after the COVID-19 pandemic, as increased isolation, illness, financial hardship, and depression became more evident. ParentSkills2Go has been actively addressing these issues ever since, recognizing the importance of bridging this gap.

How has it changed from the initial idea to what it is now?

It started out as an online workshop evolving from aspects of ‘life and work’ and ‘Be better, Do Better’ parenting programmes. After covid, we began to deliver in person workshops in centres and schools. It continues to be a 7-week workshop with the last session taking place as a focus group, 4 weeks after the 6th workshop. It has also evolved to include a coffee morning (Parent Space) which gives Black and racially minoritised parents and carers a space to discuss and receive advice for their children, many of whom have special educational needs. The programme now includes elements about money and mental health, with a particular emphasis on culture and values.

How were children and families part of the development of My Child and Me?

Consultations, discussions, and surveys were used to engage parents and children. Feedback from our soft outreach activities and events also highlighted levels of need and questions put forward by parents that expressed support that was needed especially during and after covid where mental health has been impacted hugely by isolation, behavioural changes and depression.

“Thank you so much for this workshop I never knew mental health can be so deep and I have learnt to be aware of how my children can be affected.” (Local parent, Lizzy)

What are the main things you hear/learn from families?

  • There are different levels of understanding and belief about mental health and some families see it from a largely religious or spiritual perspective
  • Mental health is often seen as a taboo and not spoken about openly
  • The link between a child’s mental health and behaviour isn’t always understood well by families. They can worry that children are just ‘being naughty‘ rather than seeing behaviour as an expression of distress or needs
  • Language barriers impact on the effectiveness of schools working to support parents and carers
  • Parents tend to struggle to express how they feel and so avoid speaking to their GP and would rather ‘deal’ with situations alone. Historic untrustworthiness of medical institutions makes this worse
  • Some mums don’t feel supported by members of their families when it comes to their child’s mental health, and this further impacts their mental wellbeing
  • Wellbeing can impact on parent child relationship especially because of cultural conflict

What is the difference between ‘My Child & Me’ and other ‘family programmes’ or mental health initiatives?

Other family programmes are very much appreciated and impactful, however, ParentSkills2Go is a team trusted by the community. We have expertise in supporting these communities as well as our own lived experiences. After seven years we have a record of delivering activities and services to our communities that are valued and impactful.

Most parenting programmes focus mainly on the child while ‘My child and Me’ ensures that wellbeing of the parent or carer is crucial to the mental health of the child, thereby empowering the parent in a way that makes them feel more supported and less judged.

“I feel more confident in opening up and seeking help for my son in a way that is clear and assertive and now I feel that the school is listening to me better than before.” (Local parent, Elizabeth)

What would you like to see change in children and families’ mental health support?

That support systems are better developed in terms of cultural competencies and humility. A focus on really listening to families and young children and reducing health inequalities. A system that tries to build trust and works to reach people even if there are barriers.

Image of Margaret Taribo

Visit ParentSkills2Go

Read more about workshops and activities for children and families at ParentSkills2Go

ParentSkills2Go website