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Feb 28, 2020 | by Rachel Tonkin, Director of Policy and Engagement of Family Lives, which is part of the Parenting Programmes’ Alliance

Families wellbeing as part of community wellbeing

Together the Parenting Programmes’ Alliance , a group of UK organisations, provides evidence-informed parenting programmes to over 20,000 parents annually around the UK.  We meet regularly with policy shapers and makers, sharing expertise and information, and offering suggestions of how best to deliver high-quality parenting programmes on the ground. We exchange ideas with one another online, and attend conferences and events to develop our expertise and influence.   

What is family wellbeing?

There is now a substantial body of evidence supporting the viewpoint that it is crucial to consider individual and community wellbeing alongside family wellbeing. Parents and children do not exist in isolation. Our upbringing and family life shapes us, gives us context to the world around us – our community, culture, education, values, and our behaviour. 

Children’s wellbeing is intrinsically connected to their parents’ (mental and physical) wellbeing (and their ability to engage/give love and have strong constructive relationships) more than any other influence in their lives. There can be stark differences between a family which is chaotic and struggling, and a family which is thriving. Often these differences are carried across generations. Families can be places that support each of their members. They can also be places where individuals can feel isolated, lonely, scapegoated and worse.

The difference parenting programmes can make

Parenting programmes offer parents the opportunity to increase their sense of self efficacy, improve their insight and understanding of what is happening in their family, and develop skills to improve their own wellbeing while improving the wellbeing of their children. For example, setting goals and exploring feelings and behaviours:

 “Taking time to think about what you want in your life helps you gain a greater sense of control and wellbeing. When you take action towards those things you are setting goals. Goals are like stepping stones. They can help you focus and improve your outlook, which will move your family forward in a positive direction.  Your facilitator can help you form your thoughts into an attainable goal.”

Family and the wider community

Focussing on family welfare also raises challenges about the meaning of community. Social isolation has a detrimental impact on many parents and children. Parenting groups can play a significant role in enabling connections and friendships to develop, reducing social isolation and strengthening communities.

For many families, community is much broader than the geographical neighbourhood, which may not be especially welcoming or safe for some. It can include, for example, a religious community or family network that extends globally. Maintaining connections with wider communities is very important for many people where families struggle with feelings of alienation and search for identity and belonging.

The use of technologies can enable people to connect with their community, wherever that is, sharing experiences in real time. For example, using Facetime a woman in a refuge can eat lunch each day with her mum, living in another country. Anyone concerned with wellbeing needs to identify and facilitate connections in the wider communities, to people who matter to a family as well as enabling strong connections in the local neighbourhood.  

What can funders and policy makers do?

The Parenting Programmes’ Alliance is keen to support funders and policy makers to optimise investment and implement strong sustainable strategies by taking the default position of always considering an individual within the wider context of their family. It’s important we don’t treat children as if they live in isolation from parents, and understand the impact of changes to a parent’s wellbeing or circumstances on their children. Our focus as parenting programme providers is to nurture the family as the cornerstone in raising the next successful generation, and family wellbeing should be at the heart of any new family policies.

Families and outdoor recreation

Read our evidence review on the wellbeing impact of spending time outdoors with family

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Families and outdoor recreation

Read our evidence review on the wellbeing impact of spending time outdoors with family

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