Family Foundations: Building Strong Parenting Teams

The parenting landscape has been shaken up quite a bit in recent decades. Equality, the cost of living and technology have all played their part, each pushing the envelope open that little bit further.

Dads are, quite rightly, being called upon to do more than just go to work, while more and more mums, on the back of social media, are working two jobs – one paid – in their quest to have it all: the house, the job, the healthy and happy kids.

Plonk all this on top of an already tough gig in parenting and there’s bound to be some breakdown between those that are new to the game.

Recognising this issue, and with the aim of pulling new mums and dads in the right direction from the moment they find out they’re going to be parents through to that crucial adjustment period when baby is first brought home, Family Foundations is a free, evidence-based program developed by Pennsylvania State University run in collaboration with Murdoch Children’s Research Institute and funded by the Victorian government.

Research has shown that when parents cooperate and learn to manage their stress – there are better outcomes for babies. The 10-session program helps couples (or those parenting with someone else like an ex-partner, a grandparent or friend) to work together and develop coping skills to manage the ups and downs of raising children. The program has been shown to make a significant difference to the health and wellbeing outcomes for babies.

Parents don’t have to leave their homes to attend the program – Family Foundations staff come to you at a convenient time. They recommend doing five sessions before the baby arrives and five once you’ve brought him or her home. But if the baby is already at home parents can still jump on board.

“We know that the transition to parenthood is marked by significant role changes, increased financial pressure and the high demands of infant care. These stressors can adversely affect healthy couple relationships and further strain already fractured or fragile relationships,” says Gail Evans, Manager of Children and Family Services at Merri Health, the not-for-profit health organisation that oversees the program.

Family Foundations – which is currently being delivered in the Melbourne local government areas of Wyndham, Brimbank, Moreland and Hume and some surrounding suburbs – helps parents work on: Building a strong parenting team; developing skills to manage challenges and conflict in family relationships; strengthening communication and support; and managing stress and practical ways to cope. More than 70 couples have participated in the program so far.

One participant says: “We so looked forward to the Family Foundations sessions – the parent coaches were funny and helpful and we learnt how to manage our baby rather than argue or give in to exhaustion! We still use the strategies they showed us two years later.”

For more information, visit: merrihealth.org.au/services/child-and-family/support-for-new-parents/


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