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A day in the life of ... A parenting coordinator

Teresa Newcombe

8am. I start my day as a parent, dropping my teenage daughter at the bus stop and my son at a friend's house. We have the usual family arguments - bag not ready, shoes buried - but no screams or shouts today!

8.30am. First stop is a community school in Borehamwood. The head is interested in running the "Family Caring Trust Pram to Primary School" or "5-15" course at the school. I provide leaflets for parents, explaining the benefits of attending the course and agree to talk at a meeting for new parents. We plan to run a crèche for children under school age depending on funding. I promise to write a short piece for the school newsletter to accompany the leaflet with all course details for September, as some parents might prefer to attend an evening course.

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9.00am. Next stop, Elstree Way Clinic in Borehamwood. Although not my base, I am able to check emails and telephone messages. I belong to an e-group, which keeps me informed of any important initiatives relating to parenting, including discussions held in parliament. I forward several items of interest on to colleagues.

I am currently organising a conference exploring the difficulties of parenting children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Several parents have said that an ordinary parenting course was not suitable due to the extreme behaviour of their children. As a result, I contacted a colleague in the Community Adolescent Mental Health Team (CAMHS) and we set up a parent's support group. We have had up to 14 parents and carers attending the monthly session since we started in January. Colleagues from different disciplines expressed the need for more information. There are emails waiting for me from speakers confirming that they would be willing to present a session, information on mandatory training, and minutes of a meeting that I was unable to attend. It is satisfying to delete several emails immediately! I print off the minutes to read later and reply to the speakers.

Two telephone messages are referrals from parents. Anyone can apply to join a course; we want to reach parents who want to learn how to avoid problems as well as those with issues to tackle. I speak to most parents before I book them onto a course. Sometimes problems cannot be solved in a group; they may need one-to-one help or referral to another agency. Both requests are for an evening course, and I have to try to find two facilitators willing to run an evening session. I usually plan dates and venues a term ahead. The volume of calls has increased considerably this year, so I plan to set out provisional dates for the whole year, to ensure that facilitators will have fewer commitments in their diary when I ask for help.

Most facilitators are health visitors, nursery nurses or family support workers; however, we have one trained parent facilitator and workers from "Children, Schools and Families". Regular training and supervision are important, and I send emails to colleagues to remind them of the joint supervision session next week.

9.30am. I arrive at the Family Support Centre for the third session of a "Shareplus" course for parents with children attending Highscope. This is a highly structured session for children over the age of three. Siblings attend a crèche to enable us to work without distraction. Shareplus is a new course that we helped to pilot with over 50 sessions to choose from. Designed for all in a parenting role, it works especially well for families where literacy is an issue. We have chosen fun and interesting sessions to engage the parents. This week the topic is play - each parent will make and play with some Play-Doh and have a go at "play listening". Many of the parents have never had an opportunity to play themselves and find the warm Play-Doh very relaxing. They are reluctant to clear up, and I gently remind them how children will react in the same way!

We want to encourage parents to watch their children play without interrupting, to notice and comment on what they are doing. Research has shown that children really enjoy positive attention. It feels alien to talk to someone, commenting on what they are doing, so I demonstrate with Trudi, the parent facilitator. The parents are willing to try, and Trudi and I observe them in pairs. The session goes well, with lots of laughter and discussion. The parents leave the session with their Play-Doh, ready to comment on the pictures drawn and painted by their children.

It is now midday. Trudi has agreed to cofacilitate the next evening course. I stop for a sandwich at the clinic and persuade a colleague to lead the evening course. The venue is a local sports centre; I ring through to confirm the dates.

12.45pm. I meet Sue, my colleague from CAMHS, to plan the next ADHD group, having agreed with the parents to talk about reward systems. We have prepared ideas and some handouts on praise and reward. We put our work together and make up a pack for each parent ready for next week.

2.00pm. I visit the Borehamwood Community Partnership to speak to the Early Years Coordinator. Borehamwood is a deprived area and has a social regeneration budget.
I hope to negotiate payment for the crèche sessions at the school. I discuss my proposal and will have to wait to find out if it will be accepted. Crèches in schools have allowed us to reach parents that might not have otherwise attended a course.

2.30pm. My final call is the community shop to include details of the latest courses on their website and newsletter (delivered free to every household in the area). There is a range of local publications that I contact regularly for free advertising.

At 3pm I am back in parent mode and ready to collect my son from school (Hertsmere PCT is a family-friendly employer - I work term time only, mainly during school hours, with some evenings). I have already compiled a long list of tasks for tomorrow! No two days are ever the same in this role. I enjoy the multidisciplinary nature of my job and developing new initiatives, but most of all I enjoy seeing parents becoming empowered.