Parenting as part of Lambeth’s Youth Violence Strategy
Current delivery of our flagship Strengthening Families, Strengthening Communities (SFSC) parenting programme in the London Borough of Lambeth has focused on working with parents of 11-18 year olds as part of the borough’s youth violence strategy. This has seen Lambeth adopt a new approach to the issue by addressing the fundamental risk factors which cause violence to occur in the first place, based on a public health approach – rather than purely enforcement, diversion and intervention.
The violence prevention focus of SFSC makes it an ideal part of the Lambeth approach. Off the back of four successful years of community-based programme delivery, with a public health focus on healthy relationships and sexual and reproductive health, we have been able to build on our extensive knowledge of the borough and the communities within it to establish programmes exclusively for parents of older children. This can be a group that is harder to reach – there are no longer school drop offs and obvious places to communicate directly with parents as children get older. Services like children’s centres target parents of younger children and often parenting services run out of these agencies. Yet we know that as children transition to adulthood, parents can often struggle to respond and keep things on track, especially when the influence of peers and the wider environment increases.
We have delivered two successful groups in Lambeth this year despite the pandemic, and have a third running currently, as well as two more in the pipeline. We have so far managed to engage around 30 parents who were in need of support to manage their children’s behaviour, help them adjust their own parenting strategies and norms, and offer ways to better support their children – many of whom were experiencing issues with mental wellbeing, exacerbated by Covid lockdowns.
Parents used the safe space provided by SFSC to share scenarios where they felt disrespected, fearful, angry or despairing when it came to their parenting role and bringing up their children. Where parents had previously felt isolated, as though they were the only ones experiencing these feelings, they found solace in the commonalities of raising teenagers. Strategies around the parent and child relationship were discussed, demonstrated, and often debated through the weeks as parents highlighted their fears of possible gang involvement, bullying, grooming and other criminal activities that children in this age group were exposed to. As well as community violence, issues of family violence were also highlighted and addressed, whether it was between parents, parent to child or child to parent violence.
The sessions introduced tasks and strategies which took many parents out of their comfort zone but instilled in them the confidence to look at alternatives. Strategies such as special time, clear instructions and setting clear boundaries were utilised to positive effect and the parents articulated feeling empowered, despite their initial apprehension to engage in the parenting programme and take a closer look at the issues.
Joy Ohen is a Parent Programme Officer at the Race Equality Foundation.