Parents as Partners is a preventative intervention, based on the work of the Professors Carolyn and Philip Cowan, who stress the importance of addressing the couple relationship within interventions designed to optimise outcomes for children’s wellbeing. The central aim of the programme is to improve the quality of the parental couple relationship and therefore in turn improve the quality of parenting. A unique feature of Parents as Partners that sets it apart from other interventions, is it requires the involvement of both parents to commit and engage in exploring how their relationship affects their children. Parents work on their relationship, how they interact, the family dynamic and work on their parenting skills within the group sessions.
The strong collaboration between the programmes creators and facilitators in all aspects of the programme was evident. It was also clear that great importance had been placed on making the programme practical and transferable to the real family environment. The interactive presentation from the group co-facilitators provided a chance to experience aspects of the group sessions and gave a sense of what the intervention is like for couples involved.
A highlight of the day were talks given by Professors Carolyn and Philip Cowan the developers of Parents as Partners, who gave an overview of how the programme was conceived. They discussed the perhaps universal challenges couples face in the transition to becoming parents and the importance of bringing parents together during this time; recalling from personal experience they described noticing that there was very little support for parents during this time in their lives.
As well as speakers from the Tavistock Centre, there were also talks by other key representatives in the area of early intervention and parent and child mental health. Donna Molloy from the Early Intervention Foundation provided an interesting talk on the importance of supporting the use of evidence-based early interventions to tackle social problems and improve children’s life chances. It was encouraging to see that the organisation are helping commissioners to select and implement the most effective interventions available.
Another central focus of the day was the emphasis on engaging fathers in interventions, something which is an essential component of the Parents as Partners programme. Members of the Health Start, Happy Start team attended a workshop dedicated to discussing how the programme works to positively involve fathers, by conducting the programme sessions in an environment that actively welcomes fathers’ participation. Also, the programme strictly follows the use of a male-female co-facilitator pair to run group sessions, which they believe to be a powerful tool in engaging fathers as well as mothers.
Overall it was an interesting and enjoyable day, and provided the team with some key learning points with regards to promoting the engagement of fathers within interventions, which will be helpful as we commence the Healthy Start, Happy Start programme.