An innovative parenting programme has been helping parents and children create calmer and happier households across the Midlands for nearly a decade.
Triple P – Positive Parenting Programme – is a unique partnership between the HSE and Tusla that adopts a positive parenting approach of creating a strong relationship with your child or teenager, encouraging positive behaviour, and managing stressful situations.
Triple P is available free throughout Laois, Offaly, Longford and Westmeath since 2010, and more than 24,000 parenting programme places have been filled. It has just started running in Sligo/Leitrim and is continuously expanding.
“We help parents handle the big and small challenges of family life. Triple P is one of the world’s most effective parenting programmes. It offers parents lots of choices, parenting information, tips and skills. It will give you a toolkit of proven strategies to help you answer your parenting questions,” explains psychologist Conor Owens, who manages the programme.
The programme has two age ranges – two to 10 years and teenagers. They run a variety of different modules to suit the needs of the parents, including hassle-free mealtimes, bedtime routines, managing aggression, reducing family conflict, and teaching coping skills to teens.
“The novel thing about our programme is that it is offered to the whole population. Parents are free to sign up if they like. You don’t need a referral and it is open to everyone. We have a full calendar of classes, seminars and workshops that people can check out. You would never have to wait long to attend,” he says.
There are three targets in one for the programme in regard to social, emotional and behavioural problems in children – prevention, early intervention and treatment.
“Studies have shown that programmes directed at whole populations have better results than the targeted approach,” says Conor.
He says that the results from the programme speak for themselves.
“It is the first notable population trial in Europe in regard to youth mental health and the results are fantastic. Programme results, if replicated at national level, could reduce the population incidence of behavioural problems by between 31 and 38%,” reveals the Triple P manager.
“It also has led to a 30% drop in mild to moderate depression in parents because we are giving them better coping skills and strategies to deal with challenging behaviour.
Conor stresses that Triple P is not just for extreme behaviour difficulties.
“We had just under 4,000 parents attend last year. People sign up for a huge variety of reasons. Of course, many are dealing with extremely challenging behaviour, but others come to improve their parenting skills and help their children.”
Conor was recently asked to speak at the European Network of Ombudsperson for Children, where children’s ombudsmen from 40 different countries were in attendance.
“Triple P is a unique public health approach to youth mental health and other countries were very interested in adopting it.”
Grainne Rafferty, a health promotion officer with the HSE Athlone, who has delivered the Triple P workshops in Longford Westmeath, says the programme has had a positive impact on many families.
“We are not out to change the world. We start small and hone in. This is all about the parents’ concerns, how we can make Triple P ﬁ t for them, not the other way around,” she says.
Grainne starts by helping the parents ﬁnd the reasons for their child’s misbehaviour. She uses video clips to draw people out. “We highlight some of the parent traps,” she says. “These can be such things as accidental rewards, where a child throws a tantrum in a supermarket because they can’t have what they want and the parent tries to calm the situation down by giving in and buying them sweets, or can be what we call an ‘escalation trap’ where the parent thinks that by their voice being the loudest they can control a situation.”
For Grainne, the most important part of the session is giving ideas to help parent prevent misbehaviour. This revolves around a discussion about ground rules and being consistent in your approach.
“Sometimes expectations can be too high. For example, you may think your child needs to be in bed by 7pm, but if you are only coming in from work at six o’clock, then this is not a realistic expectation and you can easily fall into an escalation trap. What I want is for parents to go away from the workshop with the tools and techniques for keeping any situation calm.
“We have had very positive feedback. A lot of parents say, ‘I knew what to do but I just didn’t know how to do it’. In the end this is all about making life easier and calmer for everyone,” she adds.
Audrey, a mum of two from Mullingar, reveals that herself and her husband had huge problems trying to get their daughters to bed, often leading to upset children and frustrated parents.
First, Audrey attended a Triple P seminar at her daughter’s pre-school but was reluctant about joining a longer Group Triple P programme.
As the lack of sleep got worse, Audrey put her misgivings to one side and enrolled for the eight-week Group Triple P programme. “The group was open and honest and there was no judgement on anyone. It was great to hear other parents talk about their parenting issues and yet there was a sense of security and conﬁdentiality that made me feel at ease.”
Since then they have noticed a huge improvement in their home life.
“My coping mechanisms have improved. I keep my voice calm and don’t let the situation escalate,” she says.
“I found out that it’s the little things that can trip you up so if you can change one thing, however small, it can make your life a whole lot better. Our house is now calmer, happier and deﬁnitely more fun for everyone.”
Check out www.askaboutparenting.ie for more information