The World Health Organisation (WHO) recognises that evidence-based parenting programmes are proven to support the creation of stable and nurturing relationships between children and their parents. In a year in which family dynamics have been placed under enormous strain because of the Covid-19 pandemic, access to far-reaching, flexible and tailored parenting support has never been more important.
Triple P, an evidence-based parenting programme, improves parenting skills by giving parents the confidence to build and maintain warm, positive and responsive family environments. The programmes give parents simple and practical strategies to help them nurture strong, healthy relationships within the family, reduce inter-parental conflict and confidently manage and support their children’s behaviour.
As part of the Department for Work and Pensions’ Reducing Parental Conflict Programme, Triple P tackled the significant negative impact that frequent, intense or poorly resolved conflict between parents can have on children’s mental health and long-term life chances.
Triple P offers a wide range of programmes to support families, including when parents need additional or specialist help with couple conflict, offering two specialist interventions: Level 5 Enhanced Triple P for those who are still together but having relationship difficulty; and Level 5 Family Transitions Triple P for couples going through separation or divorce.
Both programmes are designed to support parents experiencing personal distress from interparental conflict, which is impacting on or complicating their parenting. The programmes focus on skills to resolve conflicts with partners and former partners, and explore ways to manage stress constructively so that a more positive home environment is nurtured and maintained for their children.
As those familiar to Triple P will know, all of Triple P’s programmes cover the importance of communication and consistent parenting, and are therefore often used as the first step to building couple relationship and parenting skills. Research outcomes from Level 3 Discussion Groups Triple P include improvements in couple relationship satisfaction, with Level 4 programmes (Group, Standard and Triple P Online) also demonstrating significantly reduced couple conflict.
Triple P practitioners tell us and outcome data from a range of different providers shows us, that for separating families the better parents collaborate, the better they meet their child’s needs. To achieve this, Triple P’s specialist Family Transitions intervention teaches parents the following:
The Covid-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on families, and has created strain and pressure on interparental relationships in some families.
Candi Lawson, Sheffield City Council’s Strategic Commissioning Manager, has been delighted with the significant increase in the number of families who have both parents attending sessions of Family Transitions Triple P thanks to the programme’s remote delivery.
She believes the versatility of Family Transitions Triple P meant the programme was easy to shift to remote delivery, using Zoom and WhatsApp groups which have created a flexible and inclusive offer for even the busiest parents.
The content of Family Transitions Triple P encourages both parents to attend the programme, and has specific elements which engage fathers to explore their unique role in their child’s life. Engaging fathers in their parenting support offer has been a real focus for the Early Help team in Sheffield. Using Family Transitions Triple P, the team have been very pleased to see fathers really engage with the support they offer, with a noticeable increase in fathers attending during the pandemic.
Carolyne Jeanes, Triple P Coordinator at the Council, shared an outstanding piece of work undertaken with a family who, when they first reached the service, were living in very difficult circumstances. Though separated, both parents lived under the same roof, and were trying their best to support two teenagers while also facing challenges in their own acrimonious relationship.
Practitioners reported a high level of distress from one parent, who was also suffering with a long-term medical condition. Having been referred in through a Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hub, significant progress was made for the benefit of the whole family, which surpassed the expectations of the whole parenting team working with the family.
As with many families who have reached the point where they would benefit from Family Transitions Triple P, the relationship between mother and father had significantly deteriorated over time.
To address this, each parent worked through the programme simultaneously, but separately, being supported by two different practitioners. Through this work, the parents were able to put together a Parenting Plan without having to go through the Courts, an outcome which seemed highly unlikely when this family first presented. To ensure the parents were able to get the most out of the programme and see it through to the end, one practitioner delivered the programme for one of the parents, offering shorter sessions over more weeks. This flexible change to the programme ensured it was manageable for the parent, and did not impact the outcomes of the intervention.
By the end of the programme, both parents had reported significant improvements in their co-parenting relationship, as well as their overall well-being and happiness. One parent had made the decision to move to a different residence to improve relations and both were able to have calm and constructive conversations about their children’s needs and well-being. Most significantly, the children reported feeling much happier with their parents’ relationship, and how that impacted them. They had felt like they were
piggy in the middle prior to their parents undertaking Family Transitions Triple P, and they no longer felt this way.
At the end of the programme, the father reached out to the Gloucestershire County Council team, and said:
Just wanted to say what a really great course you took. I was quite apprehensive to start with and did think it was going to be a waste of time. The contrary was true and I learnt a lot about what I needed to think about regarding my girls. In areas which I already had a good awareness such as mindfulness you reinforced and added to my knowledge. It was also really nice to talk to you about issues and I felt I could communicate with someone who knew what she was talking about.
The programme achieved excellent results for the family and supported them to move into better circumstances which suit both parents and their children. It has also taken pressure off other parts of the system which would have had to become involved had the Family Transitions Triple P programme not been available and so successful.
Case studies, like these, bring to life what the research shows about the impact of programmes like Enhanced and Family Transitions Triple P. Families who need to use the Courts to agree the children’s living arrangements often endure lengthy and costly proceedings, which often result in stress and unhappiness for all involved. A recent report by the Nuffield Family Justice Observatory1 also found that separated parents in England who depend on the family courts to resolve private disputes over child arrangements are likely to live in the country’s most deprived areas. As these, and other examples show, programmes like Family Transitions Triple P can have a transformative effect for families and avoid the need for recourse to the Family Courts.