Young people are often criminalised through society's lens; the media headlines, stereotypes and labelling associated with negative or anti-social behaviour is widespread; particularly in Hackney. However behind every troubled young person is often a parent; struggling to understand, counteract and change this behaviour. 'Parent's Voice' is a community organisation founded by Keeley Bennett and Kelly Reid in a radical attempt to educate and empower parents by providing a support network and practical advice, particularly for parents of children affected by gang violence. Their innovative and much needed approach involves sessions that help inform parents to be aware of potential issues such as gang culture, sexual exploitation and cyber bullying. Set up by parents for parents it provides a trusting and safe space to discuss real life situations and provide context to behaviours young people could be exhibiting. By empowering parents the project provides opportunity for relevant responses to concerning behaviour before it worsens.
Most parents desire their children to live happy and fulfilled lives; to excel in areas of education, relationships and future ambitions. This is of no surprise. However, despite best efforts challenging situations arise which throw equilibrium out of balance. Child and adolescent development as well as generational gaps can cause an on-going battle between parents and their offspring.
Early childhood up to eight is called formative years. This period is critical for cognitive, social, emotional and physical development. During these years, a child's newly developing brain is responsive to interactions with genetics, environment and experience. Parents cherish these years; watching their child progress and learn. They are responsible for providing a stimulating environment, nutrients and attentive social interaction for their children. There is a hands-on approach; with the child depending on them and being shaped by their attitude and input.
This often shifts as children reach teenage years. During adolescence several key developmental experiences occur; physical and sexual maturation alongside movement towards social and economic independence, development of identity and acquiring skills needed to carry out adult relationships and roles. It is a time of tremendous growth and potential yet it is also a time of considerable risk where social contexts can exert powerful influences. As these changes occur there is often a reflective difference in the relationship between young people and their parents. Communication often becomes short and specific (how was school... fine...) with little complex conversations occurring. The parent's role in socialisation tends to decline, with peer groups and outside organisations and information taking precedent.
While parents can identify a change in relationship it can be difficult to resolve this without support. As young people become insular and less willing to discuss issues, parents can be unaware of the battles they are facing until a significant incident occurs. As they navigate their social networks they could be experiencing:
Serious youth violence
Under achievement in school
Lack of ambition and no purpose
Parent's voice provides a safe space to discuss these potential issues and obtain practical and relevant advice to safeguard and protect children and young people. The focus is not to replicate a blaming culture but to accept responsibility, highlight the concerns and prepare actions to change outcomes positively. No child is perfect and all experience vulnerability and this project equips parents with the necessary tools to be vigilant about signs of problems and solutions to these.
Having attended a Parent's voice session myself I can testify to the impactful and inspiring work they are producing. Full of eager parents ready and willing to learn the session focused on educating on the dangers of synthetic Cannabis and potential affects on mental health. Informative and engaging it provided up to date statistics and helpful discussion points to all participants. There was a friendly atmosphere and a culture of sharing information and experiences. I left feeling knowledgeable and able to take steps to counteract this behaviour if I came across it.
Personal development of a young person is an on-going process and it is vital that they are supported by their parents/carers to remain involved in this stage of growth. Parenting is an individual journey; we carry our values, ideas and beliefs and raise our children in line with this. While we differ in methods and personality we can always learn more to make informed choices in our parenting decisions. Parent's Voice provides a unique opportunity to surround yourself with a network of support, gain a better understanding of your child in a friendly, social environment.
This community work can only continue with your involvement, participation and support. Various sessions are already occurring in Hackney and there is discussion of annual conferences to be arranged. Parent's voice are committed to providing this tailored service and are excited for opportunities to partner with like-minded organisations. For customised sessions, local group information or professional partnerships please contact Parent's Voice directly on the information provided below.
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