Market House / Support towards happy parenting

The Parent Link team (left to right): Wendy Hand (VAS team leader), and facilitators Julia Halcrow, Wilma Goodlad and Christine Geldard. Missing from the photo are Parent Link coordinator Mairi Jamieson and facilitator Mhairi Garnier. Photo: Chris Cope/Shetland News

While it can be hugely rewarding, parenting can also be extremely challenging, writes Louise Thomason.

And unlike almost any other experience in life, it is a situation that no one can prepare you for: there’s no on the job training, no instruction manual, no trial period.

But what if there were training – or classes, at least? Through its courses, Parent Link Shetland aims to provide families with the tools and skills to see them through a variety of stages and challenges.

From starting life with a new baby to more specialised areas such as supporting children through change and loss to talking to them about drugs, the courses explore strategies and approaches that can be used in the real world when parenting.

The initiative is a partnership between Voluntary Action Shetland and Parent Network Scotland, established to deliver classes to parents and carers across Shetland.

Held in blocks of two to eight weeks, the classes are run by local facilitators, all trained by Parent Network Scotland.

Classes are usually held in 2.5 hour group sessions once a week, but can also be taken as a one to one sessions. The partnership also provides crèche facilities to help ensure parents can attend the classes.

Parent Link coordinator Mairi Jamieson explained that the purpose of the courses is not to tell people how to parent, but to support them to find ways to make parenting work for them.

She said: “Every bairn is different, there could be different issues going on, so it’s knowing how to cope with your bairns the best, it’s to help parents develop their own skills to bring up confident, happy and cooperative children.”

The courses cover a broad range of subjects, from having a new baby and building up new parents’ confidence, to getting on with older children and communication skills for speaking to teenagers. How to encourage your child to learn, and dealing with family breakdowns are also featured.

Mairi said: “It’s a fairly big range [of subjects] but we’ve tried to make it inviting for all parents – folk will probably think oh, it’s for people who need extra support, but we get folk from all ages and all different backgrounds, across the board. It’s open for everybody.”

Parent Link courses do not need a referral, although any agency can recommend. The scheme has good links with Parent Network Scotland, who visit the isles regularly to update course content.

Sometimes couples can come together to work through differences of opinion on a parenting matter, in which case one to one classes are possible. However, one of the many benefits of the group work is encouraging parents to find support in one another.

Mairi said: “We do encourage folk to come to the group sessions as they can learn from each other; they can speak and form new friendships and can see “oh – so your bairn is having difficulty sleeping – I thought that it was just mine that were up all night!”

To find out more about what’s on offer, please contact Parent Link Shetland on 01595 743964.