Parental loneliness and the importance of children’s centres

Posted by / Friday 18 September 2015 / Children's centres

Becoming a parent is one the most magical life changing experiences for anyone. It is an exciting time that brings many new challenges which can be daunting for some, especially first time parents.

This is where support networks play a vital role. Having somewhere to go to talk to other parents, or having friends and families to ask for tips and share concerns can make all the difference.

Unfortunately, not all parents will have these support networks to turn to. Our recent research found a significant proportion of parents say they regularly feel cut off from friends and other sources of support. A quarter (24%) of the 2,000 parents said they were always or often lonely. This is troubling to see because it means that parents are missing out on the emotional and practical care that can make a difference to them and their children.

The first few months are really important time for parents, they are most open to advice and a great opportunity to develop good parenting behaviours.

Children’s centres are well placed to address this problems. They provide a warm and non-judgemental place to drop in for advice and to see what's available. Getting parents accessing services like antenatal classes, is an ideal way for them to build support networks early on. This is already a key motivation for expectant parents to come to classes. Children’s centre staff have the chance to meet new parents and build relationships with them, a key factor in delivering more intensive support further down the line – if needed.

Our briefing series, Beyond the buildinghas been looking at the role centres play in local communities. What is clear is that we need centres to retain a universal element to their work, especially in the earliest years. This is the only way that centres can get to know families and help those who may be lacking that support in the crucial early years.

The upcoming children’s centre consultation is an ideal way to ensure government keep this universal side of their work and seek to get more parents into centre during the antenatal period.

Between professional help and stronger social networks, parents are better equipped to deal with whatever life throws at them. Keeping children’s centres as part of a universal offer to local families is the first step toward achieving this.

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