Most new parents have had The Panic
New baby in a car seat on the sitting room floor – now what? Becoming a parent, adoptive or otherwise, is a vertical learning curve. They don't come with a handbook. However, there are handbooks out there – the bible that never left my side for the first few months of my daughter's life was Lewes-based Penelope Leach's classic Your Baby and Child: From Birth to Age Five. I have personally thanked her for writing that book and saving my life. Plus of course, these days, there are a million websites only too keen to help and advise. What many new parents find the most helpful is the support of other mums and dads and, at Sussex Community Foundation, we have funded many support groups, set up by local people to help others be their parenting best.
Our Little Cheyne Court Wind Farm Fund recently gave a £2,500 grant to Action in Rural Sussex (AiRS) to deliver six parenting support sessions for parents of children aged 5-11 in Playden and Rye. COPES is Action in Rural Sussex's family outreach service. Support for families in rural Rother – and parenting support, in particular - is concentrated in urban areas, the nearest being St Leonards-on-Sea and Hailsham. St. Michael’s School in Playden is a small school, only admitting 15 new pupils every academic year, with mixed year classes. The school has bought in COPES family outreach service on an annual basis to work with referred children and their parents/carers, to improve emotional well-being, parenting and family functioning. Due to restricted funding, the SENDCO (special educational needs and disability coordinator) has advised that the need for support outstrips supply. The SENDCO has set up a regular group for parents to discuss their children’s additional educational needs, and understand the related systems and entitlements within the educational framework. However, the school is unable to provide help in managing specific behavioural issues stemming from these additional needs, which parents are requesting – hence the grant.
Other family support groups to receive support recently are Rainbow Families in Brighton, a social and support network for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender parents (including those going through the adoption process, foster parents and parents-to-be) and their children. The grant paid for the hire of a soft play room and equipment. Plus we continue our support of Brighton Pebbles a parent-led charity for families with disabled children, also in Brighton & Hove. The group is open to families affected by any disability but particularly those who find accessing mainstream activities difficult due to severe learning disabilities, autism and challenging behaviour. Their grant was to pay for activities at their drop-in sessions, such as cookery sessions or arts and crafts activities.
Most parents feel the need for a little support and advice once in a while and luckily there are plenty of parent and family support groups around in Sussex. For information about what's on offer in your area, contact your local authority.