Midlothian Sure Start has helped parents gain a better understanding of their children’s needs and enhanced their parenting skills.
Midlothian Sure Start (MSS) is a charity that runs six early years/family learning centres for children from pre-birth to age three on behalf of the local authority. All of its courses and groups are free to attend.
Its vision is, ‘For all Midlothian children to build the foundations for a happy childhood that serves them a lifetime.’
MSS subscribes to a co-production model, with half of the board positions held by parents and carers. This enables the charity to respond to parents’ needs and develop the appropriate services.
An aim of MSS was to be more ‘dad-inclusive’, so after securing Lottery funding, the charity set up its Dads2b course. Delivered by the charity’s dads co-ordinator and a community NHS midwife, the course explores practical aspects of infant care as well as the emotional experiences of fatherhood, including the birthing experience.
The Dads2be course runs for five weeks, after which participants are invited to attend MSS’s follow-on parenting courses – Being a Dad, Dynamic Dads and A Good Start, which is open to all parents.
The courses are designed to increase parents’ well-being, make them more attuned to their babies and to be more familiar with the charity’s other services. The overarching aims of the courses are to build family and parenting, as well as community capacity and contribute to sustained support to improve outcomes for children and their families.
One father said, ‘Sessions were amazing, absolutely loved it, so worth coming to. I learned so much.’
A Good Start is for parents with babies from eight weeks old. It was set up in response to mothers and fathers wanting to know more about early brain development, with existing baby massage courses being extended with additional sessions.
Staff from MSS developed the course in collaboration with parents, tested and refined it, before rolling it out across the local area.
The ten-week course is underpinned by a strong theoretical base around baby massage and attachment theory. Core components of the course are baby massage, early brain development, play, safety at home and weaning.
Delivered by volunteers and MSS staff, the ultimate aim is to train parents to cascade learning to other parents. A Good Start is currently being delivered to approximately a third (330) of parents of newborn babies in Midlothian each year.
One mother said, ‘Baby massage helped me to find ways to relieve my baby’s wind pains. Being able to sing songs and massaging my baby helped bonding during a low time suffering from post-natal anxiety.’
An evaluation of the A Good Start course and the work of the Dads Service by the Universities of Stirling and Edinburgh Napier found they equipped parents with a better understanding of their children’s needs and meant they were more patient.
The research also showed the courses and groups reduced parents’ isolation, and improved their self-esteem and confidence.
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Open to services or projects that support parents, enhance their understanding of their children’s learning and development or improve children’s outcomes through involvement and co-operation with families