Parenting with success and satisfaction

Parenting with success and satisfaction

This is as summary of the three self-help workbooks for parents with psychiatric disabilities.
The workbooks are developed by Cenzor/ Lentis (voorheen GGzGroningen)(The Netherlands) and the Department of Rehabilitation of Hanze University Groningen (The Netherlands). This program is based on an inventory of needs for support of parents with psychiatric disabilities.

The workbooks can be used by parents in different situations; either parents who raise their children themselves or parents who have lost custody and have contact with their children by a visiting arrangement.
It can also be used in the following situations:

Parents who need to prepare on parenting after staying in hospital (psychiatric episode)
Parents who want to expand their parenting role.

In the workbooks continuously attention is paid to the communication with other persons that are important to the parent and the child and they help building on a functional dialogue.
This can be personal contacts of the parent but also persons who are involved with the situation by an official reason (foster-organisation, foster-parents, school, etc). It is important to help the parent to communicate with others because they can help the parent to focus on the needs of the child.

Parts of the program can be used by the parent itself as a kind of recovery program, and for other parts it is better that a care-provider gives assistance. It is kind of guided self-help.

1. Assessing the actual functioning in the parent role
The first issue in this book is to help the parent to reorientate on itself, on the child and on the situation. When the psychiatric disorder of a person needs attention for a period the healthy, strong and normal parts of one’s life get less attention and may be look smaller as they are.
We invite the parent to think about several aspects that come with parenting. Thes are worked out in the topics below and every topic has some exercises or queries.

Reorientation on yourself

  • What are your qualities, interests and values in life?
  • What is important for you in raising your child?
  • What are your strengths and vulnerabilities and how can you support yourself?
  • What can other parents learn from you?

Reorientation on the children, each child separate

  • Who and how is your child?
  • What are your child’s interests, what qualities en talents have your child?
  • How does your child develop?
  • What are the strengths and vulnerabilities of your child and how can you support it?
  • Dividing your energy and time during the week

What roles do you fulfil in life?
How do you spread your time over your parent role and other roles?
Is there energy left that you can pay attention to yourself / do something relaxing for yourself?

Satisfaction and success about parenting tasks and making connection with child and others

How satisfied are you about your functioning, what is strong and what should be strengthened?
What do important others think about what is strong and should be strengthened in your functioning as a parent?

Support, self-confidence and expectationsouderschap en

Who are important persons for you and your child?
Who supports you or who is working against you?
Who might support you if he knew that you have a bad time in coping with your situation?
How confident are you of being a parent?
Are you able to ask for help or does that frighten you? (are you afraid of loosing custody?)
What are your expectations about the future as a parent?
Do you think you can raise your child on your own or do others have to help?
What is your vision of your future in parenting?
Do you under- or overestimate yourself as a parent?


What needs to be strengthened and what kind of support / help do you need right now?

To make a plan to develop and use skills / to develop and use resources can be done with the help of workbook 2 and 3, that are both rehabilitation – oriented.
The workbooks can be used in different situations.

2. Strengthening the parenting role
With the help of this book the parent can make a plan to strengthen what is weak in functioning as a parent.
The third book can be used for parents who need to strengthen their role, whether the parent takes care for the child or has a visiting-arrangement with the child, who lives in a foster family.

Demands that come with the parenting role

Who are important persons that can make demands of you as a parent?
What are these demands?
What demands do you have yourself?

Can you meet these demands?
What are a problem for you?

Solutions that suit:
What skills do you need to learn or learn to practice in order to meet the demands?
What resources and support are available for you?

Planning the change:
Make a plan to strengthen the parenting role and schedule the activities you have chosen.

Investing in contact:
Communicate with others who are important to you and your child with what activities and actions you are strengthening your role as a parent.
Make a plan to stay in contact with them.

3. Regain or expand the parenting role
This workbook is partly the same as the second book and can be used for a parent who is not in contact with its child at this moment; for example a parent who doesn’t have a visiting-arrangement with the child and would like to come in contact with the child. Or a parent who stays in mental health-centre at this moment for treating.
These parents can be helped to make a restart by choosing an activity or defined situation (in contact with important others), so the parent needs to prepare only for the “small” part and others take care of the rest. This books starts with values, qualities and interests of the parent, earlier experiences and brainstorming possible activities and situations that could be a suitable context for the parent to meet the child or to take care for a part.
In this book it is also an issue for the parent to become aware of the time and energy the parent can give to the child in order to make realistic choices.
The rest of this workbook is the same as the second book (Who demands? What demands? Your own demands? Can you meet the demands? Skills / resources / plan).
It ends with paying attention to staying in contact with important others.
When the parent wants expansion of the parenting role in the future this book can be used again.


Inventory Research

The project ‘Parents with psychiatric disabilities’ consists of an inventory of needs for support of these parents and the development of a program. After the research, a support program for caregivers of this group is developed. The program is, as a pilot, trained with 9 caregivers who used it for 20 clients.

The inventory research that is done with 47 respondents from different places in the Netherlands and from Belgium gives the outcome that is written in the next part. The respondents are mainly people that receive cure or care from a Mental Health Institution. From this group 25% also lives in the Sheltered living. ouderschap en

Almost all the respondents (94%) say that they have enough help in general. But after this statement follows for half of the group that they want a different kind of help. For example support in relating with the child, support in communicating about the problems with ones child, support in communicating with other parents with psychiatric disabilities, support for the education and legal advice.
In general it seems that more than 80% suffers from barriers caused by psychiatric problems in the relationship with the child.

The literature search and the field research show that a relatively big part of this group lives by themselves. The literature makes it clear that in general one has a low income, especially by not having a paid job.

Most of the parents, that don’t have the responsibility for children, live in a guided or sheltered house. Fulfilment of the parent role is present for only a part. The need for a lot of parents from this group is to have more contact with the children.

The needs that were found in the literature search and partly also in the field research match with the basic needs described by Maslow (1954), that means the physiological needs, safety needs, needs of love, affection and belongingness, needs for esteem and needs for self-actualization.

Besides that there are needs that come from the disturbance: dealing with medication with the symptoms of the disturbance, with discrimination and stigmatization and support by mourning of the lost possibilities.

From the field study it appears that these parents need support around the themes:

  • Giving emotional support and warmth
  • Stimulating the development of the child
  • Listening to the needs of the child
  • Organizing and guiding activities
  • Teaching abilities to the child
  • Supplying for basic needs
  • Making Social contacts
  • Making a balance between parenthood and own needs
  • Improving the communication with the child

Based on these themes respondents express their individual needs to change, that can be the starting point for further coaching. Over 70% want to change in one or more fields. To improve the contact and the communication with children form the central issues.

The program “Parenting with success and satisfaction” is divided in three modules and is trained in a pilot to several caregivers. The use of this program is still in a first stage. The try-out during half a year with these caregivers and their clients is accepted in a positive way.

Ende P.C. van der en M.M. Venderink (2006). Steun voor ouders met psychiatrische beperkingen. Groningen: Lectoraat Rehabilitatie Hanzehogeschool en Cenzor-GGz Groningen