This month, we acknowledge Rachel Bird for her dedication to building partnerships and strengthening relationships, not only between parents and children but between families and the community at large. Read her story below…
My name is Rachel Bird. My husband and I run a local Christian charity called Restore Collective where we work with families in the local Atherstone/Mancetter community in Warwickshire. We particularly support and seek to enable and empower those who are socially and economically disadvantaged, so our partnership with Kids Matter was a natural fit.
As part of our community work, we partner with a local primary school where I lead on parent and family pastoral support. This seemed to be the perfect place to get our first Kids Matter group up and running. I was trained in late 2020 and we launched and ran the first in-person group in March 2021, where five parents started the Kids Matter journey and stayed the course. We are currently nearing the end of our second group with another five parents. We have partnered with St Peter’s Church to run the Kids Matter parenting programme and are hoping to launch a group in Bedworth in partnership with our own local church in the autumn as well as continue groups at the school.
It hasn’t been without its challenges, especially amidst the pandemic. Covid-19 has caused some disruption, with parents having children needing to isolate; this has delayed us finishing our second in-person group. Inviting guests isn’t always easy; there can be a negative stigma around being encouraged to a parent programme and many parents can feel they are being judged. This will take time to shift. Taster sessions are key to building relationships with the parents; to assure them we are all in this together, that there are no perfect parents and we are forming a community where we all want the best for our children. This ‘working alongside’ approach and language have worked well and won parents over where there was apprehension. Nearly all return after the Taster session. I also feel, as a facilitator, that showing a level of vulnerability in my own parenting has made it okay for parents to do the same, within the safety of a Kids Matter group.
I’ve learnt, amidst feelings of frustration and rejection when a parent declines an invitation or Covid-19 circumstances restrict attendance, to remember the individual; the importance of the one. That it is about making a difference in the life of one person, and seeing the positive changes in those who stay the course. ‘Deep impact’ is where I keep my focus. Seeing parents have their light-bulb moments and having the confidence to go forward and make changes is such a joy because I have have the privilege playing a part in seeing them empowered and enabled. Seeing this happen for even just one parent (and knowing the ripple affect it will have on their children) is worth it.
We have seen parents find friendship, support and community from one another where they have felt isolated; parents realising they are not the only ones who struggle, and consequently taking their masks off. We have been able to help them access additional support to strengthen their families and we are connecting them into other aspects of Restore and St Peter’s. We have seen those who have come shed a negative mindset over parenting programmes because the Kids Matter material is so easy to understand and apply to their everyday lives, and feels purposeful to them. These parents will now become our advocates in helping shift culture. We have seen parents taking on greater aspirations and wanting to volunteer within the school or our charity. We celebrate the little changes in their parenting because to our families they are big changes, which make a difference – like, eating a family meal round a table or spending one-on-one time with each child. All this has become possible with our Kids matter partnership. Together we can do so much more!
The prayer of my heart is that the principle of sowing and reaping will continue to prove itself true in our Kids Matter programme and all the families we journey with; that as we sow seeds of life, hope and love, and as these parents take the brave step to sow into their parenting, we will continue to see positive transformation.