In Lockdown and Deep Tissue Damage Sam wrote about the challenges that will remain when the worst of the pandemic is over. Relationships within families, particularly in families that were already struggling pre Covid, is an area of particular concern. Here psychotherapist Ros Kane, author of The Miracle of NEWPIN discusses one proven and practical response.
Ros Kane is an east London psychotherapist trying to rescue the benefits of therapy from expensive private consulting rooms. She is currently completing books on teaching children and teenagers at school about how to be good parents in future. Say hello at firstname.lastname@example.org
I think the kids would be dead now if I hadn’t come to NEWPIN
What help is there for parents at their wits’ end? Who is there to give long-term support which transforms their lives and saves their young children from physical and emotional harm? Who can provide the right service so the parents don’t end up dead or in prison or psychiatric hospital and the children in care?
NEWPIN can: New Parent Infant Network. The first NEWPIN centre started in south London in 1982. Anne Jenkins, a health visitor, knew that what she could offer to distraught families was nowhere near enough. The service she developed is described by a NEWPIN co-ordinator in Australia as ‘the most unique, special, effective, empowering, life-changing, authentic change programme for families in the world.’ And a mother who went through it calls it ‘a miracle.’
Just suppose you are a mother or father, with at least one child under five, who is finding life impossibly difficult. You feel depressed or anxious most of the time.
Your relationships with your children, partner if you have one, maybe your own parents, are fractured and always have been. You probably didn’t have the best childhood yourself. You can’t bond securely with your kids. You hate yourself and sometimes everyone else too. You’re in daily despair with no idea what to do or where to turn.
Then you hear about NEWPIN. You meet the co-ordinator to discuss if you want to change and are willing to involve yourself about twice a week for a year or two in a challenging programme. You decide to give it a go. One of the regular members becomes your befriender and visits you to take you along, introduce you and help you settle in. You find the other parents and the staff welcoming, kind and in no way seeming to judge you.
Your child gets used to the playroom, making friends and finding respite from tensions at home while you relax in the living room with cups of tea and learn to trust the other parents who seem to take a genuine, understanding interest in you. This is a new experience.
The challenging programme
Once you’ve settled, in a few weeks or months’ time, you join two regular activities: the therapeutic support group, run by a group analyst, and the personal development programme where you discuss and learn about every aspect of life as a parent. The co-ordinator is probably a woman who needed NEWPIN herself and now has a paid position: you never sense she’s looking down at you. It’s hard to believe you can say anything you feel, reveal your vulnerabilities, your history, your day-to-day struggles to the group without anyone being shocked or critical – in fact all the members have their own, often similar, stories.
You no longer feel isolated or hopeless. Your self-esteem and confidence grow. You gain insight into why you find life so difficult as you recount your earlier experiences; and in the playroom you learn, with the play facilitator, how to play with your child and develop a healthy attachment.
If you feel the need for one-to-one counselling, it’s provided. There’s a 24-hour helpline.
Once you’re happier, more stable, able to relate well to others, you can be allocated a new member for you to support as a befriender. This might suggest to you that you could train to be a NEWPIN co-ordinator. You see a positive future, maybe through further education or vocational training. NEWPIN guides you while you find what’s right for you. You emerge as someone who appreciates and understands herself and her children, and the enormous gift that NEWPIN has given.
NEWPIN in the UK and Australia
Flourishing NEWPINs operate in Derry (Northern Ireland) and Westminster (London), as well as a one-day-a-week NEWPIN in Battersea (London.) There is a growing number in Australia.
The urgent need for more NEWPINs
During the Covid pandemic, there has been a dramatic increase in domestic violence, isolation, and the neglect and abuse of children. This makes it all the more vital to provide a NEWPIN centre everywhere for parents who are able and willing to engage with it. And NEWPIN saves huge amounts of future public money and personal tragedy.
As a parent and a psychotherapist, I know from both sides of the fence how hard it can be to be a ‘good enough’ parent and was privileged to help set up a Newham NEWPIN in 1992. I now want to press for many others.
Budget 2021: New money for parenting programmes
The October announcement of an extra £500m for family services is a golden opportunity to expand NEWPIN in the UK: a low cost, tried-and-tested, phenomenally effective model for parents in extreme distress and for young children at significant risk.
If you would like to know more, or might even be interested in setting up a centre, do get in touch. (And the booklet The Miracle of NEWPIN is available for £5 including postage.)
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