‘Young people experience the world as an environment of relationships, and these relationships affect virtually all aspects of development.’
National Scientific Council on the Developing Child, Harvard University, 2004.
It was an absolute honour to be invited to deliver a
keynote speech at the OMEP’s annual conference on 7th November at Cork
Institute of Technology.
I was excited to see that the conference title was ‘Relationship
matters & what matters in early years relationships’ as the focus of my
work over the past number of years has been researching, developing and
delivering relationship-centred care programmes for frontline practitioners. The title of my talk was ‘Building Relationships in Early Years settings
at key moments’.
As a wealth of evidence demonstrates, good-quality couple and family relationships play a vital role in determining the health and wellbeing of adults and in improving outcomes for children. Family relationships are central to children’s happiness, and studies show a strong link between parents’ relationship quality and positive outcomes for both parents and children.
In my speech, I explored how Early Years childcare practitioners are uniquely placed to offer support to families by building relationships with parents, particularly at key moments of transition in a family’s life.
These can be normative transitions such as
developmental stages or non-normative changes such as sudden illness, moving
home, bereavement or unemployment.
In sharing an overview of our ABLE brief
intervention training, I introduced the model as a tool to help practitioners
to build relationships with parents during times of transition, to help understand
their anxieties, concerns, beliefs and hopes.
When offered a listening ear instead of advice,
parents’ own knowledge and capacity is reinforced, often leading to
empowerment, new skills, confidence and better outcomes for all.
There is no doubt that good quality relationships
not only give our lives meaning, but couple, family and social relationships
hold the keys to:
and adult mental health and wellbeing
of life in later life
•Preventing crime and anti-social behaviour
I hope that my presentation has affirmed Early Years
practitioners’ role and has helped attendees to consider how their support to
parents is valued in these transition periods.
By observing, thinking about and then planning
interventions in childcare settings, practitioners can make a positive
difference and support parents’ and family relationships at key moments to
optimise childrens’ health, well-being and potential.
Please see a reminder/overview of the four steps of
our ABLE brief intervention model below.
My thanks to Dr Judith Butler and all at OMEP and CIT for their support and interest.
Dr Maeve Hurley, founder and CEO of Ag Eisteacht
The four steps of ABLE
Adopting a relational approach
Mindful that relationships can act as both
risk and protective factors in ensuring better outcomes for children. We value
opportunities to build relationships with parents and are aware that parents
may value support at times of transition in families lives.
Build and boundary
boundaries is an aspect of childcare workers’ role that is often a stressor.
How do we make time and give parents our time and attention and tune into their
worries and hopes while still looking after ourselves also and within the
boundaries of our role and competence?
actively and reflectively, focusing attention on the parent and understanding
their perspective and what is going on for them and reflecting this back gives
a sense that we have understood and builds trust, empathy and compassion.
Empower and end
Ways of flagging that the brief intervention is coming to an end and summarising where we have gotten to are part of the ending. This stage may involve action planning and leaving the door open for future conversations or signposting to other resources for support. Checking in helps both listener and parent to be clear.