Parent Gym is currently looking for parents with fantastic social skills to train as coaches

ParentGymMeet the CSR project that’s tackling disadvantage where it matters most: At home

Can you name the single factor that makes the biggest difference to children’s life chances? It’s not school. It’s not income. It’s parenting. (E.g. Dufur & Troutman, 2012).

The link between children’s home environment and academic achievement is well-documented. So too is the influence of children’s early experiences and interactions within the family on a host of important outcomes, including children’s later social skills and competence, behaviour and risk of criminality and ability to form healthy relationships, to name just a few. (E.g. Greenberg et al., 1983; Patterson et al., 1989 and. Kazdin et al., 1992; Carlson et al., 2004).

There’s an obvious conclusion that comes out of this: Change parents’ interactions with their children and you can change those children’s life chances. Of course, I hear you say, that’s easier said than done. But there is a pioneering programme, run by the Mind Gym, that is doing just that.

Meet Parent Gym: a philanthropic programme based in evidence and delivered for free in primary schools across London. A series of six workshops, developed by psychologists and delivered by trained volunteer parents, it’s proven to make a lasting impact on parents’ confidence in their parenting skills and their relationships with their children (in independent studies conducted by the University of Christ Church Canterbury and the University of Hertfordshire – see website for more information).

It’s not all about the statistics, of course, it’s about those everyday challenges that can make family life either rewarding or overwhelming. One parent said, “I’ve just had my first full night’s sleep in six years. If I can achieve that, I can achieve anything.” Here’s what another participant had to say: “I am a busy mum of three and this has given me the time to think and reflect on how to be a better parent and in doing so get more out of my children and make things work better for us as a family. There are some really useful tips and practical, positive advice which have had a real impact.”

The programme covers key parenting topics including communication skills, setting boundaries, building stronger attachments and supporting children’s learning. Nearly two thousand parents have participated to date, at more than 150 different schools and centres in areas of low income.

Parent Gym is set to expand over the next year to reach even more parents across the capital and is currently looking for parents with fantastic social skills to train as coaches to deliver the programme. To find out more, check out www.parentgym.com.

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