Working with families



Engaging with the parents, carers and other significant family is an important aspect of Includem’s work. We have developed a ‘Working with Families’ component of A Better Life based on current best practice across Includem and more widely, and supported by sound research evidence.

Includem aims to achieve better outcomes for children and young people. The additional resources and guidance are to help achieve these outcomes by more explicit, confident and informed engagement with the family as key partners in the work. This work will most often lead to improvements in overall family welfare, in lower stress, better health, and more confident parenting. However the purpose and focus of Includem’s work with parents is based on securing the needs, rights and welfare of the children and young people concerned. Retaining this focus provides legitimacy for our engagement with parents and wider family.

The new resources complement the existing modules of A Better Life. They have been designed to be used flexibly as a whole or in part.

The resources are designed to encourage families to participate in planning, in setting goals, and working in partnership with Includem and others to create better outcomes for children and young people.

The values and principles which guide Includem’s work with young people guide our work with their families. Particularly relevant are:

  • Persistence and Stickability
  • Consistency of relationships based on honesty, respect and care
  • Support and help at times of need across daytime, evenings and weekends
  • Partnership


Key messages for practitioners
  • The reason for Includem’s work with families is to achieve better outcomes for the children and young people we work with.
  • The outcomes that we aim for are that children and young people are Safe, Healthy, Achieving, Nurtured, Active, Responsible, Respected and Included (SHANARRI).
  • Retaining this focus on the outcomes for children and young people provides legitimacy for our involvement in families’ lives, and also evidence for the evaluation of our outcomes. Family welfare is the bedrock of children and young people’s welfare. Working with families to achieve better outcomes for children and young people will most often lead to improvements in parent/carer and wider family welfare, in lower stress, better health, and to more confident parenting.
  • The family work resources included in this ‘Working with Families’ component of A Better Life are based on current best practice across Includem, and more widely, and are supported by sound research evidence.
  • These new resources complement the existing modules. They have been designed to be used flexibly as a whole or in part.
  • These additional resources and guidance are designed to develop explicit, confident and informed engagement with the family as key partners in the work.
  • The guidance and accompanying resources are informed by the same values and principles which guide Includem’s work with young people. Families are encouraged to participate in planning, in setting goals, in identifying the help they can offer and any help that they need to do so.
  • Where there are reasons for concern that parents, or any other family members, pose a threat to the safety and welfare of children and young people, any assessment and decisions will be made in partnership with other key professionals and should never be the responsibility of any one practitioner.
How We Work with Families

Includem works with families in the same way that we work with young people. We adopt a strengths-based approach to engage with young people and their families. This means that we value and demonstrate respect and inclusion, openness, partnership and participation.

The key skills

  • Active listening
  • Constructive challenge
  • Mediation
  • Advocacy
  • Coaching
  • Raising sensitive issues
Active listening means
  • paying attention both to what is being said but also to what is not being said. What is left out of conversations is sometimes just as important as what is included.
  • paying close attention to non-verbal communication, such as body language and noting if what is being said and how someone is saying it are consistent.
  • tolerating a silence and not ‘jumping in’ too quickly to fill a gap in a discussion. Our own feelings of discomfort can get in the way and effectively cut across someone’s need either to reflect or to articulate their thoughts in their own time.
If it is difficult to get engagement in discussion about a key figure or event in the family’s life, this is likely to be significant. Someone who says repeatedly that they are ‘not nervous’ or ‘not bothered’ is giving an indication that they probably are. Playing with hair, biting nails or tapping a foot restlessly might also tell a different story. Equally someone might say you have their full attention when they actually display distracted behaviour – getting up and down, looking at a watch or raising irrelevant issues.
Constructive challenge

Challenging someone about their behaviour can be done in a constructive, as opposed to confrontational way. (Assertions/ inconsistencies necessary)

Challenge can:

  • help people understand themselves better
  • help people understand the impact of their statements or behaviour,
  • help people reflect on ways in which they can help themselves

Challenge should be:

  • necessary for the young person’s progress or welfare.
  • easily explained in relation to (SHANARRI) outcomes for the young person

Ways to challenge:

  • be tactful
  • be specific
  • do not overload the person and
  • stick to issues which they can do something about.
If a challenge is not constructively communicated, it will be experienced as critical and is likely to provoke a defensive reaction and shut down communication.

Example of Constructive Challenge:

‘I notice that you’ve said a few times in our meeting today that the parents group did not help you but I also heard you say that you there has only been one meeting that you could get to’. (Constructive – Offering an alternative interpretation, reflecting inconsistencies without criticism)

Example of Critical Challenge:

‘You’re always saying that people let you down and don’t help you but I don’t think you can always blame everyone else all the time’. (Critical – Offering an exaggerated interpretation which is blaming and critical – likely to get a different kind of response)

Using empathy

Empathy is:

  • being able to tune into the feelings and thoughts of another person
  • to ‘walk in their shoes’
  • being able to respond appropriately to their emotional state
  • often communicated through active listening and sharing of reflections or observations.

Just saying ‘I know how you must feel’ is not empathy even though it tries to convey this. It is the ability to really see and feel something from another’s perspective that is important in increasing our understanding of their situation and how they can best be supported.

Example: with empathy

“You have had to deal with some very difficult situations with the boys on your own. But you have managed to keep off the drink, and you have not let them down, and that seems like a really big achievement.’ (acknowledging pain and challenge, and also positives in someone’s life)

Example: without empathy:

‘There’s not a lot of point in looking back, is there? Hopefully you won’t start drinking again, and I am sure everything will be fine if we all just keep to the plan we’ve agreed.’ denies someone’s real difficulties, and comes across as dismissive or giving false reassurances)

Dealing with sensitive issues

Sometimes you will come across information or issues which are not openly discussed or acknowledged by everyone involved. This may be because it is considered a private matter by some or all of the family members or it may be that there are family members who actively want to avoid these matters being addressed e.g. in cases of substance misuse or domestic abuse.

It is important to consider the following issues as part of your assessment:

  • In terms of the child or young person’s best interests, does this issue need to be addressed?
  • Who will be affected by raising this issue?
  • Are there safety implications for family members?
  • Are there support implications for family members?

Thinking through these implications and planning how and when the discussion might take place are very important. Dealing with this kind of situation will require tact, sensitivity and the skills already mentioned – active listening, showing empathy and offering constructive challenge.

How you will raise the issue

You may experience some anxiety or discomfort about approaching a sensitive issue or about acting in an intrusive manner. It can be helpful to acknowledge those feelings with the family members, highlighting that your actions are motivated by your concerns for the young person and have to take priority.

Example – raising the issue


‘I am concerned about something that has come up, and I need to raise this with you. I took some time to think about this and how I might bring it up with you. I hope that you won’t be upset, or think that I am crossing a boundary here. I am only raising this because it seems to me to be really important for (young person).’


‘I have been made aware that you have not been totally upfront with me, and have not shared some important information. We need to formally discuss this and I need to make you aware of the possible consequences’

Mediation and Advocacy Skills
Mediation is

  • helping individual parties to express their own wishes and feelings but also to listen to each other’s views in an attempt to resolve a dispute or disagreement.

When mediation can help:

  • when there are conflicts within a family – when it is difficult for family members to listen to each other or accept different perspectives e.g. father and mother disagree about ways of imposing or enforcing ‘rules’ on teenage children.
  • there are conflicts between the family and others , this may be whole family or some members of the family and members of their community or agencies with whom they are in some degree of conflict e.g. school and family disagree about whether school responses to child/young person’s behaviour are fair or reasonable


  • Don’t ‘take sides’ or represent a particular opinion but instead ensure that each party has a chance to outline their concerns. The mediator may then suggest a way forward, again ensuring that attention is paid to how this will affect everyone involved and that all voices are heard and included.
  • stay neutral, help discussion to take place, keep the parties focused on the desired outcome and
  • help all parties to problem solve about ways forward.

Advocacy is:

  • spending time listening to the views of an individual or group
  • agreeing with them how they might wish these to be expressed
  • directly speaking on behalf of someone in a negotiation.

When advocacy can help:

  • to support a child or young person’s rights and needs when dealing with outside agencies e.g. when a child or young person is appearing before a children’s hearing and needs help to express their views and feelings before a decision is made
  • to ensure that their wishes and needs are taken into account in family matters and decisions e.g. when parents don’t seem to have taken their child’s views into account in relation to one or more decisions that affect them

Advocacy requires:

  • good listening skills,
  • the ability to summarise and reflect the views of those involved in a clear and straight forward way
  • the ability to maintain a calm and respectful atmosphere through modelling of positive behaviour.
  • support to help individuals or groups ‘walk through’ scenarios in advance
  • providing a safe opportunity to rehearse the scenario.

Coaching is useful when:

  • there are sensitive issues to be raised,
  • there are contentious matters to be dealt with
  • individuals within a family or family groups are trying to learn new, more effective ways of communicating with each other,
  • an opportunity for constructive feedback on what might help or undermine agreed purposes
  • trying to adopt a planned, prepared approach to problem solving, rather than reactive actions.

Coaching skills:

  • helping others to agree what they would like the outcome to be
  • helping others to think how they might best approach the issue and
  • helping others think about what they need to be mindful of, in terms of their own patterns of communication

Example of Coaching

  • Agree aim: e.g. parent wants to persuade the head teacher to let (young person) back into school
  • Explore how to go about it: think about what makes them agree to something, what approaches work best
  • Rehearse a few different ways of doing this – assertive; apologetic; reasonable, doormat, threatening
  • Help person think about when they have had bad results from meetings and when they have had good results
  • Role-play the discussion that might take place.

Possible strategies to explore, rehearse and role play using Coaching

Example: If aim is to limit child’s TV viewing and use of computer games

  • Involve young person in setting ground rules – give choices and get them to pick
  • Introduce consequences – immediate, small, repetitive and easy to put into play.
  • Rewards and praise whenever possible (i.e. whenever not ‘bad’ behaviour – look for as many opportunities every day as possible). E.g. use star charts/marble jars – add one for every positive behaviour, and reward when jar is full
  • Frequent reminders for young person (it’s hard to change habits immediately)

Example: If aim is to reduce sibling rivalry/conflict

  • Find activities siblings enjoy doing together to encourage ‘team’ approach
  • Do individual activities with each child around their individual interests
  • Use Time Out & Calm Down strategies
  • Create separate spaces if available
  • Avoid and prevent bad behaviour through distraction
  • Planned ignoring of low level behaviours – such as childish irresponsibility’s (i.e. things they did not do on purpose) & behaviours linked to stages of development
  • Stress management (for parents/carers & child) – recognising it and finding ways of getting stress levels down, e.g. relaxation tapes, finding time to relax, breathing deeply, cool down time.

Example: If aim is to reduce conflict at bedtimes

  • Setting bedtime routines (bath, drink, teeth, story, calming chat, lights out)
  • Consistency
  • Rewards & consequences

Example: If aim is to encourage child to attend school

  • Set clear rules
  • Take the child to school
  • Set bedtime and morning routines
  • Rewards & consequences
  • Liaise with school to get their help in developing a plan

Example: If aim is to reduce conflict at mealtimes

  • Set clear rules
  • Involve the child in food preparation and planning
  • Sit round a table on chairs (with television switched off)
  • More positive family time
  • Planned ignoring of low level behaviours
  • Rewards & consequences
  • Avoid and prevent bad behaviour through distraction

Example: If aim is to manage challenges to parents/carers authority

  • Set clear age appropriate rules to help your child learn acceptable behaviour – discuss and negotiate rules with teenagers to give ownership. The older the child, the fewer the rules, but they still need to be clear and achievable – often focus on safety so message is ‘I care about you’ rather than ‘I want to control you’.
  • Explain and show correct behaviour (good role modelling is essential when trying to promote acceptable behaviour in teenagers)
  • Consequences – work out in advance specifically for each type of bad behaviour. Parent and child should both be aware of consequences so when a consequence is given it removes much of emotion and heat out of the situation. Only use consequence that can be achieved – small and irritating, and can be repeated without becoming a punishment. In heat of moment, rather than giving excessive consequence/punishment, take time to think about consequences. Common consequence for teenagers relates to pocket money – could set total amount (e.g. £10), agree an amount they will receive regardless of behaviour, e.g. £6, and if they behave appropriately they could get an extra £4. Inform teenager that every time they break a rule you will deduct money from the remaining £4 (a little bit at time so that you provide more opportunities for your teenager to learn).
  • Consistency – enforce the consequence every time the rule is broken, trying always to give the same response to the same misbehaviour– so they learn you mean what you say, they stay clear about your message, learn that you are always serious about this behaviour, and learn they are not going to get away with it
  • Helping the teenager feel positive about himself/herself can have a positive effect on their behaviour – each and every time your teenager displays good behaviour write it down, it does not matter how small the act – will help parent/carer to remember all the good things about their teenager
  • Bringing out the best – think about what kind of young person you want to raise, what kind of adult are you looking for them to become? Make a list of the qualities, traits, skills you would like them to display. Then make another list of things that you can do to encourage this behaviour, e.g. praise, body language, respect, time together, financial rewards, etc…
  • Use of rewards to improve behaviour – praise, incentives and rewards – not bribes… Praise is important – improves relationships too. If you give too much attention to bad behaviour you will end up with more bad behaviour. Reversely, if you praise your teenage for the good things they are doing, their bad behaviour will reduce.
  • Best way to manage difficult behaviour is not to let it happen in the first place – learn to pre-empt it and try to use a different approach to avoid confrontation
  • Show an interest – avoid boredom in teenagers by finding out what they are interested in and try to ensure they have more time to spend enjoying these things
  • Stress management – for parents/carers and young person – recognise and find ways of getting our stress levels down – relaxation tapes, finding time to relax, breathing deeply, cool down time etc.
  • Getting parents to write down or record the behaviour the teenager presents – 3 weeks is a good length of time (use list below).
  • Avoiding confrontation – makes everyone involved feel bad and unhappy – use cool down time – parent/carer removes self from situation.
  • Don’t be put on the spot – if you are not sure how to deal with it, give self some time
  • Privacy is important for all children and young people, as well as adults – try to get as much as possible for all of you
Communicating with Families

There are many ways of communicating and learning. Just as with young people use creative techniques and resources including drawing, storytelling, picturing and cartooning. Useful tools – flip charts, flip chart pens, crayons, coloured paper, old magazines for cutting out headlines, and pictures. Remember that some people have reading, writing and other communication problems and preferences.


Assessment and engagement

This section sits alongside the work with young people on ‘This is my life’. It covers referral, first contacts, assessment and engaging the family in the young person’s support plan.

Aims for this stage

  • Help families understand Includem’s involvement in their lives
  • Help families understand their possible contribution
  • Engage families commitment and cooperation
Gathering information about families from referrers

Establish as much information as you can about the family. You should gather this on first phone contact, at the initial referral meeting with the referring agency and also at the first meetings/contacts with the child or young person and their carer(s). (Referral Form is the basis for this).

  • Try to establish who is significant to the young person concerned. This may be grandparents, or other members of the extended family who have or have had significant contact and care. Siblings, including step and half siblings may be very important
  • Non-resident parents. These will often be fathers, but may be mothers, and may be both parents. Be aware of the possibility of secrecy or misinformation about absentee parents or family estrangements. It is important to respect the right to family privacy, and sometimes misinformation or secrecy is intended to protect children and young people. This calls for some patience and sensitivity. Where a parent is absent for any other reason, it is important to know the exact circumstances including what the child knows or does not know about these.
  • Assumptions and opinions are not assessments. While it is important to consider the opinions of other practitioners who have been or are involved with the child or young person, it is important that you don’t form assessments based on others’ assumptions. Assessments need clear agreed evidence to underpin them.
  • Validate the assessment that you have been given – check out information. Unless there are good reasons for not doing so, you should be able to check out information with the family. This may be a good starting point in establishing trust, shared understanding and a basis for future work.
  • If the referral comes via or as a result of a children’s hearings order , the reporter will be able to advise on any qualifications of the legal rights of the parent
Making first contacts

Making first contacts

Planning first contacts and meetings –

Issues to consider

Who is/are the main carers?

Who are the other significant people in the child/young person’s life?

Who do you need to meet at this stage?

What is the relationship between the main carer and any non-resident parent(s)?

Do you need to see both parents together or separately?

Are there any legal barriers to contact between family members?

Are there any safety considerations for family members, or for Includem staff?

If one parent is non-resident, how best to communicate and include that parent

The first contact with parents/carers is just as important as the first contact with the young person. Preparation is key to making this go well. In addition to considering the information you have gathered about the young person and their family, there are some other aspects of the first contact to consider:

  • Be clear about the purpose of the meeting, and what you hope to achieve.
  • In your first contact with the family, your role is to ensure that the family are given clear information about Includem, why it is proposed to involve you, and what this might mean for them. Some of the ‘key messages’ will help with this.
  • It is important that significant people in the child or young person’s life don’t feel excluded or alienated at the very start of the work. In most cases, and unless there are legal or other significant reasons not to do so, it is important to ensure that both parents, and/or other primary carers, are given or sent information at the same time about Includem’s involvement.
  • If contact with the young person is to be a condition of a supervision order by a children’s hearing it is important to make clear that this is the case but that you aim to work in partnership with the parents/carers
Key Messages for Parents/Carers

Key Messages for Parents/Carers

  • Includem is committed to supporting your child/young person to have a better life
  • Your child/young person has been referred to Includem because something in their lives is not going well.
  • We want to work with you to work out what is going wrong for your child/young person (or grandchild or other relation as applicable) and how we might all work together
  • We know what we are doing. Our work is based on experience of working with young people and about what kind of help to offer to families. We respect young people, and their ability to achieve their full potential. We respect families and parents in particular, in their role and responsibilities.
  • Where the problems are caused by outside factors, we will help you tackle these, or make sure you are linked into others who can help
  • Where the problems are related to how things are in the family, we will work with you to help you understand and change relationships and circumstances for the better
  • We will be honest with you, we will listen to you, we will be available for you when you need to talk to us or need help. We will stick to agreements with you. We will expect you to do the same.
  • We will respect your rights and confidence. We will also respect the rights and confidence of your child or young person. We will only share information without permission if there is an urgent need to protect your child or young person.
  • We will stick with you even when it is difficult.
Gathering Information from Families

“This is my family”


It is important to have at least one session with parent(s) or carers to gather information about the family history. The aim is to know more about the events that have shaped the young person you are working with, and also if possible to help the parents/carer to gain some fresh perspective or insight which will help them work better with Includem and with the young person. This should be done in parallel with the work with the young person in the introductory ‘This is my life’ module.

Desired Outcome

A written account of ‘Who’s who’ in the family, key people, and account of circumstances around the birth and key events in young person’s life. Agree what can be shared with young person to help them understand their family and themselves.

Key Messages:

  • Everyone has a family history that has helped make them the people they are today
  • Sometimes looking at this history helps us to understand ourselves and our children better


The first step is deciding who the key participants are in this task, and how to engage with them. Do you do this 1-1 with each parent/carer, or in any other combination? Checking this out with family members is a good place to start. There may be practical reasons for one option or the other. Whichever way that you decide, it is possible that you will find very different perceptions memories and experiences exist among family members. All may be equally valid.

There may be sensitive information which may best be shared on a 1-1 basis. Just as with the young person, the parent/significant family member/carer will have experiences that they wish or need to share confidentially. The aim is to help them understand what they have brought with them and also to agree with them what level of information, explanation the young person might need to know about the family history.


  • What is best to remain confidential?
  • What a parent or young person might need help to tell and how this might be done
  • When and if it is useful to share perspectives and information on a one to one or whole family session or in other combinations
  • How best to share important information

Possible Resources

  • Genograms- using simple family chart to make a map of family members and relationships
  • ‘This is my family – timeline (to complement young person’s ‘This is my life’ timeline to record family events (parents met, married, children born, house and town moves, absences, bereavements, step siblings etc.)
  • ‘Who do you think you are?’ As in the TV programme, create the family history, including towns and countries of origin, jobs and businesses, interesting information about grandparents, uncles, etc. e.g. grandfather fought in the second world war, grandmother came from Ireland
  • Family Crest and Mottos exercise. ‘Our Family Crest and Motto’ exercise –can be done as whole family session or individually and then shared. The family work together to agree what their family mottos are: Motto – ‘One for all and all for one!’ Or ‘Each to his own’ ‘Only one way is the right way’ ‘we never forget’. Crest – might be glass and bottle, boxing gloves, mop and bucket, barbed wire, tv, maze, football etc…
Engaging families in assessment

Assessment is not a ‘one off’ event. The information that you gather from referrers and then from the family, helps you to make an informed assessment. This will be added to your subsequent work with the young person and the family. Just as with the young person, including the parents/carers’ own assessment is a vital part of both assessment and engagement. These following exercises with the parents/carers are tools to promote engagement. Therefore you should expect it will take several contacts while you are completing these assessments with the parents/carers and the young person either together or separately.

Assessment and Engagement tools

  • Assessing Parenting Skills
  • Assessing Parenting Styles
  • Assessing responses to patterns of behaviour
  • Assessing Parents Emotional Wellbeing
  • Wellbeing Web

Assessing parenting skills

Workers may find it helpful to complete this survey with parents/carers to help them assess their parenting skills and identify areas where they would most like support. This is a tool to help you engage parents/carers in the support process, and to help them consider their role in improving outcomes for their child/children – the scoring is not important but instead it is the quality of the conversations you have with parents/carers that matter. Indeed, this need not take the form of a survey at all if this approach is not deemed effective, but could instead comprise of informal discussions occurring naturally through normal contacts with parents/carers & ABL work with YP during This is My Life period where all the themes below could be explored. Your observations from when you are with the family might contribute to these discussions, and could be used to prompt parents/carers to reflect on specific incidents/situations.

Please rate the following:

5 = Always; 4 = Often; 3 = Sometimes; 2 = Rarely; 1 = Never

How often do you do the following? How often it is effective? How confident do you feel doing this?
Giving positive attention to your child/children (e.g. encouragement, praise, showing physical affection)
Using tangible rewards/incentives with your child/children (e.g. setting small goals agreed with child)
Ignoring low level behaviours
Giving clear direction/rules
Setting and ensuring routines and boundaries
Using time-out strategies
Using distraction techniques
Providing appropriate consequences
Setting age appropriate expectations
Problem solving in relation to your child/children
Helping your child/children to be in control and understand their own emotions
Role modelling the behaviours you would like your child/children to develop (re how you communicate, behave, problem solve and manage your own emotions)

Some parents/carers may prefer to do this in discussion with you, where you can provide explanations and examples of each of the elements above, while others may prefer to take it away to do it on their own so they can have space to think and reflect. Regardless of how they do it, it is important to remind parents/carers this is not a test, there is no pass/fail, but simply a tool to stimulate discussion and to help them identify any areas they might be struggling with and where we can most usefully focus our support.

This tool will also help parents/carers identify the strengths in their parenting, and also track the progress they are making throughout your involvement, so it could be helpful to review this assessment every 8 weeks in line with the Support Planning process.

Assessing Parenting Styles

For most parents finding the right parenting style when things get difficult can be hit and miss and a bit of potluck. It can be a bit like a game of darts; we need something to aim for that will give us a higher score and help us win the game. The Parenting Styles Table below indicates 4 approaches to parenting – you could use this with parents/carers to explore which style of parenting they currently use, what impact that has on their child and their child’s behaviour, and to help focus on which approach they would like to aim for and how you could support them to develop this approach.

Alternatively, you could give parents/carers examples of behaviour scenarios, and ask them to think about what response a parent/carer would give to their young person using each of the 4 styles (e.g. may be shouting, physical punishment, etc.). When you’ve done this for each style, go back and explore how effective each of the responses might be. What would be the possible consequences of their own action? Also consider the possible long-term effects of responses, e.g. if a young person is physically punished for coming home late then they are likely to not go home at all on another occasion.

You could also use with young people to explore their views of parents/carers responses and promote understanding and create opportunities for communication.


Authoritarian, harsh & regimented
Do as I say – or else…
You’d better show me some respect

I wear the trousers in this house

You’ve got to be cruel to be kind

If kids see any kind of weakness, they take advantage

In this style of parenting, children are expected to follow the strict rules established by the parents. Failure to follow such rules usually results in punishment. Authoritarian parents fail to explain the reasoning behind these rules. If asked to explain, the parent might simply reply, “Because I said so.” These parents have high demands, but are not responsive to their children.


Generally lead to children who are obedient and proficient, but they rank lower in happiness, social competence and self-esteem.


Authoritative, firm & warm

Do you have an explanation?

How could you do it different next time?

How can we make sure you’re safe?

I’d like us to take time to discuss this.

Like authoritarian parents, those with an authoritative parenting style establish rules and guidelines that their children are expected to follow. However, this parenting style is much more democratic. Authoritative parents are responsive to their children and willing to listen to questions. When children fail to meet the expectations, these parents are more nurturing and forgiving rather than punishing. They are assertive, but not intrusive and restrictive. Their disciplinary methods are supportive, rather than punitive. They want their children to be assertive as well as socially responsible, and self-regulated as well as cooperative.


Generally tend to result in children who are happy, capable and successful.


Uninvolved, lost interest or totally given up.

Why does nobody listen to what I say?

They don’t appreciate anything I’ve given them

After all, the sacrifices I’ve made for them

Been there, done that, bought the t-shirt

An uninvolved parenting style is characterized by few demands, low responsiveness and little communication. While these parents fulfill the child’s basic needs, they are generally detached from their child’s life. In extreme cases, these parents may even reject or neglect the needs of their children.


Rank lowest across all life domains. These children tend to lack self-control, have low self-esteem and are less competent than their peers.


Permissive and indulgent

Chill out

It’s OK, all their mates do it

I like my kids to be free spirits

They’ll grow out of it

What difference does it make?

Permissive parents, sometimes referred to as indulgent parents, have very few demands to make of their children. These parents rarely discipline their children because they have relatively low expectations of maturity and self-control. They are more responsive than they are demanding. and choose to avoid confrontation. Permissive parents are generally nurturing and communicative with their children, often taking on the status of a friend more than that of a parent.


Often results in children who rank low in happiness and self-regulation. These children are more likely to experience problems with authority and tend to perform poorly in school


Angry B… animal version

Angry B…

Angry B… female version

Angry B…

Angry B… Male version

Angry B… Male version


Examples of behaviour scenarios to explore Parenting Styles

Your young person steals money from your purse or wallet Your young person steals from shops
Your young person comes home drunk – more than once… You have found out your young person is sexually active
Your young person is caught burgling a house You find out your young person is responsible for the graffiti on the bus stop
Your young person tells you lies regularly Your young person comes home late regularly
You find out your young person has been riding in a stolen car Whilst clearing your young person’s room – you find unidentified tablets
You find out your young person smokes cigarettes You know your young person is aggressive towards others
You overhear your young person swearing a lot on the phone to a friend Your young person misses French every Thursday
Your young person skips off school regularly Your young person is excluded for being disruptive in class
Your young person has used 3 cans of deoderant in a week You have found out your young person is smoking marijuana
Your young person swears at you or behaves in an aggressive/threatening manner Your young person’s teacher has asked to see you
Your young person has asked you not to go into their room Your young person has stopped washing and changing their clothes
You find out your young person has been bullying other young people at school You notice some marks on your young person’s forearm

Assessing Parents responses to child’s behaviour patterns

Most of all good or negative behaviour has a pattern and by identifying this pattern you are often over half way there in dealing with the behaviour. This tool could be used with parents to help them identify a pattern in their child’s behaviour, but in particular, the discussion should help them focus specifically on their responses to their child’s behaviour – this is not about producing a catalogue of negative behaviour in relation to the child. The skill in this discussion will often be in helping parents/carers move away from a position where they are blaming/scapegoating their child/children to one where they are able to identify which of their responses are working, and also those which are aggravating or maintaining the behaviour. This will give an opportunity to explore how they might adjust the way they handle the behaviour in order to get the desired outcome.

working_with_families - behaviour_patterns

Some parents/carers may prefer to do this in discussion with you, where you can provide explanations and examples of each of the elements above, while others may prefer to take it away to do it on their own so they can have space to think and reflect. Regardless of how they do it, it is important to remind parents/carers this is not a test, there is no pass/fail, but simply a tool to help them better understand patterns in their child’s behaviour and become more aware of the most effective approaches to handling it. You could remind parents they can change any of the wording, and leave any bits blank.

This tool will also help parents/carers identify the strengths in their parenting, and also track the progress they are making throughout your involvement, so it could be helpful to review this assessment every 8 weeks in line with the Support Planning process.

Assessing Parents/Carers Emotional Wellbeing

This tool could be used by workers to help parents assess their emotional wellbeing, exploring the impact this may be having on their child/children, and identifying where they may need to access additional specialist support to help them meet their children’s needs. You might choose to use the survey directly with parents/carers to generate discussion, or you may choose to use the themes from the survey to structure more informal conversations with parents/carers during your normal contacts.

Remember, the scoring is not important, it is simply a tool to generate discussion and encourage parents/carers to become more reflective about the impacts their wellbeing may be having on their child/children and what support (if any) they may require. Regular review of these themes can also provide a useful structure for parents/carers to track any progress they are making in this area.

working_with_families - assessing_emotional_wellbeing

CAUTION: The focus of this assessment should be helping parents/carers better understand the impact their own wellbeing has on their ability to meet their child/children’s needs and to develop approaches which ensure that the needs of their children are being met. This may include seeking additional support such as counselling, mental health services, GP etc. or alternatively support to pursue an activity/interest or hobby for themselves; however it is important for workers to maintain their focus on signposting and avoid getting drawn into being the support worker for the parent/carer.

Wellbeing web

The Wellbeing web uses the SHANARRI indicators (Safe, Healthy, Achieving, Nurtured, Active, Responsible, Respected, Included) to encourage parents to assess the wellbeing of their child/young person in line with the GIRFEC framework. The web and associated prompt cards have been developed to support parents to engage with the assessment, support planning and review processes.

Issues to consider:

  • As with other tools, some parents/carers may prefer to do this in discussion with you, where you can provide explanations and examples of each of the elements below, while others may prefer to take it away to do it on their own so they can have space to think and reflect.
  • Regardless of how they do it, it is important to remind parents/carers this is not a test, there is no pass/fail, but simply a tool to stimulate discussion and to help them understand and prioritise the issues facing their child and participate in improving outcomes
  • The Prompts are only suggestions, and are not an exhaustive list – you may add prompts/examples to help with the assessment/discussion
  • Parents may also find it useful to compare their assessment with that of their child.
  • This tool will also help parents/carers identify the strengths in their parenting
  • The Web will also track the progress parents/carers are making throughout your involvement, so it will be helpful to review this assessment every 8 weeks in line with the Support Planning process.

Initial assessment

Completing the Wellbeing web on the basis of initial information will provide you with a useful starting point for your work with the young person and the family. This initial WEB based on information mainly from referrers, or from limited contact with parents/carers may differ from those completed with their participation. The key skills of ‘active listening’, constructive challenge, opening sensitive discussions, empathy, are all essential to completing the Wellbeing web with parents/carers throughout your involvement.

Wellbeing web prompts – Parents/Carers (scale 1-10)


  • Medicines and other risky substances are stored safely
  • Alcohol and non prescription drug use is safe
  • We always know who is in the house
  • There are safe places for childrenand young people at home
  • The children feel safe at home
  • When children or young people are out, we are confident that they are in a safe environment
  • When adults are out, the children, young people know who is looking after them


  • I/we make and keep health appointments for the children
  • The food that we eat is as healthy and good as we can make it
  • We make time to be active or have fun together


  • I/we support children and young people to get the best from education
  • We have interests and hobbies together
  • I/we know and understand that age and stage are important
  • I/we encourage learning about and doing new things
  • I/we have goals for the children


  • The home is clean and warm
  • I/we listen to the children and young people
  • We encourage the children and young people to discuss their feelings
  • We spend family time together
  • We use praise, and encouragement


  • We spend time having fun
  • We try new activities together and/or separately
  • We encourage and enjoy being active in play or sport


  • People listen to the children
  • The children are involved in making decisions about their life
  • I/we listen to the children and include them in decisions as much as possible
  • I/we have good adult friends or supporters who help the children express their views and make decisions
  • I/we try to maintain good relationships with family, friends and neighbours


  • There are consistent routines at home
  • We are clear about about what is right and wrong
  • The adults in our family try to set a good example in how they behave at home and outside
  • We encourage helpfulness and consideration for others
  • We take care with making important decisions


  • Every member of the family knows they are valued
  • We take part in community activities as a family and individually
  • We are accepted in our wider families and in our communities

Working Together – The Family Agreement

The aim of the family agreement is to agree with everyone how you will work together to achieve a better life for the child or young person and what form this will take. This agreement will detail work with parents/carers and wider family in parallel with work with the young person through one or more modules of A Better Life, and will be in line with the young person’s support plan

This agreement with the family for working together will be based on

  • the information gathered from referrers and from the young person, parents/carers and significant others, from observation and other evidence
  • the assessment that you have arrived at with the young person, parents/carers about the focus of Includem’s involvement with them
  • the establishment of some trust between Includem, the young person, and the parents/carers and possibly wider family

Suggestions from practice

  • Try to ensure that everyone has a responsibility in the young person’s support plan
  • Be realistic about the family that you have sitting in front of you
  • Try to focus on promoting strengths
  • Parents often look to you to lead
  • Agree goals on a weekly basis, and suggest that these are displayed in home for parent/carer and young person to see,
  • Agree the rewards with parents/ carers for young people reaching goals
  • Include siblings in goals and in support
  • Arrange joint activities/contacts with parents carers and siblings
  • Focus on positive interactions and results


  • Partnership
  • Working together
  • Respect
  • Building on strengths
working_with_families - family_agreement
Useful organisations and their resources

Parenting Across Scotland –

This website contains lots of useful short and easy to read advice and support for parents, including parents of teenagers, focus on fathers, and also links to other agencies. Downloadable resources include Ten Top Tip leaflets, and parentstv short films/dvds which are strengths focussed and parent friendly

Parentline Scotland – 0800 028 2233

Free telephone helpline for parents and carers, with advice for kincarers and parents with concerns about children in gangs.,uk

Families Outside –

Families Outside can provide support and advice in making contact with parents or other family members in prison, and on the impact of parental imprisonment on children and families

NHS Health Scotland –

NHS HS website contains free resources to support health and well being for children, young people and adults. The link above allows you to access free resources including quizzes on stress, alcohol consumption, advice for new parents, suicide prevention…

Women’s Aid –

Domestic Abuse Helpline – 0800 027 1234 (24 hours)

Advice and support in relation to domestic violence and the impact on children and families

Young Mind –

Young Minds works with children and young people, their families and the professionals who support them for better mental health and well being

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