To begin with the mother said was really struggling with her kids. Pregnant with additional medical problems and a history of postnatal depression, very tired, she found family life overwhelming because her army husband was away all the time.
The Befriender's Story
I was matched with my Home Link family and started to visit them once a week. When I first met them, the family seemed to have a number of issues. Mum's confidence in herself and her ability as a parent was really low, dad was in the army and often away and the kids frequently behaved very badly. It took some time to get to know the family but once we were all comfortable with each other we soon got into a good routine. I would help with any homework then play games with the children. I quickly learned to give the children a 15-minute or "one last game" warning when it was nearly time for me to leave so that they expected it rather than just getting up to go which often caused outbursts from them.
When I look back now, I can see such a change in the family. Mum's confidence is so much better - she had a new baby, she attended a college course and is now working, juggling employment and hectic family life which is something she would not have seen herself doing before. She smiles a lot more now and shouts less at the kids. There was a history of mum not engaging well with other agencies (e.g. social work, health visitors) so it took a lot for her to let her barriers down and let me into her and her family's life.
Without consciously meaning to, I think that by sitting down with all of the children and playing games together I began to teach them how to share and take turns more - there were of course still times when there were arguments over who went first or whose turn it was, but I tried to make sure it was as fair as possible. Even the youngest child joined in the games, usually by being on my "team", sitting on my knee. I think they really enjoyed the focused attention I gave them because in a house with five children there wasn't often time for the parents to spend a full two hours with the kids. The kids still fight now and then but on the whole they get on well and even play together when I'm not there; last Christmas, Santa brought them board games which is something he has never done before but he obviously believes they will be able to share them now!
I feel very privileged to have played even a tiny part in helping two of the children learn to read and it was amazing to watch the younger children's language develop.
Without the experience I gained volunteering with Home Link, I do not believe I would have got the job I am doing now which I absolutely love. I am a Teen Parent Worker with a Fife charity supporting teenage parents with a range of things including confidence, parenting skills, housing issues and education.
When she finished with Home Link the mum said:
"My befriender had a great relationship with the kids but always took time to listen to me.
She didn't judge me and was willing to help with anything. She was very honest and I was able to discuss going back to work with her, which helped a lot.
The support I got from Home link was exactly what I wanted, it worked beautifully. We achieved a lot. My kids can be very boisterous but she was very good with them. She has lots of patience and that gave me more patience.
They stick to rules better now, I play with them more, the whole family is more relaxed."