In the first few weeks of lockdown, we spoke to Phoebe* who was being supported by Home-Start Better Start volunteer Amanda. Phoebe, 26, has now got to the point where she no longer feels she needs Amanda’s support. She took the time to talk to us about how she felt Amanda has helped her over the last few months despite never meeting her face to face.
Phoebe’s story continued…
Amanda started supporting me at the beginning of lockdown – I had moved away from my family with my husband and two very young sons and I did not know the local area at all, nor anyone that lived there.
Home-Start Bradford had matched me with volunteer Amanda prior to the COVID-19 pandemic and we were about to meet in person, but the restrictions made it impossible for me to experience Home-Start Better Start’s normal face-to-face service. Reflecting back this was not the help I expected, but it was certainly the help that I needed!
Amanda eased my fears right from the start.
It hasn’t felt like I’ve been accessing a service, it has always felt nice and informal. Amanda has been like a friend to me and another parent that I can share my parenting concerns with. I had moved to a brand-new area and did not know anyone or what was in the area for me to access and it felt very intimidating. Amanda eased my fears right from the start and her knowledge of the area really put me at ease.
Being in lockdown has meant that I have been accessing a lot of support and ideas online for my sons, such as home-schooling sites – I just adapted some of the ideas to suit the ages of my children. Amanda would also recommend sites for me to look at such as the activities page on Better Start Bradford’s website. When I would share what I had been doing with the children, Amanda would always be so encouraging and made me realise that I was doing a good job.
Amanda would always be so encouraging.
When it came to do doing review sessions with Julie Infield, who is a Family and Volunteer Support Worker at Home-Start Bradford, I found it really useful to reflect on how far I had come over the months that Amanda had been helping me – my starting point was a big ‘zero’ in terms of confidence, but now I am way up the scale! This is something that I will continue doing – actually ‘stepping back’ and looking at what we have achieved. When my children achieve something, then I feel an achievement: for example, one of my son’s drew a face with features the other day and he couldn’t even draw a few weeks ago!
Amanda kept re-enforcing that I was doing a great job as a parent.
Towards the end of the sessions, while I loved speaking to Amanda every week, I knew that I could cope without her support and was conscious that there are other families in greater need of that help. There are no rules in parenting and one size does not simply fit all, but it can be done with a little guidance, help and encouragement along the way. Amanda kept re-enforcing that I was doing a great job and that was such a comfort and so motivating coming from another parent.
I know I can do it and that I am a decent parent. I know that through our lives there will be challenges to overcome, but there are always ways to solve them as there will always be clues and help along the way.
If you are a parent and you are struggling ask for support
If you’re a parent of children aged under four and are struggling, then I would say ‘go for it’ and ask for support from your local Home-Start. Especially if you are a new parent and a parent in a new environment. I was both and I had children very close in age and felt overwhelmed and that I could not cope.
It really helped to have a support and direction from another parent to give my children the best start. In fact, Home-Start Better Start really is the perfect name.
*names and identifying details have been changed to protect the privacy of individuals.
About Home-Start Better Start
Home-Start Better Start provides peer support, friendship and practical help to families with children aged under four and during pregnancy. Families are matched with a volunteer who will come into the family home to offer understanding, reassurance, a listening ear and an extra pair of hands to help families cope with everyday situations.
If you are a parent with a child under four, and are finding things tough at the moment, you can ask for free help by contacting the Home-Start Better Start team. During COVID-19, families will be supported via weekly telephone calls. The team is still taking referrals. Contact Home-Start Better Start by telephone on 01274 666711 or by email at [email protected].
If you have been inspired by the help that Amanda has given Phoebe in this blog, then you may want to consider becoming a Home-Start Better Start volunteer. The next volunteer preparation course starts on Wednesday 27 January. Details of the course and who to contact for more information can be found here.