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Issue 2 - March 1, 2010 enews home

Helping children at the start

Let’s Start: Exploring Together Preschool Program, is an early intervention that helps families by improving parent-child relationships through play

Let’s Start: Exploring Together Preschool Program, is an early intervention that helps families by improving parent-child relationships through play

By Shane Thamm

Reducing parents’ anxiety can have a dramatic effect on improving their children’s behaviour and assist with entry to school, a Charles Darwin University study shows.

Since 2004, Let’s Start: Exploring Together Preschool Program, an early intervention that helps families by improving parent-child relationships through play, has significantly reduced difficult behaviour of participating children, reduced parents’ anxiety and increased their confidence in dealing with children’s difficulties.

Operating in urban, regional and remote Top End schools, Let’s Start taught children to share, take turns and talk about their feelings, and helped parents share their experiences and learn about childhood development.

In groups supervised by the Let’s Start staff, parents practised parenting skills while playing with their children.

A recently released evaluation report of Let’s Start stated it achieved “statistically significant reductions in problem and risk behaviour among participating children”, with effects maintained even six months after they completed the program, both at home and school.

Driver Primary School teacher Sherrida Edgecombe said she saw first-hand how the program improved family relationships.

“At Driver we saw improvements in children’s behaviour, but the real benefit was seeing improvement in parent and child relationships. Some parents came to us saying, ‘We’re tearing our hair out at home. Is there anything you can suggest?’ When they went to Let’s Start they learnt they don’t have to be Robinson Crusoe and that there are other parents facing the same issues,” she said.

Let’s Start research leader Dr Gary Robinson, an expert in Indigenous childhood wellbeing, said a key element of the research was to understand how to help children cope when they enter school.
“Let’s Start has shown that if parents have a strong, functional, relationship with their child, then their child is more likely to cope with entrance to school,” he said.

Almost three-quarters of the children who participated in Let’s Start were boys, and 56 per cent were Indigenous.

Dr Robinson said that Let’s Start should serve as a reminder to governments that Indigenous issues can be tackled in a caring manner.

“Indigenous family life can be improved with supportive and caring intervention,” he said.

For an invitation to the Let’s Start Evaluation Report launch visit www.cdu.edu.au/letsstart/documents/letsstart-invitation-web.pdf.