- Naela Mahboob
How do ideas about childhood and families influence practice?
When looking at ideas of childhood and families we bring in various views of how practitioners and professionals can help in supporting their needs in living a good and healthy lifestyle. The main aim is to ensure that development is being promoted and that every child is included within our society. The studies give information for human/childhood behaviour, attitudes, thought patterns, predictions, age range, gender and even cultural data; which in return allow programmes to be developed towards certain age group, gender, culture and ethnicity.
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The study of childhood behaviour and family is the baseline study from which theorists develop their theory. One of the main theoretical frameworks used to identify childhood and family behaviour is the social constructionism theory. Through social constructionism we are able to analyse our understanding of children and families in order to help, use and create an in depth knowledge in our work with children. It is stated that ‘Social constructionism provides us with a theoretical tool that can help us look at concepts like ‘childhood’ and how these concepts inform thinking, shapes our institutions and inform policy and practice’ (K218, Learning Guide 4, Section 4.3). It is a framework that helps us to understand ideas about childhood and families and in ways in which we can improve practices with them. With frameworks as such a more positive view is taken and the importance of families and children is taken at a high standard, tackling all issues and influencing practices deeply.
Socially constructed views can have a huge effect on practice as it allows practitioners to be able to identify in depth any arising issues and to be able to find various methods and techniques to resolve them. In order to provide good practice it is necessary to ensure that the child’s needs are put first and are met to the highest ability. In order to put the children’s needs first, practitioners need to provide scaffolding for them ensuring they fully understand the child and are aware in detail of the support that is required. Many emotional strings are attached when working with children as they are vulnerable and unaware of life situations and these ideas give practitioners stronger connections in the way they work with them. It is stated, (K218, Learning Guide 4, Section 4.3) that ‘these social constructions of children are powerful – as many of us feel very strongly when we see images of children and young people in positions of vulnerability’. Working in an environment with children creates a raft of new ideas as day to day issues may arise, which in time help in overcoming barriers, developing a better working environment. As well as this due to the lack of resources within families, many of them struggle with stress and poor mental health. Therefore practitioners should prioritise children’s health and wealth being and also guide parents by working with them to access outside support and make use of resources that are accessible to them.
The involvement of parents in their child’s education is vital as they have the responsibility to influence there learning by showing support at home and taking part in educational needs. Children with no support from families are vulnerable of becoming a part of the communities’ dangerous socialites. Clearly indicting, ‘A social constructionist argument here is that, the language we use actively constructs and produces the social world in which we live’(K218, Learning Guide 4, Section 4.3). The idea now of bringing agencies to support the home and child in achieving an education has increased. Further guidelines and procedures have been put in place to reach out to parents as well as to influence children in working towards leading a good life and successful future, ensuring now that the child becomes a vital member of society. With this in place, parents are trained to contribute fully, in creating a safe environment for their children, by attending workshops, open days and parent’s evenings.
Working alongside families is a crucial aspect when dealing with and taking care of children. Parents, guardians and carers play a vital role in the wellbeing of their children and they must be included within every aspect and decision making any practitioners make, with regards to their children. Practitioners have a duty of providing ongoing support to families when needed in difficult situations. It is specified that, ‘it is important that practitioners are able to assess families where there are difficulties and respond appropriately’ (K218, Learning Guide 5, Section 5.5). Thus, good practice such as observing the interactions between children and parents and also observing they live and work in. must be portrayed by practitioners to influence children’s development, so that, parents are able to take good care of the upbringing of their children. This also helps pupils develop and exceed in their own educational attainments and future wellbeing.
However, the main challenges for practitioners are working and dealing with parents who are difficult or unwilling to engage with services. In many situations parents disagree with the support them or their children are being given, leading to conflicting issues. There are many reasons as to why families refuse to participate with the services, which can cause several problems for practitioners in helping them maintain their lifestyles and resolving any issues they may be facing. It is identified (K218, Learning Guide 5, Section 5) ‘working with children, young people and families inevitably involves working with families who are experiencing difficulties, and practitioners need to develop the knowledge and skills to work with these families’. A number of families may feel that they know what is best for their children and therefore are not in need of any help. As well as this many have a lack of trust in the ‘systems’ put in place, which may be due to previously bad experiences. To influence practices these issues need to be taken into consideration by practitioners and the knowledge of these situations needs to be a key principle.
Over the years, there have been many labels attached to the concepts of childhood and families. The most common label attached to children is disability. The idea of labelling influences practice vastly when working with children and families, as being labelled as disabled often leaves children feeling separated and being looked upon differently within the society, meaning parents needing extra support it taking care of their children. ‘Supporting families where there is an identified need means working with the family as a whole rather than focusing on the needs of one member as opposed to another, although practitioners still have an obligation to assess the needs of the child’ (K218, Learning Guide 5, Section 5.4). In certain circumstances a lot of responsibility comes on the practitioners as they have to work closely alongside the family and a lot of other professionals to ensure the children are developing both mentally and physically. Those with disabilities are in need of extra attention and the need to feel included in order for them to cope. The impact this has on the child’s life can be minimised and improved through resources and professional support from practitioner agencies.
The surveillance of children, young people and families has a huge impact on influencing practice. There are many advantages of the use of surveillance, through surveillance we are able to monitor families and children and identify problems they may be facing. One of the main advantages is being able to observe in detail the development of children ensuring that they are protected from any harm. Garret, 2004 ‘links the increased surveillance of children not only to the belief that children need to be protected, but also to the belief that young people need to properly prepared for the world of work, so that they can function in the ‘flexible’ labour market’ (Arai, 2011) As well as this families health and wellbeing can also be closely monitored and with the information given, sufficient amount of support can be provided. With this idea there are also some implications which families go through. One of the main issues is the pressure practitioners, families and children face in being looked upon continuously. If a family has been assessed as being in need of monitoring they then have to go through a lot of procedures and regular visits being observed thoroughly.
With the use of social constructivist frameworks and through intense studies, programmes are piloted and when deemed successful it is then used in all institutions, via insets/training. Piloted scheme are used quite often base from studies conducted from different childhood experiences and a variety of families situations. Recently, awareness has been raised with the major changes families and children face. ‘These changes in society, family structure, attitudes and practice mean that children and young people have diverse experiences of family life’ (K218, Learning Guide 5, Section 5.2). With this board pictures and feedback from surveys, it is tailor made and created into programmes from life cases studies. Without ideas/cases studies from those areas the programmes are not reliable and success isn’t certain.
One of the key challenges is responding to diversity in parenting within practice and assessment. Diversity is sometimes a difficult concept for practitioners to deal with. It is stated ‘Practitioners need to think carefully about the assumptions they make about people to make sure they treat everyone with respect and work to promote equality in the treatment and opportunities offered to all children, young people and families’ (K218, Learning Guide 6, Section 6.1). To influence practice it is necessary that practitioners promote equality and diversity within the working environment. In the Leith example we saw how, due to the social and economic changes, a more diverse community had been created in which children and young people were growing up in.
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The media as we know plays a huge part in exposing information and opinions on children and young people. The way in which they are seen, often has a huge impact on the way they are treated and taken care of, when working with them. To be able to work effectively with them practitioners need to adapt a positive approach and can influence the decisions taken on their behalf and how the rest of the community see them. ‘Participation involves sharing images and headlines about children and young people as well as discussing discourses of childhood and youth’(K218, Learning Guide 4, Section 4.4). The media can help in reminding people that children deserve to be respected and are permitted to equal rights as well as raising an awareness of their needs. Through the media, we are able to visualise children in depth, showing a clear understanding and seeking out ways to tackle difficult issues in order to influence practice. To be able to work effectively with them practitioners need to adapt a positive approach by allowing the opportunity for them to be able to speak up for themselves.
Our ideas of childhood and families come across a variety of experiences brought forward throughout the centuries. Working alongside families and their children has now become a central focus in ensuring their needs are being fulfilled. Many codes of practice, frameworks and guidelines have been set out to ensure good practice is being influenced conducted across all institutions to send forth a uniformed approach to the people being serviced. The change in perspective and thought about childhood and families, when designing service plans, the need of the individual, educational programme, and policy and funding decisions. In the delivery of a quality service, practitioners have to put them self aside; their crucial thinking, the way of doing things in order to best understand the people they service. With regards to the cultural differences studied, the practitioners now develop an in depth understanding behind their actions. This eliminates stereotypes and al service providers to embrace the diversity of young people’s cultures.
Arai, L. (2011) ‘The Surveillance of children, young people and families’ in O’Dell L. and Leverett S. (eds) Working With Children and Young People, Basingstoke, Palgrave Macmillan/ Milton Keynes, The Open University.
Kellett, J. and Apps, J. (2011) ‘Assessments of parenting and parenting support need’; in K218 Reading, Working with Children, Young People and Families, Milton Keynes, The Open University.
The Open University (2011) K218 Working with Children, Young People and Families, Learning Guide 4 ‘Children, young people, childhood and youth’, The Open University, https://learn2.open.ac.uk/ mod/oucontent/view.php?id=573719 [Accessed 29 December 2014]
The Open University (2011) K218 Working with Children, Young People and Families, Learning Guide 5 ‘Children, young people’s and families’ wellbeing’, The Open University, https://learn2.open.ac.uk/ mod/oucontent/view.php?id=604592 [Accessed 29 December 2014]
The Open University (2011) K218 Working with Children, Young People and Families, Learning Guide 6 ‘Diversity, inequalities and rights’, The Open University, https://learn2.open.ac.uk/mod/ oucontent/view.php?id=580650 [Accessed 29 December 2014]
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