Important role of Supported Playgroup for local families
Being a parent can be tough, and that’s before you add in additional issues some parents face such as post-natal depression, family violence, relocating from overseas or elsewhere, or being financially vulnerable.
And that’s where Supported Playgroup can help.
City of Port Phillip Supported Playgroup Facilitator Jacqui Raymond is a mum of two with another on the way. She has a social work background, is inspired by play therapy and acknowledges the importance of play.
“I like working with families who may be slightly marginalised, but from a positive perspective. I get to share my love of play in a positive way,” she says.
Jacqui explained that all Victorian councils offer supported playgroup. The Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) funded, council delivered initiative embeds the smalltalk parenting program developed by the Parenting Resource Centre (PRC). The initiative is supported by the DHHS and run by facilitators trained by PRC and Playgroup Victoria, with an emphasis around discussion of parenting issues.
Star Health Occupational Therapist Kathryn and Child Physiotherapist Ann work alongside Jacqui to deliver the program in St Kilda and South Melbourne.
Jacqui says Supported Playgroup takes a holistic approach. It’s open to parents with babies through to five-year-olds. A majority of attendees at the St Kilda Supported Playgroup are mums, but sometimes couples or dads attend, and Jacqui says they are always very welcome.
Most participant referrals are from Maternal and Child Health Nurses, and there are some self-referred from the council website. Please contact Jacqui directly for more information on eligibility criteria.
The playgroup runs weekly and in line with the school term, with most families completing two or three terms.
“The idea is to transition out to [general] playgroup and other community groups such as swimming,” says Jacqui.
“One of the biggest successes is seeing the parents form social connections.”
Supported Playgroup participants have high praise for the initiative.
“I attend the playgroup because I was always alone at home with my baby and I needed a support system of other people who I could relate to with this motherhood experience,” says participant Veronica.
“The playgroup helped me feel welcome, supported and not alone and my child gets to interact with other kids which she doesn’t do often. Also, the smalltalk section is also very educative and insightful, too.”
“I love the playgroups and want to keep attending, even now [during the coronavirus pandemic when playgroup is closed],” says participant Reni.
“The best things about playgroup are the interaction with the other mums and the way we have a theme each week. If given the opportunity, others should attend Supported Playgroup because it’s about keeping connected, and it’s fun.”
Veronica’s daughter loves the toys, songs, and playing with other kids, and for Reni’s baby son, it’s all about the toys and the space to have fun.
Veronica says Supported Playgroup gives participants an opportunity to interact with other parents, share experiences and feel supported.
“My advice to parents is to take every opportunity to attend playgroup so as to give their kids and themselves an avenue for learning, fun and support,” says Veronica.
Jacqui’s role at the City of Port Phillip also includes delivering the in-home smalltalk program, which features 6-10 sessions on a DVD that parents watch with Jacqui and then do a two-minute recording of them using the skills, watch it back and discuss what went well, etc. This is currently conducted remotely due to coronavirus social distancing requirements.
Jacqui also provides broader support to parents, and she encourages playgroup contacts who would like some support, especially about the smalltalk parenting program, to contact her. She’s at the council on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays.
Go to the smalltalk program.
The City of Port Phillip is currently investigating other ways to keep parents connected during the coronavirus pandemic, and there are a multitude of online resources and support groups available. A good place to start are these Facebook pages:
City of Port Phillip Family Youth and Children which provides parenting information and ideas to keep kids active
City of Port Phillip Library where story time is streamed live each week, and
Playgroup Victoria where there are many ideas about ways to keep kids entertained at home.
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