Help a family, help a child

By Parentline, 21 June 2011

CEO Cathy Holland’s column in the Hamilton Press 22nd December 2010

The end of a working year is always a time for reflection. That it also happens to be Christmas is another reason to remember the principle reason for the work that we do. It is to keep our children safe and well…. safe family, safe child / maru i te whanau maru i te tamariki, particularly through the festive season.

When Parentline was established in the late 1970’s, we offered advice to parents. We then moved our focus to working with children but quickly realised that the healing process for a child needed to include parents and caregivers. This year, we have made another leap to extend our reach even further to incorporate entire families. It is likely that if one member of a family is under stress then the entire family unit will be likewise.

Perhaps the most exciting development in 2010 has been adding onto our repertoire of different therapeutic modalities to use with children.  Art, sand tray and play therapies remain our specialist interventions and we have recently set aside an Art Therapy room for this single purpose.  The art work that children do to express their inner thoughts and feelings is both amazing and yet so revealing.

This year we have offered equine assisted therapy in partnership with the Hamilton Disabled Riding School.  You might think an odd arrangement, but building a relationship with an animal (horse) is rewarding in many respects; for a child with an emotional, social or psychological disability, the trust and loyalty of an animal demonstrates to the child how important they are and gives them the ability to extend these same attributes to personal relationships.

Parentline sponsored 53 children to holiday camps in 2010.  Our caseworkers tell us that children return from camp with heightened levels of self confidence and self esteem; children discover they can do things for themselves without relying on parents and adults and they discover they are able to make new friendships. From quiet and subdued kids on the way to camp, the kids who return home are the direct opposite – ebullient, talkative and open eyed to new and exciting experiences in the future.

What I take from our year’s work, is the paramountcy of the child.

And as I am racing around buying gifts and presents for whanau, I ponder – what is the greatest gift that we (as parents) can give to our children?  It is to gather each and every one of them into the safety of our arms, at least once every day and say I LOVE YOU.

On behalf of Parentline I wish to extend to you all Seasons Greetings. Have a safe and happy holiday!