An example of strengths-based engagement

Image by John Hain from Pixabay

The following is part of a reflection from Vanessa Linden, one of my students in HLSC6105 (Engaging families and communities) as part of her Master of Family Studies at the University of Newcastle. She was happy for me to share it on the blog.

I was invited a couple of weeks ago to teach Lactation classes for 3 days at the main maternity hospital while the Lactation Consultant was away. Normally you stand at the front of the class and talk about the anatomy and physiology of the breast and how the milk is made etc.

I started the class standing at the front and soon found that these new mums were yawning, dads were waiting outside, babies were crying… I stopped the class and grabbed a chair and asked the mums to sit around in a circle and also asked if the dads could come in. They all agreed so I invited the dads in. They picked up their babies and when it was calm, I asked each person ‘how are you feeling?’

The first mum burst into tears, the second mum said she was tired, then the next dad said he was so overwhelmed etc. I gave them tissues, water to drink and many couldn’t stop crying! We talked about the baby blues, having time out for themselves when they go home, and this tiredness and overwhelming feeling is normal the first few days after the birth of a baby.

I hugged them, they hugged each other and I think it was the best breastfeeding class that I’d ever taught even though we only talked about breast feeding for 10 minutes out of 30 minutes. I felt happy that everybody was so grateful when they left the class, but I also thought that I’d probably never be invited back again!

I returned two days later and was called into the bosses office… she told me that everybody was talking about my class and how the feedback forms were rated 5 stars, and they had all mentioned that the breast feeding class was the highlight!

I can only say that participating in ‘Engaging Families and Communities’ has changed the way that I teach new mums and dads…for the better! (Vanessa Linden, Master of Family Studies student)

I think her story is more a comment about her courage to try something new and her ability to see what was happening in the group, than it is a comment about the course. It demonstrates the importance of seeing the individuals behind our work.

It is also an example of a strengths-based approach to working with groups because she changed the focus from one way information giving to real two-way communication, she created a very different power dynamic (it become power-with rather than power-over) and she recognised the group’s ability to support each other.

If you liked this post please follow my blog, and you might like to look at:

  1. Seven principles for a strengths-based approach to working with groups
  2. An introduction to strengths-based practice (a video lecture)
  3. Power and strengths-based practice
  4. 7 principles guiding my work
  5. A video and some tips on family engagement
  6. Engaging fathers: An overview of evidence-based practice

If you find any problems with the blog, (e.g., broken links or typos) I’d love to hear about them. You can either add a comment below or contact me via the Contact page.

About Graeme Stuart

Lecturer (Family Action Centre, Newcastle Uni), blogger (Sustaining Community), environmentalist, Alternatives to Violence Project facilitator, father. Passionate about families, community development, peace, sustainability.
This entry was posted in Being an academic, Facilitation & teaching, Families & parenting and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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