What started as a weekly coffee group on Friday mornings has quickly become a vital support network for parents with children at Aratupu Preschool & Nursery.
The group of 11 parents meet weekly in Aratupu's Whānau Room to talk about what's going on and to offer each other support and friendship. It's a time to meet and connect with parents and guardians of children of a similar age.
"They talk about themes that are common to all of them as parents – food, tantrums, physical activity, relationships, parenting strengths and challenges," says Annie Smith, Whānau Support Worker at Aratupu. Annie provides guidance to the group as well as information about certain themes at the parent's request. The parents share with each other about their challenges and find support, advice and encouragement from the other members.
The support provided goes beyond the group. The parents catch up over coffee during the week and meet at parks with their children.
"It is really encouraging to see parents helping others that are in a similar situation. Through doing so they learn that they have skills themselves and can really make a difference in another parent's life," says Annie.
Something common to the group was the difficulty they found in exercising with small children demanding so much of their time. As a result, one of the teachers at Aratupu who has a certificate in personal training started running a fitness group for the parents after the Friday morning parenting support group. This is held on the lawn outside Aratupu so the children can see their parent's role modelling healthy habits.
For the 2016-17 year 57 parents actively worked with the Whānau Support Worker and 80 children were enrolled at Aratupu.