New funding to help B.C. parents deal with kids who have behaviour problems

Program aims to help parents become more confident dealing with aggression, defiance

The B.C. government announced $1.5 million in new funding on Thursday for a “life-changing” program that helps parents deal with kids who have behavioural problems.

The “Confident Parents Thriving Children” program is a free series of telephone workshops launched last year by the B.C. division of the Canadian Mental Health Association.

So far, it has helped more than 1,000 families across the province, helping primary caregivers of kids ages three to 12 to deal with behaviour issues such as aggression, anti-social behaviour, defiance and substance abuse.

“It is very positive. It is clear. … It truly is life-changing,” said Paula Littlejohn, a mother of two from Victoria. She was referred to the program last year by her doctor to get help dealing with her son, William, who has a severe learning disability and ADHD.

Littlejohn said getting her son ready for school or bedtime was a huge struggle, but she learned ways to give mild consequences for negative behaviour and support for positive behaviour.

“I have a more positive relationship (with my son). William is able to use those skills with me.”

Four out of five parents who took part in the program said they saw an improvement in their child’s behaviour, the mental health association said, and reported feeling more confident in their parenting and coping skills.

Bev Gutray, the CEO of the association’s B.C. arm, said this program is particularly effective because it focuses on early intervention and prevention.

“We will see the benefits from this program years from now,” she said. “Parents are committed to the health of their children. They are signing up for the full 14 weeks and that tells us how motivated parents are.”

She said she hopes the government will eventually grant the funding every year, especially with 200 families on the waitlist.

Children and Family Development Minister Stephanie Cadieux said her ministry will monitor the success of the program over time.

“It’s one of the things we’re doing in our cross-government mental health strategy,” Cadieux said. “We don’t know yet about next year, but certainly this is a program we believe has great potential.”

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