Supporting Tweens and Their Families Through an Inspiration Grant

23 February, 2022 | Youville Centre

Carmen Paterson-Payne runs the Nobody’s Perfect parenting program, which is funded by the provincial government and aims to support families with children aged up to 6 years old. “I have so many parents who tell me their child is 8 years old and they’re not sure where to turn for supports,” explains Paterson-Payne. “A colleague of mine in British Columbia was working on a program for tweens and their parents and wanted me to help roll it out here in Manitoba.”

The issue, as it often the case, was funding. While the government of Manitoba was interested in what this new program could offer, they needed more evidence to be able to consider funding it. Paterson-Payne was biding her time, and then she found out about the Inspiration Grant, a program run by Réseau Compassion Network that funds innovative ideas brought forward by front-line staff. As a member of the Youville Centre team, she knew the grant was her chance to try something new. “When I saw it, I thought, ‘This is it!’ This is how I can prove that it works,” she remembers. “I was totally blown away that this opportunity existed. I get to dream big and make it happen? It’s awesome!”

Carmen Paterson-Payne

So she got to work, and the first edition of My Tween and Me, aimed at families with children aged 7 to 12, was launched. The pilot program was offered with support from 14 agencies across Manitoba and was held remotely due to the pandemic. “The timing was really great, in the end,” says Paterson-Payne. “Parents were feeling so isolated, and they really wanted to connect with others, all while helping their children.”

The program was based on a community development model, which means that mentorship and supports are built-in, creating stronger outcomes for families and communities. “This is participant-centred, and we guide parents and children to have meaningful conversations about things that matter to them,” continues Paterson-Payne. “The goal is to build resiliency and support healthy social and emotional connections. We want to create those magical moments of closeness between children and their caregivers. We want to create space to ask questions, build trust and have stronger relationships.”

By all accounts, those goals were met. Comparing preliminary pre- and post- participant surveys revealed a 67% increase in caregivers “strongly agreeing” that they can have a positive influence on their children. Caregivers also indicated that the program had improved their understanding of the types of pressures and mental health felt by their tweens by 64%, and that they could better help to support their child in making healthy decisions.

Two program participants

Besides the activities hosted for parents and children together, the program also split up the participants at times. “Parents need some time to connect with each other and the facilitator,” continues Paterson-Payne. “They need that support and this experience normalizes their concerns. They know they’re not alone and they can problem-solve together and work through common issues together.”

Paterson-Payne is a dedicated advocate for parenting programs and is always seeking ways to support families in Manitoba. There isn’t always such a happy ending, and she’s thankful to Réseau Compassion Network for their forward-thinking approach.

“Honestly, I get a little teary-eyed when I think about it,” she adds with emotion in her voice. “I really want to thank Réseau Compassion Network for encouraging risk. Having that money and being able to do this important work means everything. We know we’ve had the opportunity to change families in a positive way, and that will have a ripple effect throughout our communities.”