The purpose of the Growing Up Together Plus Programme is to provide parents with a flow of information, knowledge, skills and support so as to enable them to fulfill their parental responsibilities and promote personal growth and development of competences of both the parent and the child.
The main goal of the programme is to create a stimulating and empowering environment where parents, together with the workshop leaders and other parents:
- exchange ideas about the ways in which they live parenthood,
- get to know themselves better as parents,
- recognize efficient ways of coping with the extra burden they live with and
- become aware of how they relate to their child, and
- learn about other possible ways of relating to the child.
They also become acquainted with the scientific views on:
- developmental and stimulative interaction between the parent and the child, and
- parenting in the best interest of both the parent and the child.
The Growing Up Together Plus Programme of Workshops for the Parents of the Children with Disabilities comprises eleven two-hour conceptually and thematically interrelated workshops. The workshops are conducted by specially trained teams of experts who provide support to the early development of the child:
- Every child is special, every parent is special
- Between expectations and adaptation
- The four pillars of parenting
- Psychological needs of the child and parental goals
- All of our children and how we love them
- Listening – an important parental skill
- How does the child learn about the world?
- Boundaries: why and how?
- Parental responsibilities
- Being a parent: influences and choices
- The ending and the new beginning
Upon completion of the programme workshops, parents usually keep meeting at the Growing Up Together Plus Club.
The workshops are designed for groups of 8-12 parents and include various forms of work, depending on the objective and content of the activity in question. Short lectures with PowerPoint presentations, exercises and various assignments alternate with discussions on certain topics and exchange of experiences in small or large groups. Each workshop is ''spiced up'' with a game and/or short film.
The Growing Up Together Plus Programme was developed in 2012 and 2013 under the auspices of the UNICEF Office for Croatia. It is based on the four-year experience in the implementation of the Growing Up Together Programme, intended for the general population of the parents with children aged 1-4. This experience indicated the need for a 'sister' programme which would respond to the specific needs and interests of the parents of children with disabilities by supporting and empowering them in their parental role.
Why Growing Up Together Plus? Parents of children with disability have a lot of ''add-ons'' to their parenting - they experience more anxiety and stress, more challenges and victories and they need more information, more understanding, more expert support, more care from the society. All these add-ons we named a ''plus'', thus implying that these workshops are focused on empowering the parents and giving the add-ons to their parenting a positive connotation.
The Growing Up Together Plus Programme promotes the same values of and approach to parenting as the Growing Up Together Programme. However, we take into account the fact that parents of children with disabilities are faced with a number of additional challenges (including their relationships with the child, family members, community and institutions).
More information on the Growing Up Together Plus Programme can be found in the publication authored by B. Starc (ed.) (2014) Parenting in the Best Interests of the Child and Support to Parents of the Youngest Children with Disabilities [Parenting in the Best Interest of the Child and Support to Parents of the Youngest Children With Disabilities]
Autors: Ninoslava Pećnik, Branka Starc, Marta Ljubešić, Minja Jeić, Sonja Pribela Hodap and Marina Grubić