Program

Oct 23, 2014

OVERVIEW

Tuning in to Kids teaches supportive, emotionally responsive parenting to parents of preschool children.  The program is intended to increase parents’ emotion socialization (emotion coaching vs. emotion dismissing), emotional competence, and wellbeing, which is intended to lead to improvements in short-term child behavior and better child long-term life outcomes.  An experimental study found that parents receiving the program reported statistically significant improvements in emotion coaching, emotion dismissing, and child behavior at the end of the program, compared with parents in the waitlist control group.  A second study that collected data six months after the end of the programfound statistically significant increases in parents’ use of emotion labels; emotion exploration; and emotion awareness and regulation. A statistically significant improvement in child behavior was also reported by both parents and teachers among children who received the program compared to children in the control group.

DESCRIPTION OF PROGRAM

Target population:  Preschool (4 to 5 year old) children

Tuning in to Kids teaches supportive, emotionally responsive parenting to parents of preschool children.  The program is intended to have impacts on parent emotion socialization (emotion coaching vs. emotion dismissing), parent emotional competence, parent wellbeing, and child behavior.  The program is delivered in six weekly, two-hour group sessionswith two facilitators (one of whom was one of the study authors) in community settings.  A central part of the program is teaching five steps of emotion coaching: (a) become aware of the child’s emotion, especially if it is at a lower intensity; (b) view the child’s emotion as an opportunity for intimacy and teaching; (c) communicate understanding and acceptance of the emotion; (d) help the child to use words to describe how they feel; and (e) if necessary, assist them with problem solving (while setting limits).  The first three sessions of the program emphasize attending to children’s lower intensity emotions, and then reflecting, labeling, and empathizing with the child’s emotion.  The fourth session focuses on anxiety and problem solving, while the last two sessions focus on more intense emotions such as anger, with an emphasis on teaching emotion regulation strategies such as slow breathing, relaxation, self-control, and safe expressions of anger.  Parents are also taught skills in understanding and regulating their own emotions and encouraged to reflect on their family of origin experiences to identify how these influence their beliefs and responses to emotions in themselves and their children.  A manual for the program is available.

EVALUATIONS OF PROGRAM

Havighurst, S.S., Wilson, K.R., Harley, A.E., Prior, M.R. (2009).  Tuning in to kids: an emotion-focused parenting program – initial findings from a community trial. Journal of Community Psychology, 37, 1008-1023.

Evaluated Population: The study sample consisted of 216 parents of preschool children aged 4 – 5 years (115 boys and 108 girls).  Parents were recruited from 61 preschools in culturally and linguistically diverse lower- to middle-class socioeconomic regions in Melbourne, Australia.  Parents had to have sufficient English language skills to complete questionnaires and to understand the content of the program, and the target children could not have a primary diagnosis of a communication or pervasive developmental disorder.

Participants were the primary caregiver, of which 207 were mothers and 9 fathers, with an average age of 36.5 years. At the time of initial data collection, 88.5 percent of the parents were in two-parent families; 11 percent were single mothers, and one mother had repartnered.  Most parents (77.1 percent) spoke English as their first language, and the remainder spoke a variety of other European or Asian languages.  More than one-fifth (21.8 percent) had not completed high school, 29.8 percent had completed a non-university qualification and 44.9 percent had completed a bachelor degree or higher.  Just under half (49.8 percent) were not in paid employment.  Among those who were in the workforce, the average number of weekly hours worked was around 17.  Approximately 20 percent of families had “very low” or “low” gross annual family incomes,  63 percent were at middle to upper-middle income levels, and about 14 percent were high-income households.

Approach: Preschools were randomly assigned to receive the program (30) or to be placed on a waitlist (31).  Recruitment of parents took place in waves corresponding to the four-term preschool year, with programs conducted each term for the duration of the study.  Parents recruited fromintervention preschools were allocated to an immediate-start program (n=106), and parents recruited from waitlist preschools were offered a 10-month delayed start program (n=110).  The program groups consisted of 10 parents on average (range 7–15); and 95 percent of the sample attended at least three of the six sessions, with 78 percent of parents attending five or six.  The program was delivered within school hours at a local community center, with free child care available.

Parent emotion-socialization practices, such as acceptance of emotions; ability to engage in goal-directed behavior when distressed; impulse control; awareness of emotions; access to strategies for regulation; and clarity of emotions were assessed through questionnaires.  Child behavior data, reported by parents and teachers, included conduct symptoms, oppositional defiant symptoms, and attention deficit hyperactive symptoms.  Questionnaire data were collected from parents at the pre-intervention baseline and immediately after the program ended.  Questionnaire data were also collected from teachers at baseline.

Baseline questionnaires included family demographic information.  Post-intervention measures were collected from 85 percent (n=184) of the sample immediately after the six sessions of the program were completed.  There were no significant differences in group characteristics at baseline.

Results:  The study found that the program had statistically significant positive impacts on emotion coaching, emotion dismissing, empathy, and child behavior for parents in the program compared with parents in the waitlist control group.

Havighurst, S.S., Wilson, K.R., Harley, A.E., Prior, M.R., Kehoe, C. (2010).  Tuning in to kids: improving emotion socialization practices in parents of preschool children – findings from a community trial.  Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 51, 1342-1350.

Evaluated Population:  The sample for this study was the same as for the initial study, i.e., 216 parents of preschool children aged 4 – 5 years (115 boys and 108 girls) in Melbourne, Australia.

Approach:  Data for this follow-up study were collected six months after the end of the program.   Data included teachers’ questionnaire data andvideo-taped observations of in-home parent-child interactions were collected for 161 parents .

Results:  The study found statistically significant positive impacts on emotion coaching (ES=.64), emotion dismissing (ES=.86) for parents in the program compared with parents in the waitlist control group.  Statistically significant positive impacts were found for parent empathy (ES=1.08) andteachers reported a statistically significant decrease in the intensity of children’s behavior problems (ES=.23).  Children whose parents received the program were found to have a statistically significant increase in their emotion knowledge (ES=1.00) compared to children whose parents were in the control group.  Parents were found to use a statistically significant greater number of emotion labels (ES=.57) and engaged in more emotion exploration (ES=.66).  The study also found a statistically significant increase in parent emotion awareness and regulation (ES=.29).

SOURCES FOR MORE INFORMATION

Manual available:  Havighurst, S.S., & Harley, A. (2007). Tuning In to Kids: Emotionally intelligent parenting program manual. Melbourne: University of Melbourne.

References

Havighurst, S.S., Wilson, K.R., Harley, A.E., Prior, M.R. (2009).  Tuning in to kids: an emotion-focused parenting program – initial findings from a community trial. Journal of Community Psychology, 37, 1008-1023.

 Havighurst, S.S., Wilson, K.R., Harley, A.E., Prior, M.R., Kehoe, C. (2010).  Tuning in to kids: improving emotion socialization practices in parents of preschool children – findings from a community trial.  Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 51, 1342-1350.

KEYWORDS: Children (3-11), Preschool, Males and Females (Co-ed), Urban, Community-based, Manual, Parent Training/Education, Conduct/Disruptive Disorders, Social Skills/Life Skills

Program information last updated on 10/23/2014.

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