Multi-family group (MFG) was originally set up at St. John's by the Kent Educational Psychology team. Feedback from the parents, children and teachers involved in the initial group was so positive that we have continued to run this group 2-3 times per year since then.
MFG brings home and school together to bring effective support and change for children. The child is supported on both fronts because skills learnt in the group setting can be taken back to the classroom and into the home.
The group is underpinned by the idea that parents are the experts and progress comes from learning within the group. School staff simply facilitate and suggest activities that help children to meet their individual goals.
Goals are achieved by setting targets – it is a collaborative exercise that involves the class teacher(s), parent(s), staff running the group and the child themselves. Everyone is involved in thinking hard about what might be a useful target for the child to work towards. The emphasis is on everyone working together and the child being an active participant in thinking about what needs to shift to make school and home a better place.
Once targets are met, we all try to notice when the child has achieved their target and learnt new skills as a result. As the sessions progress, everyone becomes adept at noticing these new skills, which builds an environment of positivity and mutual appreciation/support.
The sessions themselves are based around fun games and activities which everyone enjoys and which increase connection. Adults work with their own children and other children in the group to create a rich experience of noticing when new skills are displayed.
When we work together to actively look for instances of the children experiencing success, we build everyone’s confidence and self-esteem.
Activities can be adapted for different needs; e.g. for an introverted child, she might initially work with just her parent or in her own space and part of her learning would be to get to a place where she feels she can begin to engage with others.
None of the activities are competitive or put adults/children in a position where they feel anxious/scared/ uncomfortable.
The focus of each session always starts with looking at what would be a good target for the child to work towards and how we can support the child in achieving their goal.
The group is focussed on successes - outside of the group staff leading it will think really hard about specific problems/issues and whether other support needs to be brought in/put in place for the child.
The benefit of the group outweighs any learning that will be lost because the group enables the child to be successful and develop new skills, all of which can be taken back into the classroom to enhance learning.