Home-Start UK reveals families facing challenges struggle alone for too long, potentially turning a difficult situation into a risky one       

  • 60% of parents said they feel pressure from social media to be the ‘perfect parent’
  • 95% of respondents thought fellow parents would delay in asking for help if they were struggling
  • Local Home-Start branches said that on average parents struggle for over 7 months before reaching out for support

New research released today reveals that 6 in 10 parents feel pressure from social media to be the ‘perfect parent’. Of those polled, 51% said that fears of being seen as a bad parent would hold mums and dads back in asking for help. Home-Start, the charity behind the poll, are highlighting the unrealistic expectations put on parents by social media, which they have dubbed ‘Insta-parenting’. Home-Start hope to encourage an honest discussion about the realities of parenting and expose the unrealistic expectations perpetuated online.

Feelings of failure or struggling to cope with your children is something many people find difficult to be open and honest about. The research shows that 95% of respondents believe parents who are struggling would delay in asking for help, and local Home-Start branches say that on average parents struggle for more than 7 months before reaching out for support. The impacts caused by waiting to talk can negatively impact parents’ mental health (33%), cause feelings of isolation for families (11%), and, worst of all from the charity’s and respondents’ perspective, cause children to miss out (49%).

Vivien Waterfield, Deputy Chief Executive of Home-Start UK, says: “Parenting has never been easy but with the added pressures of social media, our bad days and difficult times can seem magnified compared with the seemingly perfect families we see online. Home-Start offer non-judgemental, compassionate and confidential help and support. We start in the home, with an approach as individual as the people we’re helping. A child’s earliest years are irreplaceable, and because childhood can’t wait, we’re there for parents when they need us most”.

Octavia, a mum who was supported by Home-Start says: “Following a traumatic birth experience with my twins, I developed postnatal depression, anxiety and PTSD. I was scared to leave the house and distanced myself from friends, ashamed to admit what I was going through.

Seeing pictures on Facebook and Instagram of other new mums I knew made me feel even less competent as a mum. I often avoided going on there as what I was seeing was compounding my feelings of inadequacy.

After visiting my GP and also going for counselling, I reached out to Home-Start and they were able to provide me with a wonderful volunteer, Carole. With her support, I am able to get out of the house more and be less isolated. She’s also able to listen to me and my worries and is an excellent sounding board. In hindsight, I can see that social media doesn’t represent reality. I’m now really open about what we’ve been through and hope that my story can help someone else realise that they’re not alone”.

According to parents, the most valued ways Home-Start work with families are offering company, a listening ear and shoulder to cry on (44%), the predictability of the weekly visits (20%) and giving them a much needed a break (11%). Home-Start’s 2019 impact report data shows this unique approach works, with 96% of families helped by Home-Start saying they felt less isolated, 94% reporting improved self-esteem, 94% reporting improved children’s development and 95% saying the same about their own health and wellbeing.

Leah, a volunteer for Home-Start Hull says: “I am a relative newbie to Home-Start Hull having joined in September 2018. We live in a world that is becoming increasingly isolated and time-poor in spite of the presence and connections of social media. It takes a village to raise a child but sadly for many families this village has disappeared. Home-Start volunteering has made a difference to me. It has made me reflect upon my own attitudes and beliefs and highlighted the ever-growing need for s to re-engage with those around us.”

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