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Family Life Ministry - Diocese of Leeds

Why Parenting?

 ‘Having children and grandchildren is so important in this age of self contentment, because we lose ourselves in the lives of our children. There is no greater gift and no greater vocation' 

Bishop Arthur Roche

There are practical things we can do as parents to help raise our children to be what God wants them to be, their best selves. Many people, from family and friends to school and church, help us to raise our children but parents have a primary role and responsibility that is often referred to as 'inalienable' meaning a role and a relationship with a child that offers what no one else can. So we are here to offer parents, all parents, the best parenting support we can.

By parenting support we mean specifically the sound, value-for-money and easy-to-use parenting courses of the Family Caring Trust (FCT), and the training to run those courses.

Both are available from Parenting Coordinator Breda Theakston. Contact Breda at breda.theakston@dioceseofleeds.org.uk for more information.

Leeds Parenting Celebrates Parents and Grandparents made by Janet Kent 


In the Diocese of Leeds we are committed to helping families to be 'the first place of Christian education' (Pope St John Paul II)

Parish Priests spend 6-7 years training before ordination. School Teachers spend 3 or 4 years in higher education before becoming teachers...How long do parents spend in training or education preparing to raise their children?

Well, we don't really, do we, beyond the basic ante-natal classes and post-natal care we get from our local health centre. Yet parenting is the most fundamental influence on a child’s life. Most schools are designed to work with children who are 'ready to learn' in a school context by the age of 4 or 5. However, getting a child from birth to ‘ready to learn at school' is not as easy as we might expect. All too often we can find ourselves at our wits end wondering 'What on earth can a parent do!?'.

The good news for parents is that the Family Caring Trust offers a course for every stage of your child's life. Courses are run locally and delivered in small groups of parents (and grandparents). Often these groups naturally grow, once the course is over, to become sustaining friendship groups for a lifetime!

What Can a Parent do? 

All parents learn 'on the job' as it were. And what a job it is! Any one of these friendly, community based programmes will help parents take the next steps in their own development and growth as parents. If you would like to join a one day Initial Training to learn more about running these easy-to-use everyday language programmes contact breda.theakston@dioceseofleeds.org.uk 

Taken from www.familycaring.co.uk: 

Parenting in the Early Years

From Pram to Primary School: 
Parenting small children from birth to age six or seven.

How do you cope with all the pressures of daily living and still meet small children's need for affection? How do you cope with children who won't eat or sleep or co-operate? How do you help children grow in confidence and self-esteem? Here is a simply written, jargon-free book that does not pretend it is easy, yet offers fresh, thought-provoking ideas, common sense suggestions and effective support to parents dealing with children from six months to seven years old.


Parenting School-Age Children

What Can a Parent Do?
Practical skills to help parents (of children aged 5-15) be happier and more effective.

Parents of children from five to fifteen describe this practical, simply-written book as a ‘lifesaver.’ Useful in reducing tension, squabbling, tantrums and fighting, establishing clearer, more respectful parenting guidelines, and making children happier and more responsible.


Parenting Teenagers

What Can Parents of a Teenager Do?

How and when and where do you draw the line with teenagers? How do you set limits? How do you cope with all the arguing, swinging moods, annoying habits, outright rebellion…? How can parents and teens learn to live together with respect for one another? These are some of the questions dealt with in this book. There is no suggestion that there are easy answers. What suits one parent may not work for another. But you will find respect here for the fact that you and your family are different. You will also find practical ideas to apply in your own way in your family. Many parents find that these ideas help to reduce tension and arguing and prepare teenagers for responsible adult living.


Parent Assertiveness

Being Assertive 
Ways of respecting others but not letting yourself be walked on - especially for parents

Being Assertive is designed for groups of up to twelve parents to learn skills that will help them to avoid both aggression and passivity, and to be firm, friendly and respectful with their children as well as with others.

Over the 7 weeks of the programme participants look at:

  • What assertiveness means
  • Saying ‘no’
  • Dealing with abuse and criticism
  • Giving constructive criticism
  • Encouragement and assertiveness
  • A way of life
  • Skills practice & review



FCT parenting programmes, written by parents for parents, are: 

ü      Clear

ü      Easy to use

ü      Down to earth

ü      Based on the best educational practices

ü      Grounded on an understanding of the need for both firm love and gentle love

ü      An opportunity to hear lots of ideas and share best practice in a friendly supportive environment


ü      Organised into manageable sessions (1 1/2 to 2 hours each)

ü      Run over 6 - 8 weeks

ü      Suitable in any cultural, gender, educational, faith, inter faith (or no faith) contexts

ü      Suitable for granddads and grandmas as well as dads and mums


ü      Families

ü      Friends

ü      Community groups

ü      Church groups

ü      Parishes

ü      Schools

PERFECT for welcoming families into your church community when used alone or with

ü      Baptism parents

ü      First Holy Communion Parents

ü      Confirmation Parents

AND for school

ü      Entry

ü      Transition

Call me 0113 261 8050  to find out how to become a parenting facilitator for your family, friends, parish or school.

There are TWO main training routes to becoming a parenting facilitator:

1) Initial Training by Breda Theakston AFT (FCT Approved Facilitator Trainer). This short course can be offered in one full day, or two half days, but for growing effective community groups it is better delivered in short sessions (no more than 2 hours each) over several weeks.


Summer term/Autumn term 2017


(details to be confirmed) 



2) Accredited Training

'Parenting Programmes: Leading with Confidence' is also available and works best done as an area, or deanery, 'package'. In this process we recruit at least one Parenting Facilitator from each parish and at least one from each school working together in school or parish. (Contact us to find out how it worked in the Wakefield Deanery where 19 volunteers, including parents and parishioners attended the 2011-2012 Accredited Training.)

This course can be delivered without accreditation.

Contact breda.theakston@dioceseofleeds.org.uk

For all other training enquiries, outside the Diocese of Leeds, contact Elizabeth Davies at elizabeth@familycaring.co.uk 

RIP Michael Quinn co-founder of the Family Caring Trust 

Message from Elizabeth Davies, Chair of the Family Caring Trust:

14 July 2014

Michael Quinn, founder of Family Caring Trust in 1986, with his wife Terri, died very peacefully just before 6pm on Saturday evening, July 12th, surrounded by his family.

Nine days earlier, Michael wrote: "There is to be no eulogy. And I don't want obituaries. They're about ‘achievements,' and God looks for the motivation behind our achievements or non-achievement. I know that my achievements were often driven by love and compassion, but so much of the time they were just ‘driven.' Driven by blind workaholism!"

Not about to let him get away with that I responded: "‘driven' or not, you were obedient to your inner voice and in doing so have created so much possibility for so very many. You'll be leaving this wonderful world a much better place than when you found it, and although I know you won't want to accept any plaudits (or eulogies!), there will be many who will offer them silently."

The family would like donations in lieu of flowers to go to Newry Hospice and the Macmillan Nurses.

Our office will be closed until Friday, 18th July.

Elizabeth Davies, Chair, Family Caring Trust.


No eulogies, here's my view as a parent, a practitioner and a person:

Michael's life work was the Family Caring Trust and the parenting and relationship programmes he created with Terri, his wife, for family people of all ages. The iconic ‘yellow' book ‘What Can a Parent Do' has been a godsend to so many of us as we struggled to find ways to raise our children responsibly and positively, without resorting either to overly controlling, violent methods or to being a 'doormat'.

Over the last 28 years Michael and Terri's programmes have been very widely used in homes, schools, parishes, children's and health centres and clinics. Even after a recent rush of parenting initiatives following government money, since parenting became a hot political issue, the FCT programmes created by Michael and Terri often remained the programme of choice for the professionals in the field.

This is because these programmes are not only soundly based on the best understanding of human needs and child development, designed to very gently and lightly engage parents where they are most comfortable according to adult learning principles, and not only are they affordable and easy to use but they have two key attributes that, I think, gives them the edge over all other programmes out there.

One is the respect they show for parents as the primary educators of their children (which also accords with our Catholic teaching on parents as the primary educators and first heralds of the gospel to our children, not just in words but in actions). In the programmes Michael's gentle voice can be heard frequently saying ‘you don't have to agree with anything you hear' and ‘what struck you?' Michael was never preachy but always wise and always careful in how he used his wisdom so that people felt released from whatever was imprisoning them.

The next is the group format. Michael and Terri's programmes show a keen understanding that being a parent can be the most personally challenging and the loneliest responsibility in the world. So the group format the parenting programmes are designed to follow helps people by connecting them with each other. It is such a relief to find that ‘I am not alone!' and there is joy too as we laugh and cry together and find friendship and support in each other. This helps us and helps our children as we, and they, are relieved of the pressure of being perfect and instead, are freed to be who we are and to take pleasure in each other as we are.

Michael did not want eulogies or obituaries and I respect his wishes, this is neither. This is my way of remembering Michael and I am sure he would be the first to allow that if he can speak at his own funeral I can speak on our website to the people who know him only through the programmes he and Terri created.

Michael was modest and wore his wisdom and learning lightly. He was also very generous with his time. I remember in particular one occasion when he came to Leeds to talk to us on family spirituality according to the ‘little' way' of St Therese of Lisieux. His work was a charity and always eager to cut costs he agreed to spend the night before his talk as a guest in our home.

The next morning as he ate his toast and marmalade at our kitchen table I was embarrassed to find myself standing at the counter automatically making a packed lunch for my son who was well able to make his own lunch. As one of the principles of the parenting approach in the FCT programmes is to ‘never do for a child what a child can do for themselves' because it undermines their independence and makes you a doormat, I was literally caught in the act. Oops!

Michael smiled and reassured me. ‘That is a principle but you don't have to follow slavishly' he said. Then he added ‘I am always doing things for my children that they can do for themselves, that's family life'. I felt better immediately. And I knew then for sure that Michael's intention with the parenting programmes was not to tell people what to do but to liberate them to be their best selves.

I was reminded of this while watching and listening to Michael's funeral mass. Michael says he was driven by many things but I see his main driver as love. And his life was an exploration of the many ways we can be distanced from and reconnected to the love that is the source and summit of all. Michael said that when he was a child he knew he would see God when he died. And then he grew up and discovered that God was in the people he lived with, he didn't have to wait until he died. That's what our work at family life ministry is all about.

Thank you, Michael for sharing so much with us. I know you loved music and I imagine you now making merry music in heaven with your loved ones. You gave your all as you surrendered completely to love, what more can anyone do?

Rest in Joyful Peace.

Breda Theakston
24th July 2014


The Celebrating Family Fund 'Parenting Support Project' in Leeds Diocese (Short video at top of page)

'God himself is present in human fatherhood and motherhood'

John Paul II Letter to Families

Family Life Ministry in the Diocese of Leeds offers a good selection of excellent and easy to use parenting programmes which parents themselves can run at home in schools and in parishes. In 2008 we have had some limited funding, from a private donor, made available to us through the Bishops' Conference for England and Wales.

With this we launched the Parent Support Project offering accredited training for parents and others to deliver parenting programmes from the Family Caring Trust (www.familycaring.co.uk) through schools and parishes. The main focus is developing positive family relationships and offering parents and grandparents support in children's faith development and sacramental preparation. This is designed to respond in a very practical way to needs expressed in Listening 2004: My Family My Church. Everything we do supports the Celebrating Family Project including Everybody's Welcome, Home is a Holy Place, and Passing on the Faith

Parents and grandparents have found their lives transformed by these programmes. To see how go to www.celebratingfamily.org.uk/leeds 

'I just wish I had done this years ago!' exclaimed one grandmother when asked about the parenting programme she attended at Holy Rosary Church Chapeltown.

Most programmes come with a video and handbook and offer opportunities to talk about particular issues like behaviour, discipline, praise, assertiveness, how to talk about sex and so on. Most things that concern us as parents and grandparents are there.

You do not need to go to a parenting academy or on a course to run our parenting programmes. You simply need to have a desire to think about how you parent and a willingness to get together with family, friends, parishioners or other parents at school.

However if you would like to get some training the Parenting Programmes: Leading with confidence course is the best on the market and it has been specially adapted for our use. People who successfully complete the course get a certificate of accreditation for the Parenting Programmes: Leading with Confidence course. The training comprises 10 x 2 hour sessions; tutorials; plus practical experience.

So far 43 people have been trained as perenting facilitators.


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"Parenting classes can be life-changing because they give parents the skills to manage challenging situations, give their children clear and firm boundaries and help them learn the consequences of their actions. This strengthens families and means children are better behaved, more respectful and can achieve more at school."

Sarah Teather Minister for Education

Sept 2012

http://www.dioceseofleeds.org.uk/flm/docs/Parenting for Peace.pdf

Have a look at the short videos on http://www.parentchannel.tv/, you might find something that addresses an issue you are interested in eg exam stress, bullying.


Why Parenting?

Because 'no matter how much we spend on education nothing will work unless parents parent' Barack Obama














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