Caring for teenagers: support for kinship carers

CARE is a five-week parenting support programme for kinship carers looking after teenagers. It provides teenager-based parenting skills on connectedness, conflict management and behaviour control. To encourage maximum learning, it uses a four-part learning process: self-awareness; learning; self-monitoring; and reflection. The programme consists of a novel core component: a Please Look After Yourself (PLAY) module, which prioritises the well-being of the carer using tailored relaxation techniques. New parenting skills are more likely to be successfully implemented and maintained if the carer has energy, strength and clarity of mind - qualities cultivated by the PLAY techniques.

In January 2015, the Robertson Trust funded us to develop work with parents of teenage children. Through consultation, we identified kinship carers who look after teenagers as most needing support.

We interviewed kinship carers to find out what they faced and how we might best help. Four main themes emerged:

  1. Kinship carers often find themselves in a caring role as a result of family bereavement, addiction, negative peer influence, disability, medical complications and ill health - or some combination of these
  2. Without exception, teenagers being cared for by kinship carers need extra emotional, behavioural and learning support. The teenage years can be challenging, but for these teenagers, their difficult circumstances have exacerbated any problems. Often issues are interlinked, and can cause problems for kinship carers for 'connectedness', conflict and behaviour control
  3. Kinship carers are dealing with wider family issues such as difficult relationships with the birth parents of the children they care for, and/or with other relatives/in-laws
  4. Difficult circumstances such as these mean that kinship carers experience higher than usual levels of stress

A previous review showed that effective parenting interventions consist of 'components' which target parent-child connectedness and behaviour control. We developed our intervention (CARE) to consist of these and others which we identified through interviews - mainly a self-care element to help carers manage stress. We presented our intervention at an away day, where kinship carers also worked with a holistic health consultant, Jamie Robson, who designed relaxation and conflict management techniques.

We refined the intervention and piloted it with two groups - in Leith and Musselburgh. A trained family support worker, Belen Moreno, ran the programme. We ran focus groups to explore the impact and to get feedback on the programme content. Feedback helped us refine the programme, and was very positive.

We are co-hosting an event on 26 May with The Robertson Trust, to share our work with those interested and next steps for dissemination/evaluation. If you are interested in attending, or in learning more about the research and our plans to expand this programme to other groups of parents or carers, contact Jane ( or John ( Although we developed this intervention for kinship carers, it would apply to parents generally.