Text tips boost parenting confidence
31 January 2020
Could feeling more confident and connected parenting your teens be as simple as receiving text messages? World-first research from the University of Auckland suggests it can.
A research team from the University’s School of Population Health has successfully trialled MyTeen, a world-first parenting programme for parents of children aged 10-15 years and delivered entirely via SMS text message.
“We know that adolescent mental health is a big issue in New Zealand and that parents play a big part in the lives of their adolescent kids,” says lead researcher Dr Joanna Chu.
“Parents want to do the best for their child, but parenting can sometimes be demanding, and there’s limited support out there for families with adolescents.”
Growing evidence suggests that programmes that strengthen parenting skills and increase knowledge on teenage development can have significant benefits on the parent-adolescent relationship as well as family wellbeing.
Participants who received the text message programme reported feeling more competent as parents, less stressed, and having better communication with their adolescent. This held at the three-month mark, two months after they’d received their last text message.
Dr Chu: “We were expecting an increase in parental competence, but we weren’t expecting we’d find so much significant effect in terms of communication and reduction in stress.”
And parents loved the programme: 90 percent found it “somewhat to very” useful and 98 percent thought it was a really good way of delivering the information.
“That really underlines the need to support parents, and the broad demand for support,” says Dr Chu.
She says the beauty of a text message programme is that it addresses many of the practical barriers to attending group-based programmes, such as time, travel and childcare; although families with more serious issues will still need face-to-face therapy or other interventions.
The team is now analysing data from a mixed methods study looking at fathers’ perceptions of parenting adolescents and will seek more funding to roll out MyTeen on a wider scale, as well as getting feedback from adolescents.
The project is a part of A Better Start E Tipu e Rea Resilient Teens and is co-funded by Cure Kids.
Chu, J. T. W., Wadham, A., Jiang, Y., Whittaker, R., Stasiak, K., Shepherd, M., & Bullen, C. (2019). Effect of MyTeen SMS-based mobile intervention for parents of adolescents: a randomized controlled trial. JAMA Netw Open. Published online September 11, 20192(9):e1911120.
Chu, J. T. W., Wadham, A., Jiang, Y., Whittaker, R., Stasiak, K., Shepherd, M., & Bullen, C. “Sometimes you just need to see a ray of sunshine” – Development of MyTeen text messaging programme to support parents of adolescent: a qualitative study (Preprint)
Chu, J. T. W., Whittaker, R., Jiang, Y., Wadham, A., Stasiak, K., Shepherd, M., & Bullen, C. (2018) Evaluation of MyTeen – a SMS-based mobile intervention for parents of adolescents: a randomized controlled trial protocol. BMC Public Health, 18:1203
Nicola Shepheard | Media adviser
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