Home-Start 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, 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. 

Vivien Waterfield, Deputy Chief Executive Home-Start UK:

Social media is putting added pressure on parents, with many comparing their lives to the seemingly perfect examples that others are posting online. Home-Start is calling on parents to be more honest with what they post on social media and hope that this will start a more open conversation. If you find yourself comparing your parenting ability to others online, try to remember that you are not alone in that feeling, our research found 60% of parents feel pressure from social media to be ‘perfect’. We would recommend speaking to people around you about how you feel, it is very likely that they will relate and sharing your feelings with someone will help you feel less isolated. Additionally, try to take control of your social media usage and unfollow accounts that make you feel inadequate or question your ability as a parent.. Finally, and most importantly, do not be afraid to ask for help if you do need it. The sooner you reach out, the sooner you can get the support you need.

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