New scheme helps merged family become one

EVAN HARDING
Last updated 05:00 09/04/2014
 Invercargill couple Jamie Wickliffe and Aidan Thompson with seven of their 10 children.

HAPY TOGETHER: Invercargill couple Jamie Wickliffe and Aidan Thompson with seven of their 10 children.

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A merged Invercargill family is crediting a newly established programme in the city for helping them to become one.

Jamie Wickliffe and her partner Aidan Thompson have 10 children between them, aged from 5 to 18.

The couple and seven of their children moved in together two years ago, but the merged family was finding it difficult to be one, Wickliffe said.

"We were struggling with managing our families . . . we were stuck with how we were going to organise it all," she said.

Wickliffe and Thompson had different philosophies on parenting and each had distinct roles with different children, meaning they rarely did anything as one family. "We got to the point where we realised we had to make changes to feel like one family instead of two," she said.

So they sought help.

Enter a new programme in Invercargill called Te Whiriwhiringa, run from the Awarua Social and Health Services building in Forth St.

Programme navigator Serena Lyders was hired to work with 20 Southland families a year who were "not in crisis", but wanted guidance. Lyder's previous social work had involved telling struggling families what to do.

But the state-funded Te Whiriwhiringa programme was about empowering families to help themselves, she said.

Families were encouraged to reach their potential by setting their own goals so they could work towards them, Lyders said.

Her role was to guide them in the right direction and put them in contact with people and agencies who could help them achieve their aims.

Wickliffe, whose family joined the programme about six weeks ago, said it had so far taught her and Thompson to work more as a team when dealing with their children, and to give their kids more of a say in how the household was run.

Thompson had taken more of a leadership role in the house, "instead of thinking he was one of the boys", she said.

She had also learnt to step back when the boys were being robust and "having boy fun".

Their children had also got on board and were participating in newly established family meetings, which had given them a voice and made them easier to parent, Wickliffe said.

The course had helped bring the family closer together and they were now "one big family instead of being divided here, there and everywhere", Wickliffe said.

The programme will be officially launched in Invercargill on April 16.

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- The Southland Times

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