A father’s story

In January, my daughter, Mariam, came to live with me full-time. She had been brought up by her mum – for fifteen years, I had been a weekend dad – but their relationship had broken down as my daughter’s behaviour had become uncontrollable.

I now became the bewildered single parent of an adolescent who seemed to have gone wild. Mariam had just been permanently excluded from school. She was angry and abusive. Most nights, she refused to stay in. She was drinking more than a teenager should and this often led to confrontations with the police and to her being arrested.

Mariam was soon put on curfew (not that she obeyed it) and on “tag”. I became intimately familiar with police stations and with the local youth court, where kids in hoodies drape over the plastic chairs. Nothing like this had happened to me before.

I felt confused, embarrassed, powerless, inadequate as a parent and afraid – especially when Mariam picked a fight with one of our neighbours and we were threatened with eviction. I started smoking again and became over-reliant on alcohol. Confrontations with my daughter threatened to become violent.

At this stage, I was at the end of my tether – possibly on the verge of a breakdown. That’s when the Parent Support Group, which I attended voluntarily from April  offered me a life-line. Sharing experiences with other parents whose kids were in trouble showed me that I was not alone.


Together, we watched videos illustrating flash points between parents and children. Working in a small group, we did useful exercises on communication, on trust-building and on managing conflict. I looked forward to the parenting classes and also to my weekly one-to-one advice sessions. They were immensely helpful.


I don’t think that everyone just “knows” how to be a good parent. In our society, many people are isolated from their families; teenagers have increasingly materialistic expectations and often violent role models and school exclusions are soaring. The result is a recipe for conflict. Sometimes, it is necessary to have the humility to know that you need help – and that is what happened to me. The Parent Support Group gave me exactly what I needed – mutual support, analysis of what had gone wrong and practical, well thought-out techniques to improve my parenting. Mariam did not transform overnight, but my calmer, more “adult” behaviour helped her to change.


Little by little, she got into less trouble. We talked instead of shouting at each other. She started to cook for me. We are a happy family now and there has been an addition. I have just become a grandfather.

I cannot thank the Parent Support Group enough for the highly professional service that it offered me at an extremely difficult time. Its service was fantastic. I believe that such groups should be available to all parents of young people who are in trouble.



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