Interview with Chelsie Tierney: Kimberley CAPC
We spoke with Chelsie Tierney, acting CAPC Site Coordinator in Kimberley, in the East Kootenay CAPC Region, for the past year.
Their CAPC site, based out of Kimberley Early Learning Centre, runs several programs including Family Supper Night, which runs on Wednesday Evenings. For this program, they partner with the local Strong Start, and also with Family Resource Grant Kimberley, who provide the cook for the program.
The Family Supper Night is well established and known within the community, and families often return to the program when they have a new baby. The program involves a shared meal, followed by an activity session for children and their parents.
There has been a significant increase in dads’ participation over time, to the extent that some nights there are more dads than mums participating in the after-dinner gross-motor-skills activity session with the kids. Another significant development has been whole families coming for the dinner, and then the mum having the opportunity to have some free time, while their partner cares for the kids during the activity session. Some mums use the time to go walking or skiing together, while some, who are doing education upgrading, use the time for catching up on homework for their courses.
Whilst some of the families who attend the Family Supper Night are able to access other daytime CAPC programs, the Family Supper Night is uniquely positioned to be able to offer support for working mums, and for dads. Having the program centred around a meal gives a once-a-week break from meal preparation and allows families to come straight from work. Mums and dads with older kids often offer to hold babies during dinner for those mums who have newborns, giving those mums a break and a chance to eat dinner whilst it is still warm, along with a chance to spend time eating together with their older children without the distraction of caring for the baby during the meal.
The program has a co-facilitation format, which enables Chelsie to offer one-to-one support for families within to model and support change for families who are having particular issues with their children’s eating. Chelsie shared an example of a child who was resistant to sitting down to eat, especially sitting at table with others for a meal. The child would run around during meal times, which his mum found difficult and stressful. His family liked to invite friends for meals, which had become difficult because of the anxiety and behavioural issues the child was exhibiting. Chelsie was able to sit with the family and model techniques for calming the child and encouraging him to participate in the social meal. Within a month, there was a noticeable positive development in the child’s behaviour, and he has progressed to eating a wider range of foods and staying seated for most of the meal, sitting with some children with whom he is friends.
This gentle, informal way of being able to offer support has the added benefit of allowing other families within the program to be able to see the effects of modelling, and to observe change in children’s behaviour, without attention being drawn directly to individual situations. It allows for the introduction of a positive model of behavioural change for children through real-life situations. Chelsie has seen that parents within the program are picking up skills through observation that are enabling them to participate in the positive modelling. It creates a real “family model” of how to create change in a situation, and it demonstrates another way in which CAPC programs, with their flexible operational style, are optimally placed to be able to offer support and training for families in ways such as this that are positive, subtle, non-judgmental and inclusive.