Resourceful Young Children

Resourceful Young Children
Learning Brief


Angus Gillis Foundation

Bridging the generational communication gap through parenting skills and family preservation workshops

Category: Resourceful Young Children | Formalisation of human resource development | 15 August, 2013 - 06:00

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The Angus Gillis Foundation is a non-profit organisation that was originally established in 2002 by the owners of Kwandwe Private Game Reserve in response to the lack of services and development opportunities for people living in the rural areas of the Eastern Cape. The Foundation has initiated numerous women-headed self help groups, micro-savings and credit groups, training for locally-based ‘Positive Health Champions’ who become health-mentors in the community, as well as education and economic empowerment projects. Its latest project is a parenting skills programme that aims to promote increased understanding of childhood development, and to encourage honest and open dialogue between parents and children throughout the life course. This learning brief discusses the structure of the Parenting and Family Preservation workshops.

Why we run parenting and family preservation workshops

When mothers in our organization’s self-help groups first expressed the need for better understanding of how to deal with their teenage children, we realised the need to start a workshop dealing with this issue. During the course of the informal ‘Khatalela’ training sessions with self-help group members, a number of participants articulated an interest in parenting workshops that would be focused on coping and communicating with teens, and would cover topics such as discipline and punishment.

On the other hand, our interactions with primary school children revealed that children feel as if they cannot talk to their parents, that parents don’t listen, or that they do not know how to talk to elders about sensitive subjects like sex and puberty. In school, learners find it difficult to get information on these subjects that are viewed as culturally taboo and not discussed openly.

The parenting and family preservation workshops were started because of this growing communication gap that exists between rural parents and guardians and the young children and teens in their care. The aim of the workshops is to help youngsters and parents better communicate with each other about important life issues.

Our implementation strategy

Initially we started the parenting workshops on a very informal and ad hoc basis. We were already working with both parents and children and so we decided to employ a two-pronged strategy.

First, we started by talking to the existing adult, self-help group members about their experiences of childhood, their own parenting practices, and their communication strategies with their children. Then we ran childhood development workshops for these parents, covering topics such as effective communication, the facts of life, physical changes during puberty, and teenage behaviour.

Second, we hosted life discussion sessions with young children at one of the nearby primary schools during the Life Orientation classes. We discussed puberty, sexual orientation, communication skills, behavioural management, and life choices with the learners.

These sessions with parents and children were so well received that we decided a bigger and more structured intervention was required. Consequently we approached the reputable Families South Africa (FAMSA) to partner with us in developing a thoughtful and thorough parenting skills workshop for a local audience. In doing so we found that the best practice is to develop formal partnerships, employ regional experts to run the project, and to work closely with schools.

1.      Develop formal partnerships and workshop curricula

We formalised a partnership with FAMSA in Grahamstown and hired one of their auxiliary social workers to assist us in running the workshops. Through this partnership we have been able to make use of a structured and comprehensive parenting skills programme (developed in collaboration with FAMSA and Soul City), which consists of a six-week course of workshops that take place once a week.

2.      Employ regional experts

We have employed the services of one of our partner’s auxiliary social workers twice weekly. He runs the parenting skills programme. His knowledge of the rural context, and his isiXhosa language skills, helped immensely to gain the trust of parents and build the necessary rapport.

3.      Work with schools

We approached two nearby primary schools and a high school concerning our life-orientation and childhood development program. These schools allow us occasionally to use the 45-minute Life Orientation classes as “intervention” sessions where we discuss parent-child issues with the learners. At these schools we also work with peer educators to run additional workshops during holidays.

Going forward

We would like to extend our partnership with FAMSA so that the parenting and family preservation workshops can be offered more widely, as well as expanding the reach of our individual counselling interventions. We have also approached more of the local schools in the areas to broaden the programme impact. Finally, we are committed to developing capacity within our own team and are currently hoping to be able to send staff on a ‘training of trainers’ course so that they may be in a position to extend and sustain the training in rural communities.

Angus Gillis Foundation


PO Box 448GrahamstownGrahamstownEastern CapeSouth Africa


 046 6227896


In Short

In this learning brief the Angus Gillis Foundation offers experienced-based suggestions on how to host effective “Parenting and Family Preservation workshops” that aim to help parents and children communicate better with each other. After two years of running these workshops, this Foundation has refined a thoughtful and thorough parenting skills workshop for a local audience. It has found that best practice is to develop formal partnerships, employ regional experts to run the project, and to work closely with schools.


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