I heard about the HENRY programme from my health visitor at a time when my daughter, Lexi, and I were going through a major change in our lives and receiving support from a social worker. When she said she could refer me I thought I should give it a go.
I was finding my relationship with my daughter difficult as we were constantly arguing about everything. Any instruction I would try to give her would end up in a confrontation. This made me feel as though I was doing things wrong and that I had a particularly difficult daughter. She had also just started school and concerns had been raised about how much weight she was putting on.
I was also finding it very hard to maintain a healthy diet for both Lexi and myself. Lexi had a very limited diet and whenever I tried to get her to try anything new she would reject it, so I stuck to what I knew she would eat.
What I appreciated most about the HENRY programme was that it focused on what was going well with us. This was totally unexpected as I thought it would be all about what we were getting wrong. This made me feel really positive about the programme from the outset. Each week we would go through a topic and discuss what I felt was important for me to work on and how I would achieve it – then I put this down in my ‘stepping stones’. I found this a really helpful way of breaking down the things I wanted to change about my family lifestyle. We would then look back at these the following week and talk about what went well and any challenges.
The programme helped me to pay a lot more attention to how much physical activity my family were doing. I started taking Lexi to the park more often and letting her chase the dog so that she could get some exercise. I got myself a step counter as well and I was surprised at how much walking I actually do in a day. It made me want to do more so I started walking whenever I could.
My confidence as a parent was increasing as the weeks went by. I became more conscious about responding to Lexi’s needs while still remaining in charge, like understanding that she would act up sometimes because she needed some attention and balancing that with what I needed to do. I shared this with my partner, who had a very different style of parenting to mine, and it helped that we both started working in a unified way. We starting turning off the TV during mealtimes and I was able to get Lexi to try new foods by giving her a guided choice between two healthy options. Showing her how much I was enjoying eating healthier food really helped encourage her to try and enjoy it too.
During one session, we looked at food labels. This helped me become more conscious of labels when shopping and choose healthier items – I even took out the unhealthy snacks like cakes that I used to pack in Lexi’s lunch bag. Using guided choices didn’t just help with food but also helped increase her cooperation when I was asking her to do things like tidying up after playing. Before then, it would end up in an argument and I used to give in and tidy up for her. I also started using descriptive praise which I think encouraged her to repeat the good behaviour again.
The HENRY programme really helped to improve my relationship with my daughter and to bring us closer together as a family. We are now feeling happier and healthier and we keep making positive changes. We are getting there!
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