The Side-by-Side Model for working with parents and young children is at the core of our approach. Each group of 4 to 5 parent-child pairs (see Mother-Child Groups) has a parent group leader and a child development staff so that the adults and children can form two groups, side by side in the same room. This allows the children to safely play and explore while the parents have a discussion. The children are free to go to their parent whenever they wish. In this way, we can observe and reflect upon parent child interactions, children’s early attempts at socializing with one another, and on each individual child’s temperament and developmental stage.
We also apply the side-by-side model in consultations with individual families with children up to the age of 5. (See Family Consultations) Two professionals are present, one to speak with the parent/s and the other to play with the child. Observing parent child interactions in vivo helps us gain a clear understanding of the dynamics operating in the family. In a meeting without the child, both professionals join the parents in order to share thoughts and observations and to plan a way forward.
The philosophy behind this approach is our firm belief that there is never a “right” or “wrong” way to be a parent. Each parent’s individual life experiences influence her/his feelings about parenting and these interact with the feelings and temperament of the child. We believe that only by getting to know each parent and each child can we offer guidance that is helpful for a specific parent-child pair or family.