PERCS Conversation Guide: Parental physical illness

Emerging Minds, Australia, September 2021

Parental physical illness can have a direct impact on children’s mental health and wellbeing. Practitioners working in adult services have the opportunity to help children affected by a parent’s chronic physical illness to access preventative care and early intervention. Meeting children’s needs for information and support will not only lessen the burden and psychosocial impact of parental illness, but also helps to alleviate the parent’s stress and distress. However, these conversations can be daunting for professionals, particularly those working in adult-focused services where parenting is not a routine focus of support.

The PERCS Conversation Guide is a short, semi-structured and evidence-informed psychosocial discussion tool developed from consultations with practitioners and parents. It will help you to conduct conversations with patients or clients about the impact of parental physical illness on children’s lives. The guide utilises a preventative and proactive approach that encourages shared understanding and decision making with parents.

The guide asks you to:

  • recognise and consider entry points and opportunities for conducting preventative conversations with parents about their children’s social and emotional wellbeing
  • consider which of the PERCS domains in the child’s life you are curious about:
    • Parent-child relationship
    • Emotions and behaviours
    • Routines
    • Communication (and meaning-making)
    • Support networks for the child
  • conduct a collaborative and respectful conversation with the parent to arrive at shared understandings and decisions, using the six principles of parent engagement:
    • Child-aware and parent-sensitive
    • Curiosity
    • Respect
    • Collaboration
    • Context
    • Strengths and hopes
  • provide support to the parent to buffer the child from the impacts of parental physical illness, and support a positive parent-child relationship to protect the child’s mental health and wellbeing.

The PERCS Conversation Guide aims to help practitioners and professionals to recognise parents’ strengths and hopes for their family, and identify opportunities to support and improve children’s mental health, physical health, resilience and wellbeing. The opportunity to engage parents in conversations about their children’s social and emotional wellbeing is possible within the day-to-day practice of many health professionals. This guide can help you to conduct preventative conversations with parents about their children that are respectful, sensitive and collaborative.

Download a free copy of the PERCS Conversation Guide via the link above, and check out the corresponding free e-learning course, Parental chronic physical illness and child-aware practice.

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