PERCS Conversation Guide for primary health practitioners

Emerging Minds, Australia, September 2021

Many families visit their general practitioner (GP) more than any other health professional. This puts GPs and other primary health practitioners in a unique position to support infants’ and children’s mental health, by talking with parents about how the issues they’re facing might be affecting their whole family. However, many practitioners find it difficult to talk with parents about their children, and how adult health issues and other types of adversity might be impacting on children’s daily lives. To make these conversations easier, Emerging Minds has created a free primary health practitioner guide.

The PERCS Conversation Guide is designed to support collaborative, respectful conversations between primary health practitioners and parent-patients. It is divided into four parts:

  • What is the entry point?
  • What are you curious about?
  • Conversations with the parent
  • Provide support

Parents have indicated that while they are often concerned about the impact of health, psychosocial or family issues on their relationships with their children, they might not share these concerns with a professional unless invited to do so. This discussion tool ‘opens the door’ for these conversations, helping the parent and primary health practitioner to identify, plan and activate support for the children’s social and emotional wellbeing.

The principles for engaging with parents are a key component of the PERCS Conversation Guide and are essential to effectively working with parents who face adversity or multiple complexities. These principles help primary health practitioners to work collaboratively and respectfully with parents, in order to support them to understand how their experiences of adversity affect their children, and how plans can be made to support their family’s mental health and wellbeing. These principles ensure that conversations with parents are:

  • child-aware and parent-sensitive
  • curious
  • respectful
  • collaborative
  • contextualised; and
  • hopeful.

The PERCS Conversation Guide also includes example questions to help primary health practitioners explore the five important domains in a child’s life:

  • Parent-child relationship
  • Emotions and behaviours
  • Routines
  • Communication and meaning-making
  • Support networks

The questions are designed to help practitioners explore how adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) – such as parental health problems, substance use issues, family and domestic violence, and natural disasters and traumatic events – might be affecting children, in the limited consultation time they have available. The guide is also designed to help primary health practitioners recognise parents’ strengths and hopes for their family, and identify opportunities to support and improve children’s mental and physical health, resilience and wellbeing.

Download a copy of this free primary health practitioner guide via the link above.

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