The Tepa I Tua Parenting Programme is primarily for Samoan speaking families who are struggling to parent their children under the New Zealand laws and customs. The aim is ‘to encourage dialogue among parents and families in identifying ways that will help ensure the safety and wellbeing of all family members especially their children. It also gives parents the opportunity to look back (Tepa I Tua) and to reflect on their own upbringing. The programme has been developed by Ana, one of our Therapists here at ATWC, and is run in partnership with Monte Cecilia and Vision West at their community house in Otahuhu. On the 20th July, we had the privilege of being invited to the participants’ graduation. They had just completed the 8 week structure that focuses on violence free parenting.
One of the main aims is ‘Tepa I Tua’ or to ‘look back’. Parents are asked to identify some of the aspects, positive or negative, of their upbringing that were useful in their past environment and that could be useful today in their present environment. It is important for them to understand the change of environment and the changes that the new environment presents (eg. Anti-smacking Law). The parents crucially learn that what may be acceptable in the islands, might not be in this country. Importantly it is a safe, familiar environment for the parents to voice their ideas for their own families. It is a chance to meet other Samoan families in similar situations and make friends and connections, something that can be challenging upon arriving in a new country.
We listened as the programme participants shared their experiences in Samoan, and occasionally in English for the benefit of the visitors. The mums and dads thanked Ana and her team for their teachings. Due to their guidance, the parents now feel confident they will bring up their children in the best way. One mother, Maria Laumanuvae, talked about the triangle of Thoughts, Feelings and Actions. Maria has learnt to control her thoughts and feelings, and consequently her actions have changed for the better. She now manages her children’s behaviour with a new understanding, realising that her actions impact their actions. Maria told us that she is much happier as a result of the programme, and treats her children, husband, and importantly herself, with respect and love.
Tepa I Tua has not just played a big part in the mothers’ lives, the dads have also developed a fresh understanding and are changing the way they discipline their children. Although the mums tend to be the principle participant, through their wives sharing at home, the men are realising they need to make changes in their parenting and move away from the negatives that were part of their upbringing.
The ceremony was bought to a close by the grandmother of a number of the families in attendance. This elderly Samoan lady, who has many years of parenting and nurturing to her name, was reduced to tears as she expressed her gratitude for the work that has been done with her family. She recognised that it has not always been easy to break the cycle of violence but is hopeful for the future home lives of her grandchildren and great grandchildren. She finished by giving her blessing for the work that has been, and continues to be done.
Solutions come from within, and if we want change it has to be facilitated by the qualities inside all of us. The mums and dads who took part in the Tepa I Tua Programme have fully embraced this principle and are actively applying it to their parenting. Their children are the real beneficiaries and have now been given the chance to grow up in New Zealand with an absence of violence at home, surrounded by loving, caring parents.