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What's on offer

Support systems for parents have evolved over 20 years after starting out in the US in the 1930s, but there are no agreed standards.

That could soon change, as the Parent Education and Support Network is asking the National Occupational Standards Board to approve a qualifications framework.

As Mary Crowley, the network's chief executive, said: "We are very nervous of amateurs working with parents. People can and do leave their partners, but your children are with you for life."

Parenting classes, the best-known form of support, usually begin with group discussions, under a confidentiality agreement, where parents can share experiences over tea and coffee.

Course leaders cover a range of skills and topics such as listening, behaviour management and difficult subjects such as sex and drugs with exercises, role-play and discussion.

Parents can also choose from helplines, home visits, coaches, websites and one-to-one telephone support.

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