Educational psychology

2. Holding Hands parenting programme

Holding Hands is a parenting programme in Buckinghamshire. It was set up to help children develop and manage their feelings in a more effective way. The programme is for parents and carers with children between 2 and 5 years of age; who want support coping with their child’s challenging behaviour. The programme is managed by the Educational Psychology Service. This is in partnership with Buckinghamshire Children's Centres.

Holding Hands helps children develop positive behaviours and relationships through supported play experiences. It also helps to build parent/carer confidence in managing their child’s behaviour. It is only available for families who live within Buckinghamshire and are not accessing other home visiting services.

The primary concern for the child should be behaviour, not speech and language, medical or complex learning needs. If the child has additional needs other than behaviour then a request for another service may be more appropriate.



The Holding Hands programme was developed as part of the doctoral research of Dr Shami Rait, Senior Educational Psychologist, Buckinghamshire County Council.

In Dr Rait’s research it explains that Kaminiski et al. (2008) examined a range of parenting programmes for young children with behaviour difficulties. The research found that superior outcomes were achieved where parents were:

  • encouraged to develop positive interactions with their child
  • engaged in activities aimed to increase positive attention for appropriate behaviour, such as using praise
  • limiting their level of negative communication, such as harsh verbal or physical discipline
    able to practice new skills during sessions, as might be modelled by a facilitator


What is the programme?

The Holding Hands Programme was developed to include as many aspects of what is known to work in delivering parenting programmes (Kaminiski et al., 2008; Moran, Ghate, & van der Merwe, 2004).

It uses a design framework that is easy to remember. This is especially helpful during those times when behaviour can seem unmanageable. This framework is referred to as ‘flip’. That is, flipping ineffective behaviour to effective behaviour by:

  • Following the child’s lead (for example, helps to show interest in the child’s choice of activity).
  • Labelling praise and using positive descriptive language (raises the child’s self-confidence).
  • Ignoring ineffective behaviours (helps to reduce this unwanted behaviour).
  • Providing limits and boundaries (helps the child to feel safe and secure).
    The programme is delivered via the Educational Psychology Service. This is in partnership with Children's Centres, and consists of the following areas.

Introductory Workshop

This is a 2 and a half hour workshop for parents/carers at their local Children’s Centre. Here you can meet with, an Educational Psychologist (EP), Family Support Worker (FSW), and other parents/carers.

You can discuss concerns and try new ways of managing challenging behaviour. After attending the workshop you will be able to go onto the:

  • Universal programme
  • Group programme
  • Individual sessions.

This will be dependent on availability and appropriateness.

Universal programme (Pilot)

A member of the Holding Hands team contacts the parent/carer at home for a half hour chat. This will be continued for three further weeks, and arranged at a suitable time for you. This provides parents/carers with the opportunity to discuss any issues relating to their child’s play and behaviour. They can discuss the strategies they are using, what’s working well and what may not be working so well.

Group programme

Parents/carers meet at their local Children’s Centre for 1 and a half hours per week over a 4-6 week period. This provides an opportunity to discuss issues relating to your child's behaviour with the Holding Hands staff. The sessions are usually run by an EP and two FSWs.

You will also get to share ideas and views with other parents, whilst the children meet with others of their own age.

During a group based discussion, parents will have the opportunity to discuss the FLIP messages and consider the relevance to their own concerns. Each session will have a starter activity e.g. a story, followed by play activities based on most children's interests, e.g. music or food play, and a closing activity. Parents/carers have the chance to try out simple activities in the Centre and follow-up activities at home.

Individual Programme

The FSW from your local Children's Centre will deliver the programme in your home for approximately one hour a week for six weeks. They will bring fun activities and toys. The play sessions will help your child develop social skills which include sharing, waiting and taking turns.

Parents/carers will have opportunities to discuss any issues relating to their child's play and behaviour. At the introductory session you can help us to get the best out of the programme by telling us about your hopes and concerns.


Parent Quotes

"… X was lucky enough to get the support from the Holding Hands Project back in 2009.

Not only did he benefit hugely from the play and interaction that X and X were able to offer him, but we as a family gained hugely from having their support.

Their care and advice couldn't have been more timely. X was 4 years old and we were trying to come to terms with his diagnosis and what this meant to both him and us as a family. I couldn't have asked for two nicer people to help us through what was a very emotional time for us all.

After every session he was proud of what they had achieved together and this built up his confidence which at the time was very low.

Thank you Holding Hands …" Parent

"I just wanted to thank you very much for the fantastic holding hands course held at the Children's Centre over the past 6 weeks. I found the course very helpful, the course led by X and supported by X and X was extremely professional, friendly and informative.

I have found the course a real lifeline as I was struggling with my sons challenging behaviour. It has made me re-assess the way I interact with him using more praise and giving me more confidence with providing boundaries. I strongly hope that this valuable course can be offered to other parents.

I really cannot praise the course enough and thank everyone involved in it being held." Parent

"We are a lot closer, that is the best part and it just took my interactive work and playing together one on one." Parent

"I was able to see ways of playing with X which meant she could lead the play." Parent


Contact details

Please send referrals to our new address in Amersham:

Holding Hands
Educational Psychology Service
Amersham Area Office
King George V House
King George V Road

Tel: 01494 732187

Or discuss Holding Hands at your local Children's Centre.

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Last updated: 12 March 2019

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