How the Storyworlds Life cards help me support families

What are the Storyworlds Life cards?

Our first tool – Connor Goes Swimming – includes a set of ‘behaviour cards’ designed to improve conversations.  They contain:

  • a set of questions to help with action planning
  • a set of discussion cards – SUPPORT, MOTIVATION, LISTENING, EXPERTISE, OUTCOMES – that help focus conversation about what’s important and what needs to change
  • a set of behaviour cards that identify how behaviour leads to outcomes (with examples from the story) and link with the Compassionate Care Themes from Edinburgh Napier University/NHS Lothian research.

We’re exploring the different ways in which these cards can be used.   To do this, we rely on those piloting this tool to tell us what works well.  Here, a key worker from one of our voluntary sector partners describes how the cards work for her….and how they might help practitioners to have more open conversations with families.

What I like about the cards

I always have a pack of the cards with me because I find them useful in lots of different situations.   They give me an informal, relaxed way to talk with families about what’s important to them and about how Storyworlds Life can help them improve their conversations with services.

Practitioners could use these cards with families….

I think that practitioners need to step out of their professional structure and just let parents speak and hear how they feel.  They could use these cards to help them talk with parents in neutral territory, and in a relaxed, informal way.

I’ll put a few cards on the table…

When we have open days, I will put some of the cards out on a table and people will look at them, pick them up, ask me about them and we’ll just start talking.  The cards SUPPORT and CREATING SPACES THAT WORK are good together because lots of families have issues about getting the support they need to make environment work for them.

I use them to draw families in to Storyworlds Life and think about what’s important to them and what needs to change

Often when I meet with parents they’re feeling distracted so if I have a couple of cards on the table then it helps to focus them.  They might pick them up and ask me about them and I say, “have you heard about this approach, it helps people improve their conversations.”  They might read the story on the back a card and ask about the boy Connor and they’ll say, “that sounds like us” and then I’ll give them the disk, so they can watch the whole story.

When doing a home visit with a family I might show them the card SUPPORT and just say “let’s have a discussion about support and what you feel is important.”

Just one card – like MOTIVATION – can prompt a whole hour’s conversation about something that’s important to the family.  Parents have said, “we talk but no-one listens.  I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve told them but they don’t listen so I give up.”

They help me support parents to then think how to improve conversations with services

CREATING SPACES THAT WORK prompted some parents to talk about school meetings.  There is a big special school here that lots of the children and young people go to.  When parents have meetings with the school everything is rushed through in an hour and parents feel pressurised and tense.

When talking about this I showed parents the card WHAT DO I WANT TO CHANGE? and in response they said that if the school would just offer them a cup of tea that would make a huge difference.  I asked them why they don’t just ask for a cup.  But they said they didn’t feel it was their place to do that.

When I was next at the school I talked to them about the Storyworlds Life work.  I said, “one of the things that families are saying is that it would make a huge difference to them if they were offered a cup of tea when they meet with you – they’d bring their own biscuits!”  The school agreed to do this, and it’s made a huge difference to the way parents feel at these meetings.

They also help me mediate between a family and service when there’s a problem

One mum we work with has three children with disabilities.  She asked for her family’s health records.  When they arrived, she was horrified to read the judgemental comments the health visitor had written about her.  She made a complaint which started a 9 month process of trying to get a response from the health service.

I spoke with someone on the complaints team.  She was feeling annoyed about the number of emails the mum was sending to her – “she’s bombarding me with emails”.  Her implication was that the mum was being unreasonable.  She suggested that I send the mum to a support group (run by the health service).  I said “she’s angry because no-one’s listening to her.  She just needs someone to listen to her and to say sorry.”  I said “if you’re interested, there’s a resource called Important to Me….one of the things they talk about is FEEDBACK.  It might be challenging for you to hear the feedback, but it might also be useful.”

I met with the mum and we talked about how to give feedback.  I said, “don’t be afraid to challenge, but don’t do it in an aggressive way.”

The mum and I then met with senior managers and the complaints team.  I showed them the card FEEDBACK and we talked about what it meant.  It turned out to be one of the best meetings I’ve ever been in.

The nurse manager said to the mum “if I’d read these notes about me then I would’ve been angry too, I wouldn’t have been as tolerant as you’ve been.  So, thank you.”  The mum said that she’d just received a standard complaints letter and she didn’t like that, she didn’t like the wording – she said, “I hope I’m not being too challenging”.  At the end of the meeting they gave the mum a full apology and it was genuine.  They also said that they’d learnt so much, they asked her whether they could use her case to train staff in how to write notes!

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The cards give me an informal, relaxed way to talk to parents about what’s important to them 

They said “School meetings are rushed through in an hour.  Just being offered a cup of tea would make all the difference in helping us to relax and feel welcomed.”

I said “she’s angry because no-one’s listening to her.  She just needs someone to listen to her and to say sorry.”  I said “if you’re interested, there’s a resource called Important to Me….one of the things they talk about is FEEDBACK.  It might be challenging for you to hear the feedback, but it might also be useful.”