Building Connections: Reducing Social Isolation for Mothers in Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Communities through a Sharing and Learning Group
Maryanne Theobald1, *, Amanda Mc Fadden2, Mandy Cox3
Social isolation is an everyday experience for many mothers and children within culturally and linguistically diverse communities. Engaging in group experiences with others provides authentic opportunities to make social connections, along with sharing common interests.
This paper reports on a project that involved working within a transdisciplinary team at a community group in Brisbane, Australia. The Women and Children’s Learning and Sharing Community Group was a targeted program to foster mental health and feelings of well-being for mothers and children who were identified as at risk of social isolation.
Semi-structured, audio-recorded interviews were conducted to gain the experiences of being involved in the community group from the perspectives of mothers and support workers. This paper focuses on the transcribed accounts of the mothers and support workers who came together at the women’s sharing and learning group and, in particular, how the group facilitated growth-fostering connections to reduce the impact of social isolation. Using a Relational-Cultural Theory and a Relational Agency Framework lens, thematic Content Analysis of the mothers’ accounts reveal three themes of 1) Freedom, 2) Connection, and 3) Transformation.
Exploration of mothers and support workers’ accounts highlighted four interactional elements as foundational to the program: 1) Respecting Group Identity, 2) Building a relaxed, mother-focused, and child-inclusive atmosphere, 3) Respecting diversity and the mutual enhancement of competence and 4) Fostering positives and strengths of the members. Recommendations are provided when working with culturally and linguistically diverse communities include: 1) Provide concrete support; 2) Make use of participants’ strengths and partnerships, 3) Provide culturally sensitive and inclusive practice, 4) Build a sense of community, mutual support and connections.
Proposed key learnings highlight the importance of transdisciplinary teams and strength-based approaches when working in culturally and linguistically diverse communities. These findings are discussed in relation to Relational-Cultural Theory and a Relational Agency Framework.
* Address correspondence to this author at the School of Early Childhood and Inclusive Education, Faculty of Education, Queensland University of Technology (QUT), Victoria Park Road, Kelvin Grove, Queensland Australia, 4051., Tel: +61 73138 3178;