New project aims to connect Extraordinary Parents supporting children with anxiety
Unitec Institute of Technology Social Practice graduate Kristi Shaw is the recipient of the 2022 Unitec Bold Innovator Scholarship for her proposal The Extraordinary Parents Project.
The Bold Innovators Scholarship is worth $15,000 and is awarded annually to recent Unitec Master’s or Doctoral Graduates to help them develop innovative and enterprising projects based on their research.
Kirsti’s project draws on research undertaken for her Master of Applied Practice (Social Practice). She also holds a PGDip in Counselling (Narrative Therapy).
Her research, combined with her skills and experience in community development and counselling, her personal experience as a parent caring for a child with anxiety disorder, and a passion for making a difference, led her to design the Extraordinary Parents Project. This project was created to help parents help themselves, their children, and each other in one of the most difficult roles a person can play in their lives - parenting a child with the invisible and ongoing challenges of anxiety.
“Based on my research, I wanted to create a project to help parents caring for a child(ren) with anxiety disorder. Anxiety disorder is one of the most prevalent mental health concerns internationally, with one in four people experiencing it in their lifetime. The rate of anxiety in children is growing with about one in ten children experiencing moderate to severe anxiety disorder, even before Covid hit.
“We have an individualistic approach to mental health in New Zealand, which often places the problem of anxiety within the person. This has the effect of distancing others from the problem, and leaves the person and their family isolated and struggling. However, research demonstrates that one of the leading causes of anxiety disorder is a lack of meaningful support when dealing with trauma and/or chronic stress. Without good supportive friends or partner, people have a 75% chance of developing anxiety and depression.
“What my project seeks to do is bring together parents with a shared experience of caring for a child with an anxiety disorder in a strengths-based, empowered, generative, and active way - building stronger and wider connections in the school and local community. When we have supportive friends and partners, a good supportive network and environment, we can prevent and reduce anxiety and depression significantly.”
The aim is to train school counsellors and teachers how to facilitate the Extraordinary Parents Project, where the schools are enabled and empowered to build co-creative teams in and around their school community. The Extraordinary Parents Project will enable a variety of parent groups to connect, support, and empower each other for their wellbeing, for creating community connection, and for developing an influential voice to make a difference.
Kristi is the first person to graduate from the revamped MAP programme, says Dr Geoff Bridgman, Kristi’s supervisor.
“This programme has been designed to support experienced practitioners in fields of human support services to use research to validate and thus promote the innovations they have been developing. Her examiners described her work as an ‘exceptional piece of research’ that presents a ‘radically different approach to how anxiety is considered ... [and which] could be of enormous use to the many parents struggling with anxiety in their family’s lives’.”
Marcus Williams, Director of Research Enterprise, says that in addition to the funding, Bold Innovators receive advice and mentoring from Gregor Steinhorn, who runs the scheme, to help them develop their start-up or innovation. The Bold Innovators initiative is one of a range of products and support mechanisms provided to staff and students at Unitec toward growing an applied, partnered and impactful research culture.
This mentoring process is essential, says Gregor, as it helps support ideas that would otherwise struggle to reach a stage where other funding sources can be accessed.
Previous Bold Innovators Recipients
2021: Danae Ripley, Transmedia presentation of artists’ work in the age of Covid
2020: Jaime Kapa, The Big Idea interview
2019: Melissa Cameron, "Get that Circus out of my lion!" circus theatre. Unitec article about her Masters project:
2018: Atarangi Anderson, Inky Cat sustainable fashion label