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Understanding a child

© Italian National Committee/D.Lodi
Young mother and her baby in Shirak province of northwest Armenia.

Understanding a child

By Emil Sahakyan/UNICEF Armenia

Yerevan – For kindergarten N188 located in one of Yerevan’s communities it is now common to host mothers and grandmothers for parent training sessions.

Sitting in a circle in a small room, mothers and grandmothers are competing with each other in posing questions and sharing their experiences in child raising.

“I don’t know how to make my child clean up his room,” complains a young mother, who is attending regular parent training sessions organized and ran by “Step by Step” NGO with support from UNICEF, “and when I reprimand him for that, he just smiles it off and says that I do it better.” 

For many parents these sessions mean a lot as they help them understand their young children better, particularly, in a situation where many families are unable or unwilling to take their children to a pre-school institution.

Even in the Soviet times only 47 per cent of young children attended pre-schools in Armenia. However, the figure has since dropped to 25 per cent after the Government made a decision to transfer the ownership of kindergartens to local governments and communities in 1996. Many pre-school institutions were simply shut down as communities often lacked the necessary financial resources, knowledge and ability to maintain them.

In 2002-2003 UNICEF jointly with the Ministry of Education and Sciences carried out a study on the early childhood development in Armenia. The study surfaced a critical need for establishment and development of community-based parent education structures.

“Our observations showed that some parents believed pre-schools to be just day care institutions for children and, thus, were unwilling to send their children there, considering that they can provide better care at home,” says Alvard Poghosyan, UNICEF Education Officer, adding that “the core function of pre-schools in ensuring early development and learning for children was simply ignored.”  

In 2003 based on the results of the study UNICEF and the Ministry of Education and Sciences established 16 community-based parent resource centers in all provinces of Armenia.

Most of the parent resource centers are located in kindergartens with the exception of one which is functioning in a policlinic. In 2004 together with the Ministry of Education and Sciences a set of training materials was developed and trainings organized for parent facilitators.

Training sessions for parents are currently going on in all 16 resource centers, where facilitators help mothers and grandparents to improve their knowledge and skills on child care, early development and learning through exercises and group discussions, Poghosyan says.
 
“I have been attending these sessions since September 2006 and find them particularly useful, “says 24- year old Kristina Grigoryan, a mother of two children, who attends parent education sessions at N 188 kindergarten. “I often used to beat my children when they were doing something wrong and could not control my emotions. Now it is like I am discovering my children anew, “Kristina says.

For a 56-year old Ovsanna Azatyan who raised two sons and now is taking care of a 6-year old grandson, parent trainings have also been a pleasant surprise. “I am a mother of two young men and I thought that there would be nothing new for me in those trainings,” Ovsanna remarks, adding that sessions helped her to go beyond traditional approaches in child upbringing. “After each session I run home to share what I have just learned with my daughter-in-law and, you know, it works,” Ovsanna says, smiling.

Mothers and grandmothers make up the majority of the audience in parent trainings. “Unfortunately, most Armenian men think that child rearing is the responsibility of women,” says Suzanna Chibukhchyan, a parent facilitator. Yet, according to her, there are clear signs that situation is changing. “In some places we have seen grandfathers and young fathers showing high interest in the trainings, which is really encouraging.”

For many parents who are unable to send their children to pre-schools parent resource centers have also become a good alternative that allows them to apply proper child development and learning practices that they learn during sessions at home.

“Some parents attending training sessions at our kindergarten cannot afford sending their children to a pre-school due to financial circumstances. However, we thought that their involvement is particularly important as they should understand that young children’s needs are not limited to regular feeding and dressing them warmly in a cold weather,” Anna Harutyunyan, Head of the N188 kindergarten, says. 

Parent education is a mutually beneficial process which ensures that young children are healthy and properly developed and where parents learn to better understand needs of their children and provide for their proper care and learning.

For more information, please contact:

Emil Sahakyan, Communications Officer, UNICEF Armenia

Tel: (374 10) 52 35 46, 56 64 97

E-mail: esahakyan@unicef.org

 

 

 
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