Parenting, or the Way to Build Your Child’s Future Today
by Raluca Zaharia - Education Officer, UNICEF Romania
The future of any society depends on its ability to foster the health and wellbeing of the next generation. Put simply, today’s children will become tomorrow’s citizens, work force and parents. When we invest wisely in children and families, the next generation will pay that back through a lifetime of productivity and responsible citizenship. When we fail to provide children with what they need to build a strong foundation for healthy and productive lives, we put our future prosperity and security at risk.
Recent childcare research has revealed that, in general, parenting capacities are highly predictive of children’s social, emotional and cognitive development, and they may well be more important than participation in centre-based childcare, especially when the quality is quite low.
Where childcare is of high quality, it is associated, along with good parental care-giving, with children’s normal mental development and acquisition of positive social skills.
Therefore, it is critically important that strategies for achieving good child development and school readiness include parenting education, quality childcare and basic health, nutrition and sanitation services.
Parenting may be defined as ‘purposive activities aimed at ensuring the survival and development of children. These actions may or may not be performed by the child’s biological parent.’(1) The term ‘parent’ in general denotes the biological relationship of a father or mother to a child, though it may be extended to adults without a biological relationship who are bringing up children.
If you received the best start in life, you are more likely to have grown healthily, developed language and learning capacities, gone to school and led a productive, rewarding life. Yet millions of children around the world are still being denied the right to reach their full potential.
The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) states that the family has the key responsibility to ensure the fundamental rights of children, as it is the primary setting within which they are cared for and parented and where first significant relationships develop and the foundations of their development take place.
Every child must be guaranteed the best start in life – their future, and indeed the future of their communities, nations and the whole world depends on it.
All children have the need for and the right to parenting. Parenting means providing the ongoing care and support a child needs to survive and thrive. Such ongoing care and support includes making sure the child has:
If children are to develop to their full potential, ongoing parental care and support through parenting are crucial. However, parents worldwide face tremendous obstacles such as the effects of HIV/AIDS, drug use, poverty, work migration and the effects of armed conflict and so on. Parents often lack the skills, knowledge and resources to raise children to their full potential.
In order to give families the skills and knowledge to provide care, nutrition and protection, UNICEF focuses on parenting programmes tailored to the varying needs of children and their caregivers or parents. For example, programmes can focus on training mothers or caregivers to understand their children’s development and to respond appropriately, or suggest ways for fathers to become more active in their children’s lives. They can also focus on providing parents with skills that, while not directly related to parenting, will enhance their ability to parent. These can include job skills courses to enable parents to earn more money, which would allow them to devote more resources to the health, nutrition and education of their children.
How does UNICEF do it?
(1) Hoghughi Masud (2004). Parenting – An Introduction. Handbook of Parenting: Theory and research for practice. p.5.