Let’s Unite for Children!
At UNICEF, we are often asked why we promote “good parenting”. “Surely parenting is something that comes naturally to all?” is a comment which I have heard more than once. Indeed, it is natural for parents to care for their children, but the fact is that most could probably do a better job if they had the right kind of support and advice.
Support usually comes from a grandparent: give the baby this food; make sure she is warm; don’t take him out in the cold. These and similar instructions are fairly common from new grandparents. It’s generally pretty good advice – even if self-evident a lot of the time – but sometimes it’s a repetition of inappropriate practices. For example, many grandparents urge parents to give their young infants supplementary food or beverages, contrary to the scientifically proven fact that exclusive breastfeeding is best for babies of up to six months old. As the baby grows up, grandparents’ advice is less likely to be given or indeed taken as the new parent becomes more confident. But advice and support is still needed so that every parent has the essential knowledge and skills to ensure the best upbringing for their offspring, to enable the child to be healthy and happy and reach his or her full potential. The evidence from all over the world, from countless studies, shows that children whose parents benefit from parenting programmes do better at school, do better at home and do better in life.
The case for parenting programmes is well proven, and no parent should feel in any way inadequate because they take such a course. We have to take lessons and get a license before driving a car; why not lessons and a parenting license before having a baby? Or indeed a course at any time during a son or daughter’s childhood, which lasts until the age of 18? Parenting a teenager can be as challenging as parenting a five-year-old, as our own parents will verify. So advice, guidance and support are good at any time, and training packages are designed accordingly: training modules are typically available for ages nought-three, three-six, six-ten and adolescents. UNICEF is working with the media to get key messages out to parents through radio and TV so people don’t have to physically attend a course. UNICEF has also been working with the education authorities on a “school for future parents” in which teenagers can learn about the responsibilities, demands and skills needed to be a good parent in the future.
Capacities to deliver quality parent training programmes are being built all the time. NGOs such as the Our Children Foundation, Holt and Step by Step are at the forefront of this approach. Most importantly, government bodies are also expanding their capabilities to deliver. New ways and means are constantly being sought to expand opportunities for parents to acquire the knowledge and skills they need to ensure the optimal development of their children. This is a child’s right, a way to build the foundation of a better future for individuals, families, communities and the nation as a whole.
This issue also includes a report on the successful telethon held with TVR on 1 June to raise awareness and funds for parenting programmes. The telethon was an important milestone in embedding the notion of “better parenting” in the consciousness of the Romanian people. We would like to thank all who contributed to its success.