© UNICEF/ Hartley
A boy plays with a wooden car in a creche for children up to three years old, in Bucharest.
by Luminiţa Costache – Education Officer, UNICEF Romania
“If there is anything we wish to change in the child, we should first examine it and see whether it is not something that could better be changed in ourselves” – Carl Jung
For every child, parenting matters. While we are born with unique personalities and traits, the way we think and behave is affected by the way we are brought up.
Studies show that parents play a key role in all aspects of child development and that parenting has a major impact on a child’s chances of achieving his or her full potential. Strong and affectionate relationships with parents, parental interest and involvement in education are all linked to better outcomes for children. Child development depends on the quality of the relationship between parent and child.
Every child is unique and develops at his or her own pace. And every parent is unique, too. Parents need to learn how to get to know their children and their characteristics, and how individually to answer their children’s needs. Good parenting is the fortunate meeting of two personalities, parent’s and child’s, with the adult learning from and with the child, in such a manner that the child has the opportunity to reach his or her full potential.
Generally, people seem to believe that they instinctively know how to raise a child. Parenting is the most important job of our lives and, like any other job, we have to learn how to do it and sometimes need help.
There is no universal recipe for parenting. We can always learn something new that helps us become better parents. The philosophy of parenting programmes lies in the fact that irrespective of our social or financial status, our level of education, we can all improve our parenting style. Participation in a parenting programme should not be seen as an admission of weakness, but as the result of a desire to improve and develop parenting skills. Parents’ participation in such programmes enriches family relationships and also the parents as individuals. If they know better, they act more effectively and have more success in solving family problems.
Considering its influence on a child’s development, parenting, together with other components of early childhood development, provides a child with the best start in life. It also ensures an equal start, which is the most effective way to offer girls and boys from the poorest communities real opportunities to close income, gender and welfare gaps. Parenting is especially crucial in crisis situations when children and families are exposed to increased risks and the families’ coping strategies are tested.
In accordance with its mission to ensure the realization of all the rights of the child, UNICEF Romania has supported many parenting initiatives launched since 1990.
- In 1992 the Ministry of Education, supported by UNICEF, initiated an early education pilot programme, PEEAS (Programme for Early Education on the Areas of Stimulation), which included a component on parent education, through which Resources Centres for Parents were established. The programme generated significant results in the pre-school education system and by the time of its completion in 1998 had reached national coverage with the support of County School Inspectorates and local authorities.
- In 1998 the Our Children Foundation introduced the parenting programme Educate Like This!. Based on a method devised by the Netherlands Institute for Care and Welfare, it was tailored to the situation in Romania. It addresses parents with children aged from three to twelve. In 1998 and 1999, with the support of the Ministry of Education, the programme was piloted on different groups of parents in three counties. Since 2000, it has been supported by UNICEF. It was adopted by the Ministry of Education as the National Parenting Programme in Pre-school Education (NPPPE) and was gradually extended until it reached national coverage in 2005. To date, 76,000 parents have attended parenting classes as part of the programme. Classes are available in 43% of the kindergartens across Romania and UNICEF is committed to supporting the expansion of the programme to the remaining 57%.
- In 2000 the Holt Romania Foundation launched the parenting programme How to Become Better Parents. It is based on the Make Parenting a Pleasure curriculum drawn up by the Birth to Three organisation in the USA, and was specially adapted for Romania. The programme has enjoyed UNICEF support since its inception. Holt trains parenting trainers and provides parenting classes mainly to people with children aged up to three.
- In 2004 the Romanian Association for Education and Development in partnership with the Institute for Educational Sciences and UNICEF started the project Future Parents’ Education. It included the development of a curriculum and support materials for the optional subject Future Parents’ Education for the ninth to twelfth grades, teacher’s guide and student’s guide. The project was implemented in 17 counties.
- In 2006 UNICEF carried out in partnership with the Our Children Foundation and Step by Step the study Knowledge, Attitudes and Practices on Parenting in Romania. This was the first baseline research at national level into parents’ philosophies on childrearing, childcare and child education in Romanian families. The findings were used for the development of the Early Education Strategy and Parenting Strategy.
- In 2006 the Centre for Partnership and Equality in association with UNICEF developed a training programme for parent educators from the National Parenting Programme in Pre-school Education in order to introduce an element of gender education into the sessions with parents.
- In 2007 Step by Step with UNICEF support initiated the ECD Multifunctional Centre project, which includes parent education activities. The Multifunctional Centre involves the re-thinking of services for children in public crèches and kindergartens, in line with the Early Education Strategy and Early Childhood Development philosophy. The project was first implemented in two places in two counties and in 2009 was expanded to another five counties (one centre per county).
- In 2007 Holt Romania in partnership with UNICEF began the programme Parental Education in Your Home, aimed at parents in rural communities. Fifty-four such communities have been involved in the project so far.
- In 2008 UNICEF in partnership with the Ministry of Education, the National Authority for Child Rights Protection (NACRP), the Ministry of Health and NGOs active in the area of parenting began to draw up a National Parenting Strategy (the Integrated National Strategy for the Training and Development of Parental Competencies). The draft Strategy was submitted to the institutions which have a role in parent education for consultation and adoption.
In the future, UNICEF will focus on four main areas, namely:
- advocating for the adoption of the Parenting Strategy and the development of an action plan for implementation by each sector involved in the area of parent education (education, health and protection);
- scaling up the parenting programmes, in line with UNICEF standards, to achieve national coverage;
- supporting the establishment of a Centre for Childhood and Parenting Studies, a methodological forum on parenting in Romania, whose first initiative will be the creation of an inventory of all the parenting programmes developed in Romania, the analysis of the existing programmes’ curricula and the identification of the need for parent education in Romania;
- expanding outreach through the media by disseminating key parental messages through popular radio and TV programmes.
UNICEF/ Pirozzi/ Chip off the old block: A boy peels potatoes with his mother
Holt Romania/ Livia Trif of Holt Romania addresses parenting course participants
UNICEF Romania/ Pirozzi/ A mother helps her child with her homework