Through the Caring for Caregiver programme
Caring for two children and a shop to run, Pema, hardly has the time to make friends or find one to confide with about her challenges at home.
Her family is away in the village in another district. “I used to share my problems with my mother, but she gets sad when I tell her about marital challenges at home,” says Pema.
Pema, 27, is a resident of Punakha. Her older daughter attends a nearby Early Childhood Care and Development (ECCD) Centre and she participates in the parenting sessions the centre organizes frequently.
To increase parents’ and caregivers’ confidence in helping them cope with stress, self-care and conflict-resolution skills to support their emotional well-being, the Ministry of Education and UNICEF with support of the LEGO Foundation, piloted the Caring for Caregiver (CFC) programme in three districts in Bhutan.
Punakha in western Bhutan is one of the pilot districts and Pema, one of the 95 caregivers in Punakha engaged through the CFC sessions in the district.
“The sessions are helpful to me and a platform for me to share my problems,” says Pema. “I didn’t have anyone to share with, but the CFC sessions make me feel lighter and better.”
Pema says she trusts the ECCD facilitator, Dawa Zam. “Besides helping parents nurture our children, she is also supporting our emotional wellbeing,” says Pema.
Dawa Zam is a facilitator to 16 children who attend the ECCD centre from the community. Being with children and trained on implementing the CFC programme, Dawa is observant of the ways the children behave and she reaches out to the caregivers of these children through the CFC approach. “Some are in fear, some are not regular to the centre and some are unable to speak,” says Dawa.
On the CFC sessions, Dawa shares that, “It is from the second home visit that parents and caregivers open up and by the third visit, some parents are implementing the recommended strategies.”
Among the coping strategies in the CFC programme, Dawa says most parents relate to the ‘stress bucket’ and the ‘blanket of support.’
“Despite the challenges we are confronted with during implantation, CFC is useful to us,” she says. “It gives us an insight into the homes of our children and helps us understand their situation better.”
The wellbeing of parents and caregivers shapes the child’s well-being and ability to thrive throughout life. And the CFC programme, according to the facilitator of a neighbouring centre in Petari community, Deki, should be provided to all parents.
“Given its impacts on the emotional wellbeing of the caregivers, some parents ask us why they are not part of the programme,” she says. “Besides helping them cope better at home, we saw that the CFC programme makes our connection with parents and caregivers stronger.”
In another pilot district of Tsirang in south central Bhutan, the CFC programme has empowered a grandparent, Karchung, 60, to communicate better with his granddaughter, 5, while developing skills for self-care and stress management.
“The facilitators’ sessions during home visits help us learn more about children, about ourselves and our conduct with children,” says Karchung.
“My granddaughter listens and understands when I explain as opposed to just telling her to do something.”
Karchung, who lives with his 98-year-old mother, his wife and his granddaughter, also promotes the CFC programme to fellow caregivers. “I tell them that the sessions are good and helpful,” he says. “We can see the indirect impact of CFC on our granddaughter through our improved interaction with her. Unlike in the past when she remained quiet and kept to herself, she now plays with my mother, helps my wife, and also imitates older girls and women.”
Two months after the training on CFC, the facilitators of Phuentenchu ECCD Centre, Tandin Zangmo and Binda Kumari Nepal, said they have made around four home visits to five families for CFC.
“Following the sessions, one family started growing vegetables in their kitchen garden instead of buying from the market to provide more nutritious diet to their children,” says Binda. “Given their issues at home, asking sensitive questions can become challenging, but the CFC programme helps caregivers communicate better, which strengthens relationship with us, with their children and other family members,” adds her co-facilitator, Tandin.
As District Education Officer of Tsirang district, Yeshey Wangmo shares, “CFC is an important intervention for families and children because it shows that you have to know the roots to understand the fruits.”