04 October 2023

How to discipline your child the smart and healthy way

There comes a time when every parent struggles with how best to discipline their child. Whether dealing with a screaming toddler or an angry teen, it can be hard to control your temper. No parent wants to find themselves in such a situation and the bottom line is that shouting and physical violence never help. Thankfully, there are other, more…, Why positive discipline?, “Parents don't want to shout or hit their kids. We do it because we're stressed and don't see another way,” says Professor Cluver. The evidence is clear: shouting and hitting simply do not work and can do more harm than good in the long run. Repeated shouting and hitting can even adversely impact a child’s entire life. The continued “toxic stress…, Engaging with younger children, One-on-one time can be fun – and it’s completely free! “You can copy their expressions, bang spoons against pots, or sing together,” adds Professor Cluver. “There’s amazing research showing that playing with your children boosts their brain development.”, Engaging with older children, Like younger children, teenagers seek praise and want to be thought of as good. One-on-one time is still important to them. “They love it if you dance around the room with them or engage in a conversation about their favourite singer,” says Professor Cluver. “They may not always show it, but they do. And, it's an effective way of building a…, What you can do in stressful situations , Every family goes through stressful times together. Here are some tips that can help parents get through such times: 1. Pause We all know the stress when we feel our child is being difficult. At moments like these, being present and stepping back is a simple and useful tactic. Hit the “pause button”, as Professor Cluver calls it. “Take five deep…
03 April 2023

Improving staff working conditions for better quality early childhood education and care in Austria

Early childhood offers a critical window of opportunity to shape the trajectory of a child’s holistic development and build a foundation for their future. The European Pillar of Social Rights states that all children have the right to affordable Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC) of good quality. It is in the earliest years of a child’s life that the foundation and capacity to learn is laid, and this is built on throughout life. Learning is an incremental process; building a strong foundation in the early years is a precondition for higher level competence development and educational success as much as it is essential for health and the well-being of children. Participating in ECEC for children aged 0 to 6 and interaction with well-trained and quality ECEC professionals is beneficial for all children and especially beneficial for children of a disadvantaged background. It helps by preventing the formation of early skills gaps and thus it is an essential tool to fight inequalities and educational poverty. Quality, affordable and accessible ECEC also allows for increased parental-workforce participation. Austria The demand for ECEC for children from 0 to 6 is rising in Austria, however, a shortage in trained ECEC professionals has led to limited provision and decreased enrolment rates, specifically among children aged 0-3 years old. The main source of this shortage has been tied to the following: There are differing staffing and employment conditions for ECEC staff across Länder (provinces) and the municipalities including differences in salaries and salary schemes (Austria has over 60 different schemes), group sizes, the professional staff-child ratio, and service-related matters such as preparation time without direct child services. The ECEC profession is not perceived to be attractive, especially by male students, which is certainly also strongly influenced by the low level of recognition of the profession in society and the low salary. There is a high fluctuation of ECEC professionals due to retirement and to moving towards employers or regions offering more attractive working conditions.   The lack of ECEC staff as well as large group sizes and high fluctuation thus have severe negative effects on many children with disadvantaged backgrounds as the linguistic support cannot be guaranteed at the highest possible quality. Tackling the problem of framework conditions of ECEC staff has an impact on the quality of early childhood education and thus the improvement of children’s wellbeing in ECEC services to guarantee their rights. The Federal Ministry of Education, Science and Research is committed to strengthening ECEC quality and aligning provision to EU standards. As such, the ministry has requested technical support through the European Union’s Technical Support Instrument (TSI), the EU programme that provides tailor-made technical expertise to EU Member States to design and implement reforms. Support is requested in the area of ECEC, with the purpose of improving ECEC staff conditions, quality, and capacity to enhance the quality of education for young children in Austria.
03 April 2023

Supporting the expansion and strategic development of early childhood education and care in Cyprus

Early childhood offers a critical window of opportunity to shape the trajectory of a child’s holistic development and build a foundation for their future. The European Pillar of Social Rights states that all children have the right to affordable Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC) of good quality. It is in the earliest years of a child’s life that the foundation and capacity to learn is laid, and this is built on throughout life. Learning is an incremental process; building a strong foundation in the early years is a precondition for higher level competence development and educational success as much as it is essential for health and the well-being of children. Participating in ECEC is beneficial for all children and especially beneficial for children of a disadvantage background. It helps by preventing the formation of early skills gaps and thus it is an essential tool to fight inequalities and educational poverty. Quality, affordable and accessible ECEC also allows for increased parental workforce participation.  Cyprus Cyprus acknowledges the importance of providing affordable high-quality ECEC as a condition for promoting children’s early development and their subsequent school performance. It recognizes ECEC as an area that needs improvement and therefore has high policy priority. This is highlighted in the national Recovery and Resilience Plan (RRP) adopted in 2021. Through its RRP, Cyprus also aims to enhance the availability of quality care and social development infrastructure for children, and thus address the shortcomings highlighted by the relevant Country Specific Recommendation of the 2019 European semester cycle1. The Cyprus RRP 2021-2026 identifies the main challenges in the area of ECEC as follows: Cyprus relies heavily on informal settings or private institutions and social protection for families and children, as a proportion of GDP. This is comparatively low at 1.3% v EU 2.5% in 2016. This low investment is linked to weak support for disadvantaged children in ECEC and undermines potential long-term benefits of quality ECEC for inclusive educational outcomes; Free childcare is mainly limited only to guaranteed minimum income recipients, who also receive subsidization for private childcare. Depending on the age of the child, the type and provider of services, monthly fees range from €70 to €400, creating a disproportionate burden for families; The ECEC enrolment gap is higher for children under the age of three: while 97% of children aged 4 to 6 were enrolled in ECEC in 2019 (EU average 95.4%), 20.7% of children under the age of three participated in ECEC, below both the EU average (35.1%) and the Barcelona target (33%). The proportion of children 0 to 3 enrolled in ECEC was seriously impacted by COVID-19 pandemic, decreasing from 31.1% in 2019; The total fertility rate (2019) was 1.33, which since 1995 remains below the replacement level of 2.10 and is lower that the EU average of 1.55”.   Cyprus is committed to ECEC reforms and as such has a strong ECEC focus on their RRP and has requested technical support from the EU through the Technical Support Instrument (TSI) to enhance the quality, affordability, accessibility, and inclusiveness of ECEC for children aged 0-6. The Ministry of Education, Sport and Youth and the Deputy Ministry of Social Welfare (Social Welfare Services) are committed to this project by driving this exciting intervention. In 2019, the Council Recommendation adopted in the context of the European Semester for Cyprus, acknowledged (recital 11) that “educational achievements remain low as does participation in Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC) which has become less affordable for households as their income during the crisis fell at a faster rate than childcare costs”. The Council adopted a relevant country specific recommendation (CSR 3) specifically addressing ECEC: “Deliver on the reform of the education and training system, including teacher evaluation, and increase employers’ engagement and learners’ participation in vocational education and training, and affordable childhood education and care”. The 2020 Country Report for Cyprus, published by the European Commission in the context of the European Semester (SWD (2020) 512 final), concerning the progress on above CSR on ECEC, concluded that “limited progress has been made, as supporting measures for affordable ECEC are still lagging behind. The availability of affordable and accessible childcare is an area where divergence exists and free/low cost childcare is limited, creating a disproportionate burden for families”.
15 March 2023

Building bright futures: Integration of Ukraine's refugee children through early childhood education

Two-thirds of young Ukrainian refugee children are not enrolled in early childhood education and care (ECEC) services in their host countries. Acknowledging the importance of continued early learning, UNICEF has published two policy briefs on the expansion of ECEC and its critical role in integrating refugee children and their families in host communities. In addition, a Compendium of good practices captures relevant, effective and innovative approaches adopted by national and local authorities to expand ECEC services in support of Ukrainian refugees across Europe. Accompanying this Compendium are Lessons Learnt briefs focusing on the important roles of local authorities and the education and care workforce in providing high-quality early learning opportunities for young children. UNICEF advocates for the inclusion of all young children in ECEC:  Policy Brief 1: How to integrate Ukraine's refugee children through early childhood education and care Policy Brief 2: What is needed to expand early childhood education and care for Ukraine's refugee children Compendium of good practices:  Early Childhood Education and Care services in support of Ukrainian refugees across EU member states and Moldova  Lessons Learnt Brief 1: Strengthening early childhood education and care services at the local level  Lessons Learnt Brief 2: Enhancing capacities of early childhood professionals in emergencies 
13 September 2022

Silvia takes her first steps towards a new life

She can already walk and is stepping on the tiles at the front of door of her family’s little house. All the others – her mother, her grandmother and her brothers – are looking on, barely breathing, for fear she might tumble. They start cheering her on and encouraging her to take another and yet another step.  These are the first independent steps…, Everything began for Silvia when she was two years old , The team from Burgas visited Silvia’s family when she was two years old. Their initial job was to make sure that her brothers were enrolled in the education system (school and kindergarten). Then I noticed that Silvie’s mother pushed her around in a pram. The girl looked floppy, she could not sit upright and she had to be propped. There was no way…, Always standing by the family , It was at that point in time that the team took over and started informing the mother about the existing health and education services, and the possibility and need for a specialized medical examination of her daughter to check whether there were any developmental issues. We managed to gain Zyumbyula’s trust with a lot of persistence, patience,…, Bold steps , The mother learned to trust the team as they guided her through the difficult process of providing the initial support, therapy and rehabilitation for Silvia at St. Stiliyan Integrated Service Centre for Children with Disabilities in Burgas. In order to receive these services, the young girl needed to stay at the Centre, while the team and…, Timely prevention , Silvie’s case is a prime example of how a child lagging behind in her development was able to reach the protection and social services system years earlier and receive timely treatment.  The outcome for Silvie’s life may have been very different if they had waited for the system to respond. Had it not been for the project team, we would have…, About the EU Child Guarantee , With the main aim of reducing child poverty and social exclusion for all children across the European Union, the European Commission, in partnership with UNICEF, is implementing a pilot-program "Phase III: Testing the Child Guarantee" in Bulgaria, Croatia, Greece, Germany, Italy, Lithuania and Spain.   Bulgaria was given the opportunity to pilot…
30 June 2022

Towards a world of play and connection, for every child

Whether it's throwing a ball, dancing or a game of tag, everyone knows play when they see it. Irrespective of economic background or culture, people all over the world engage in play in one form or another. Yet not everyone understands play is a biological imperative for every child. Play is how young children learn to navigate the world, and…, Why is play important?, Children learn best through play. Play creates powerful learning opportunities across all areas of development – intellectual, social, emotional and physical. Through play, children learn to forge connections with others, build a wide range of leadership skills, develop resilience, navigate relationships and social challenges as well as conquer…, What are the challenges and solutions?, Promoting safe and healthy environments for parents to engage and play with children is important for them to thrive. However, parents and caregivers may experience a lack of bandwidth and support to engage in play with their children due to various stressors, including financial, personal and professional ones. Moreover, a low awareness of the…, Call to action, Now more than ever, we need to provide parents and caregivers with the support needed to care for and play with their children. Together, we can build a world of play and connection for every child everywhere. As part of a new advocacy partnership, UNICEF and the LEGO Foundation are supporting countries around the world to increase the number of…, UNICEF Blog, The UNICEF Blog promotes children’s rights and well-being, and ideas about ways to improve their lives and the lives of their families. We bring you insights and opinions from the world's leading child rights experts and accounts from UNICEF's staff on the ground in more than 190 countries and territories. The opinions expressed on the UNICEF Blog…