SOS Line: Support that Parents Need
Social worker Lepa Zunjic advises on a daily basis parents who are facing numerous challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic
Podgorica, 12 October 2021 – For almost five years now, social worker Lepa Zunjic has been talking with parents from all over Montenegro who have decided to seek advice or help through the SOS parent line. The toll-free telephone number 080 888 888 for parental support was launched by the Parents Association in cooperation with UNICEF. It is the only service of its kind in Montenegro licensed by the Ministry of Finance and Social Welfare, and counselling and support services for parents are provided by trained professionals.
We do not offer instant solutions and we are not here to condemn parents, but to come to a solution together through conversation.
Parents who call the SOS number or send a message to the e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org on weekdays between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. will reach an interlocutor who has some understanding regarding the problem that is bothering them.
"These are warm and spontaneous conversations in which they reveal as much information as they want," says Lepa.
The topics she discusses with the parents are diverse, but the content remains between her and the parents.
They most often talk about setting boundaries, the use of technology, peer violence, school problems, sibling relationships, sexuality and very stressful situations, such as broken relationships between parents and children due to divorce or death in the family.
We cannot know everything about parenting, nor are parents expected to be able to solve every problem at any time, but we need support and that is why there are such services.
It is quite normal, she says, for the SOS line operator to recommend that the parent seek the help of a psychologist or some other expert.
"We explain to the parent that big problems are not solved on the SOS line, but we direct them to the right addresses where I believe they can get more complete help and support for what is bothering them."
However, an additional problem is that in municipalities outside of Podgorica there are often no support services that parents need.
"You understand the parent, you know what the problem is, but in the area where the parent lives there are no experts or services that the parent needs or can be referred to," explains Lepa Zunjic.
She says that this service has been launched because, through professional practice and daily contact with parents, they have realized that parents need support in order to adopt and apply positive parenting skills.
In addition, one of the important drivers and indicators of how much this service is needed by parents, is the results of the MICS survey from 2018, according to which 66 percent of children under 14 in Montenegro were exposed to some form of corporal punishment or psychological aggression by members of their family.
The COVID-19 pandemic has further complicated parenting and family relationships, which is why experts believe it is normal for parents to seek help when they feel insecure.
The counselling work on the SOS line has enabled Lepa to get new insights into parenting which she uses as well.
Thanks to this line, I have become a better parent, and even a better professional. In this difficult and fast time, full of challenges that we all face, I am happy to have the opportunity to take some time on the line and really listen to parents, dedicate some time and attention, so that we can all work together to make our children well.
Data from the Parents Association shows that by October of the current year the free-of-charge parents’ line had received more than 1,340 calls. The work of this service and its promotion is part of the regional programme for mitigating the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on children and parents in the Western Balkans and Turkey, which is financed by the European Union.