Greater support from institutions and employers needed to improve the status of parents in Serbia

Conference on playful parenting Parents in the Spotlight

09 November 2020
Conference on playful parenting Parents in the Spotlight
UNICEF Srbija/2020/Pancic

Belgrade, 6 November 2020 - Parents need greater support from institutions and employers in their important life role, experts concluded today at the conference on playful parenting Parents in the Spotlight organized by UNICEF. Play as an important stress-coping factor for the entire family, especially during the coronavirus pandemic, gender-balanced parenting, the need for greater support from the private sector to parents are some of the topics that were discussed.

Parents shape experiences and create opportunities for children’s health, learning, protection, growth and development on a daily basis. Primarily we take care of our children’s health, we strive to provide them with proper nutrition and create a safe and protective environment. However, the most important ingredients for the development of child’s brain are love, care, affection, listening and responding to the child – responsive caregiving”, said Deyana Kostadinova, UNICEF Representative in Serbia, and added.

According to the results from the latest MICS survey, conducted by the National Statistical Office and UNICEF, most of the caregivers (90%) do not approve violent disciplining. However, one in three children 3-4 years of age are exposed to physical punishment at home which can leave life-long scars. Also, still only 41% of fathers are actively involved in learning and playing with their young children. While all parents need some support, some need it more than others.

Opening today's conference, Minister of Health Dr Zlatibor Lončar said that parenting is often a role that is taken for granted, “and when we take something for granted, we pay less attention to it”.

I wish we would understand the importance of parenting. This also applies to the health care system, which is focused on parents and children from the very birth and should help and provide full support to parents so they can fulfil their parental roles. I hope that in these difficult times, and despite coronavirus, we will focus all our efforts on supporting them. This is both the moment and the opportunity to put parents in the spotlight, and my expectation from this conference is to hear how we can do it together”, said Minister Lončar.

On behalf of the LEGO Foundation, which has been cooperating with UNICEF for many years now, Sarah Bouchie, Head of Global Programmes and Vice President of the Lego Foundation, addressed the participants.

Growing evidence from parenting interventions has shown that increased quality of playful interactions between primary caregivers and their children during early childhood leads to improved learning and health outcomes that persist throughout the life course. When parents have interactions that are meaningful and actively engaging, when they help children to iterate and interact with others and when they bring joy to the bond that they have with their children, they help children to develop their full potential. Learning through play was the LEGO Foundation’s starting point for initiating a multi-year partnership with UNICEF to promote playful parenting”, said Sarah Bouchie.

A UNICEF survey which crossed the views of children and young people on the impact of parents’ workplace with family-friendly business practices in the business sector in Serbia was presented at the panel Family-friendly Workplace. The results of the research show an evident gap between children’s expectations of their parents’ jobs and the family-friendly practices offered by employers to their employees. Representatives of the corporate sector discussed why this is so and whether companies are taking care of employees’ children in their organizational and HR procedures. Examples of good practice were presented by Direct Media, VIP Mobile and Nordeus.

We are looking at the employee satisfaction comprehensively, because we know how difficult it is to achieve the balance between work and family nowadays. Caring for employees means caring for all family members, especially children. That is how Nordeus is growing as a company where family comes first – from having flexible working hours, especially during the pandemic, unlimited vacations, remote work available for everyone, private health insurance covering all family members, to the fact that our premises are adapted to the stay of children so that employees can bring them and that we can share almost all beautiful moments with our families”, said Marija Beslać from Nordeus.

As urged by UNICEF and the International Labour Organization (ILO), the business sector has a critical role to play in supporting families affected by the COVID-19 virus pandemic. Job loss, school closures and unavailability of childcare mean that employed parents need extra support in order to minimize the negative consequences on children and families.

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