The Scottish Government launches its national parenting strategy on 3 October 2012.

I am delighted that there is to be a National Parenting Strategy and thinking about this has caused me to reflect on what children in Scotland – and indeed worldwide – actually need in order to thrive. I am a parent, I worked in education for many years, have been a member of the Children’s Panel, still run workshops for families and am currently working as an accredited mediator with Relationships Scotland so I do feel that I have some kind of perspective on this question. I am deeply committed to working with and for families and I see children as the future of this small country of ours. There has been a Government strategy out there for years called “Getting It Right for Every Child” – sadly, we have not yet achieved that state and more must be done to ensure that children born in this country have the best experience possible in order that they in turn will produce healthy, happy children.

Parents must be prepared to take responsibility for their children’s well-being and I don’t think anyone would argue with me that parenting is the most difficult job in the world and the one which causes the greatest amount of questioning as to whether one can actually “get it right”. It is obvious that children’s material needs must be met i.e. appropriate housing, clothing, a healthy diet and safe places to play and learn about their physical environment That children’s experiences of such things will be wildly different depending on the circumstances into which they are born is a given and I accept that those living in straitened financial conditions could struggle with this.

It is also commonplace to find parents getting themselves into debt in order to buy the latest phones, sports gear and clothes for their children. I find it incredibly sad that in this country there is such an obsession with “celebrities” and material goods which can only leave people dissatisfied with their lot and prepared to bankrupt themselves to become clones of other people. Anyone who is really interested in the factors which enhance well-being should have a look at and read Carol Craig’s wise words on materialism and the perils of positive psychology.

So what do children really need? They need to know that they are loved exactly as they are. They need to know where they fit into their family. They need boundaries and consistency. They need to be educated both in and out of school. They need to be listened to and encouraged to communicate their thoughts and feelings in a positive manner. They need to learn constructive methods of conflict resolution, that life is what we make of it and that an optimistic outlook will take them far. In order to be able to make the most of their childhood they need to be raised in emotionally literate families, nurseries and schools. How we go about instilling that emotional literacy is a matter for debate, but as with any kind of educative proposal, early intervention would seem to be the natural starting point.

I hope that the National Parenting Strategy will take cognisance of the need for everyone involved to have a clear vision of a country where our children and young people value themselves and can speak confidently about their lives and what is required to enrich them while acknowledging the rights of others to do the same.


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