Parenting, it’s often described as the most important job in the world and, just as the definition of a family continues to adapt, so too does the definition of a parent. One size doesn’t fit all, and the characterisation of a ‘parent’ embraces not just biological parents but all those in a parenting role, whether that’s adoptive or step parents, grandparents, the wider family, foster carers, legal guardians, or a combination of any of these.
The 1st of June is Global Day of Parents, recognition and celebration of the critical role that parents play in the nurturing and rearing of children around the world. As the anchors of the family, parents provide the foundations for their children’s health, emotional wellbeing and education; they are the greatest determinant of children’s outcomes and their capacity to thrive later in life.
Parenting responsibilities - although many and open to interpretation - at the most basic level include providing, protecting, teaching and loving. Parents who are able to offer the magic combination of clear and appropriate expectations and boundaries, with warmth, interest and nurture, develop their children’s sense of security and self-worth, their ability to build healthy relationships and their capacity to learn. Just as a physical immunisation helps to protect us from illness, so this type of parenting provides us with an “emotional immunisation”, helping to develop robust emotional and mental health that supports us in coping with life’s inevitable challenges.
But there is no such thing as a “perfect parent” and most of us are good enough most of the time. The vast majority of parents are doing the best they can with the resources available to them, whether these are financial, social or emotional. Parents are coping with a multitude of stresses, added to which they bring their own experiences of being parented and the impact of any past trauma. Parental guilt is common and the beauty of parenting groups is that, as well as sharing new ideas and strategies, we learn that we’re not alone; our individual experiences are unique but many of the feelings are shared. What parents don’t need is blame or criticism, whether that’s from professionals or from other adults when their child has a meltdown in the supermarket.
Let’s use the Global Day of Parents to remind us to show all parents the kindness, support and nurturance that we hope they feel able to show to their children. And to encourage parents to praise themselves when things are going well and to be kind to themselves when they’re struggling, seeking help from others when needed. Whether you’re a practitioner working with parents, or a parent seeking some guidance, Family Links offers a nurturing approach to developing emotional health and family relationships and is here to support you to do the best job you can.
“I have been amazed at the usefulness of the material in every area of my life, though I did the course for my children. What I've learned has even helped to turn around a failing marriage. Following your nurturing strategies has largely ended the aggressive tendencies which were developing in my son (in response, I now realise, to how I was treating him) and brought me closer to my daughter who had been feeling unloved and unheard.”
Finally, a word about international days.At Family Links, we believe that international celebration days are invaluable as advocacy tools - educating and celebrating people around the world, and providing a voice for communities to highlight or promote important issues that affect us all, like human rights and humanitarian action.
Sarah Darton, CEO