Kicking off on Saturday the first-ever global Parenting Month, the United Nations Children’s Fund, UNICEF, is calling on world leaders to invest in family-friendly policies that support parents to give their children “the best start in life”.
According to UNICEF, the month of June is a time to focuse on raising awareness of the impact that protection, nutrition and stimulation have on brains in the earliest years of life.
It also supports parents in pressing governments and businesses to invest in family-friendly policies, especially targeted towards working parents, and seeks to build an online community of parents by meeting their demands for reliable, relatable, and practical content.
Appropriately, its first commemoration falls on 1 June, the Global Day of Parents, which itself provides an opportunity to appreciate parents throughout the world for their selfless commitment to children and their lifelong sacrifice towards nurturing this relationship.
In a video statement, UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador David Beckham spoke passionately about the importance of parenting.
“When you have children, you want to protect them, you want to teach them”, he said. “I always tell my kids to be respectful, to be polite, to treat people how you want to be treated”.
UNICEF underscores that “being a parent is the most important job in the world”, saying that they and other caregivers are the main providers of the nutrition, stimulation and protection that every baby needs for healthy brain development.
“During the first few years of life, a child’s brain develops at a never-again-repeated speed of more than one million new neural connections every second” according to the UN agency. “This period offers a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to shape a child’s ability to learn, grow and contribute fully to her society”.
UNICEF’s six-point call to action on early childhood development:
- Invest urgently in services that give young children, especially the most deprived, the best start in life.
- Expand access to effective early childhood development services in homes, schools, communities and health clinics.
- Make family-friendly early childhood development policies a national priority – and a private sector imperative.
- Collect data on indicators of early childhood development and track progress in reaching the most deprived.
- Provide dedicated leadership for early childhood development programmes and coordinate efforts more effectively across sectors.
- Drive demand for quality early childhood development services.
While parents want to do the best by their children, many must work long hours, often away from home, to support their families.
The basis for this year’s message: “It’s about time”, underscores that parents need time to provide the “eat, play, love” children require to start their lives.
“Family-friendly policies, such as paid parental leave, breastfeeding breaks, childcare and child grants, give parents the time they need to build their babies’ brains”, the UN Children’s Fund maintained.
As a shared responsibility, UNICEF calls on businesses and governments to “invest in family-friendly policies, to build more prosperous and fair societies”.