Parenting, while a rewarding and satisfying experience, is often an overwhelming, stressful and frustrating job, especially when caring for children with behavioural and disciplinary problems, or special needs.
Though some would argue that this is a personal job, many parents would welcome some assistance with this very important role of shaping the future of the next generation.
The Government, having recognised the challenges some parents face, and that it “must create structures and services to enable parents to learn and practice good parenting skills”, has moved to support parents through the enactment of certain legislation, with the passage of the National Parenting Support Commission Act 2012, in both Houses of Parliament, being the latest intervention.
"This legislation represents an acknowledgement and our will to address the findings of national studies that (reveal that) high levels of parental stress, the limitations associated with single parenting, a deficit in understanding the requirements of child development and the negative parenting practices are in essence under-developing our children and presiding over a deterioration of child well-being,” Minister with Responsibility for Information, Senator the Hon. Sandrea Falconer said while piloting the Bill in the Senate on October 13.
She noted that most parents from time to time find themselves in situations where they would have welcomed help not only in overcoming stress or controlling anger, but in making everyday decisions. Other parents need specific attention because they are raising their children in difficult social, economic or personal circumstances. It is a challenging responsibility to raise children, and create the conditions necessary for them to develop their potential to the fullest.
This is where the legislation is most useful as it will establish the National Parenting Support Commission that will assist parents by increasing their access to quality information and services. Parents will also learn about their responsibilities under the law and the consequences of not fulfilling them, particularly as it relates to abuse or neglect.
The Commission will oversee the implementation and operation of the National Parenting Policy. The policy defines effective parenting from a Jamaican perspective and sets out the Government’s approach to supporting and strengthening positive parenting practices.
This policy is also expected to facilitate the development of an enabling environment in schools and communities, in which to improve parenting practices.
Opening the debate on the Bill in the House of Representatives on September 11, Education Minister, Rev. the Hon. Ronald Thwaites noted that being a good parent is an important role that any adult can play.
“Simple things such as making sure children are at home by a certain hour in the evening will assist with clearing up some of the mayhem that goes on at the Half-Way-Tree Transport Centre, and in many other parish capitals where young people gather in unsupervised situations for hours, foregoing homework, foregoing reasonable nutrition, and finding themselves in compromising circumstances,” he said.
“These are some of the issues from weak home life that we face, as we consider this important piece of legislation,” the Minister added.
Further, speaking at a motivational breakfast for early childhood educators recently, the Education Minister said the legislation, which was developed by the previous administration, “is so crucial that it needs everybody’s attention."
“I am hoping, fully recognising that laws don’t change human behaviour automatically, that we can, through this new legislation, set standards, and set up a parenting commission and offer help as well as some serious considerations for parents to be more responsible and more effective with regards to their children,” he stated.
In her contribution to the debate, Prime Minister the Most Hon. Portia Simpson Miller, called on parents to play their roles in a more responsible manner.
“The health, mental development and motivation of children are all impacted by positive parenting. When parents fail in their responsibilities; it makes life difficult for the children. This places an added burden on Government and all institutions, such as the Church and the school,” Mrs. Simpson Miller said.
Given the less than ideal home lives of some children, and the unhealthy situations some of these youngsters have found themselves in, it is without question that the Government’s move to intervene with legislation to give support to Jamaica’s parents is crucial.
As Senator Falconer points out, whether we became parents by chance or by design, “good parenting is not first about the children, it is about adults and their ability to understand themselves and to manage themselves”.