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We are all familiar with the slightly hackneyed phrase, 'children are our future'. As well as being undeniably true, it's also a bit of a cliché thanks to the late, great Whitney Houston. But what about Scotland's humble mothers and fathers?
Parents are the greatest influence on their children's lives - particularly in the crucial early years - so parents must be the key to that future. If we are serious about improving the life chances of children and young people across Scotland, we need to ensure that parents feel empowered, valued, supported and confident in their ability to care for their children. This is why we are developing a national parenting strategy.
Being a parent is an amazing experience, but it can be the most challenging role we face in life, and the one for which we are least prepared. The national parenting strategy will encourage agencies to work together to help build the capacity, confidence and skills of parents to be and do their very best for their children. It's not only for parents, but grandparents and the wider family, as well as foster and adoptive parents, and the corporate parent. In other words, anyone involved in bringing up children. And it will cover parenting children of all ages - from pre-conception and early childhood, through school years and adolescence to adulthood.
One thing is clear: the strategy needs to make a practical difference to parents, and so it must have the views of parents at its heart. We are working with a wide range of partners to ask parents what they need in order to do their difficult job well. We want to know what would help them - for example as disabled parents, as teenage parents, and as kinship carers, or as parents/carers affected by imprisonment, substance misuse, alcohol and domestic abuse. We are also asking them what the best things are about being a parent, because the parenting strategy will celebrate parenting, and place a higher value on parents and carers.
The first part of the strategy (to be published in the Autumn) will 'up the ante' on parenting: it will provide a positive, strong and compelling argument for the importance of supporting parents, not only for the wellbeing of their children, but for the future of Scotland across a whole range of measures. It will set the stage for the more detailed work that follows. This is likely to fall into three work streams, focusing on parenting in the early years, parenting of older children through to adulthood, and preparing children and young people to be the parents of the future.
In supporting parents, our aim is clear: we want all our children to have the best start in life, and to be nurtured and supported by their parents or carers so that they can reach their potential and develop into happy, confident, and successful individuals, ready and equipped for the challenges of adult life.
So supporting parents really is the key to a better future for us all. It's the cornerstone of a better Scotland, in which children and young people are valued, and in which their parents are properly supported and appreciated.
Other articles published in our April 2012 newsletter:
Other articles about the National Parenting Strategy: