Ability to parent varies across families and across countries. And before we go too far, I want to hold my hand up, because none of us are perfect.
Parenting is at the root of a whole list of challenges that we in Scotland are baffled by and tuck away as being intractable. Part of the brain knows that good parenting improves attainment at school, reduces the liklihood of violent behaviour, improves mental and physical health and job prospects.
We know this yet we need to get permission to talk about parenting. What we do as a nation is tolerate children. In policy and public services our concern is about physical health and health and safety and much less about how children are growing and developing.
Employing a variety of measures we find that Holland and Finland are among the top four countries in the European Union and the OECD for child well-being. I recently spent time in both countries, courtesy of a Churchill Scholarship.
Here is a very short hand form are some of my conclusions.
Parenting is important. Particularly in Holland where families make time and space to do it. Part time working is the norm for 80% of Dutch working women and a fair number of men, particularly in the public sector. In Finland a very high quality, flexible day care system compliments the work life of parents.
Primary health care is so eye wateringly pervasive and supportive from pregnancy to school age and is predicated on prevention and early intervention. Both countries are trying hard to make the system more wholistic – looking to the needs of the whole family and the development needs of the child.
Holland is now introducing a network of family centres across the country to compliment the primary health system and to provide personalised support for all the growing and development needs of the child.
Over decades Holland governing parties have been social democratic, left of centre. It was under a right wing coalition that the family centres were introduced. Then came the financial crisis. A new government was elected and it formed an even more right wing coalition – and what did they do? When I was there they signalled that the investment in the family centres was safe and that the programme of covering the entire country was to be seen through. The message: early years and parenting can be a consensus issue and one that features high in political priorities.
One other feature in both countries I was struck by how personal the relationship was between the nurses and doctors and the parents and children. In Scotland we provide a pretty threadbare service in a pretty impersonal way.
Alternatives are possible. And the model in Holland with an economy not that different from ours does present itself as a role model.
Comment Posted: 17/09/2011 18:34
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Fascinating. Would love to hear more. Finland start school at 7yr old I hear. I wonder if they have happier better performing students? workers?
Phil McNally BSc
Coach Consultant Author
Mob. 44 7534 409354
Book. Winning Mentality
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