Parenting support key to protecting child rights
Supporting parents is critical to protecting the rights of Australian children, our new submission to the National Children’s Commissioner says.
Our submission, The role of parenting support in ensuring the protection of children’s rights, was lodged in response to a call from Commissioner Megan Mitchell regarding Australia’s progress in implementing the Convention on the Rights of Children.
The Australian Human Rights Commission will report to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child by the end of the year about Australia’s progress in meeting its child rights obligations. Commissioner Mitchell will also submit a ‘state of the nation’ report on child rights in Australia to Parliament.
Fundamental to child outcomes
The Parenting Research Centre submission argues that effective and accessible parenting support is fundamental to any initiative that seeks long-term, sustainable and widespread improvements in outcomes for children.
Also, it says the role of government is to provide the infrastructure needed to support parents in their parenting role.
We need a range of formal supports. Skilled professionals should staff these, and they should be easily accessible according to parents’ different needs, preferences, values and beliefs.
The role of policy
But governments can also pave the way for effective parenting through policies in areas such as the workplace and education. These would give parents and children more opportunities to spend high-quality time together.
In addition, the goal of parenting support should be capacity building. All parents will need support at some stage as their children grow and develop. Through parenting support, parents should get skills they need, become more confident, autonomous, and capable of dealing with future challenges.
But parenting support should always be a means to an end – which is positive outcomes for children. We should design and deliver it with that in mind.
Key elements of effective parenting support
The other key tenets of effective parenting support are that it should:
- draw on the best available evidence given the limited resources available and the downsides of implementing ineffective policies, programs and services
- be evaluated and informed by ongoing research
- be accessible – this includes quality-assured, online information and advice as well as parents and service providers working in partnership and sharing decision making
- focus on the end goal rather than how that goal is achieved (function over form).
Parenting in adolescence
Our submission also points out that parents have a crucial and often misunderstood role in the key development period during adolescence. We know the first onset of many mental health problems occurs in childhood and adolescence but access to services is likely to happen much later.
The vulnerability and risk-taking behaviours associated with the adolescent years highlights the importance of prevention, early identification and intervention. But our research shows that parents often lack confidence during this time and are in particular need of parenting strategies and support.