Parenting or the upbringing of children is the process of promoting and supporting the physical, emotional, social, and intellectual development of a child from infancy to adulthood. It is a mutual responsibility between fathers and mothers.
It can be a fun and life-changing event in one’s life if the parents are prepared for it. Children have basic needs for safety and security as well as physical needs such as food, water, clothes, shelter, etc. that need to be met by the parents.
The strength of positive parenting
However, parenting goes beyond just fulfilling such basic needs. It requires, amongst others, knowing children well, practicing good communication and listening, positive disciplining, being a role model for children, and knowing our emotions as parents and how to manage ourselves. Positive parenting can influence the sexual and reproductive health decisions young people make in the future and the kind of people and later parents they become. Many children model their future on the types of families they grew up in. They may even choose to stay in violent relationships because of the kind of parenting they received.
That is why S.A.L.V.E. International parenting sessions on positive parenting are so important! They allow the parents and children we are working with who are struggling the most, the space to identify their own childhood experiences and see how they can transform the negative experiences to become positive and responsible parents, being authoritative rather than being authoritarian.
In Uganda, the situation for parents is challenging given the extreme poverty and hardship surrounding them every day, causing them stresses that might make them to be authoritarian or uninvolved as a form of parenting and child upbringing. It is also worsened by the fact that women in Uganda have on average six children, so it can be difficult to provide all children with the caring and love necessary, especially if they are busy trying to make money to help the family survive.
How S.A.L.V.E. helps parents
Parenting is one of the themes that is covered by S.A.L.V.E. International after receiving repeated requests that we should do so from the families we support.
Our staff carry out positive parenting skills training with parents in need, of whom the majority are young mothers living in a suburb in Jinja District, Uganda. During the sessions, the parents were asked to share about the kinds of parents they see in their community and how they care for their children.
“Most of our parents are harsh. I have a friend called Florence. Her mother is very harsh. Florence was hungry and asked the neighbor for some food. When the mother found out, she thought that her daughter slept with the man for her to get food. She told her to undress and cained her. After that, the mother asked her to prepare food for the young siblings yet she was going through a lot of pain!”
“Most parents punish children because they don’t listen to them. My father always advised me not to walk at night so that I can avoid gangs and other related risks involved. One day, I forgot and moved at night, my dad punished me. Ever since then I avoid moving at night.”
As a result of interacting with them, we have been able to think about good and positive parenthood in their situations. And we have shared with them caution that before anyone becomes a parent, they should think twice about their personal stuff; to be clear, who we are, healing and dissolving the issues we carry within us from the past. Becoming a mother or father might be one of the most transformational and healing processes anyone can experience on this planet. And the more we are spending time with our family, children and other parents will see that there is something significant in all. However, the biggest and most important part for the relationship between parents and children to be healthy and whole is not to be free from issues and complexities. It is much more to acknowledge our own history and commit to heal our own issues and to free our children from a package we need to carry ourselves.
Happy parents, happy children
When we hear for example from other people, that our children are “extraordinarily happy”, we can really take it personally because this shows us, that we also hold space for happiness. There might be days, where we are not so much in peace and then our children are directly showing it to us through their behaviour.
Being a parent, in conclusion, brings up so many things from our own childhood. While we see our children playing around, our own previous experiences start popping up, memories just come back through this experience as being a parent.
There is always so much potential in being a family to heal, to grow, to choose something else than what we experienced or maybe the same. That is an ongoing evolutionary process as long as we stay awake and open with our heart. We don’t just grow children, we are growing with them and we need to grow with them. Never forget that the things that we do or say are the things our children learn and copy. So we need to be the role models we wish we had had ourselves as a child.