A good many years of family life are spent in raising a child or children. With 48.8% of our population belonging to ages 0-24 and our cultural practice of still living with parents until one gets married (or even after), parenting is a major preoccupation for many Filipinos. I considered parenting my children belonging to the millenial generation as my most challenging responsibility ever. However, the times we live in, with globalization and a technology-infused world where the web’s information, knowledge, entertainment, images, influences good and bad are available at one’s fingertips, parenting has become even more challenging than it already is. The generation Z (born around 1995-2009) and generation alpha (born 2010 onwards and are children of millenials) are living in a different world that I used to know. This is compounded by the fact that there is no parenting academy or very few organized classes that parents could attend to learn this critical responsibility that collectively affects our nation’s future. Always, responsibility is put back on the parents by government, schools, and everyone else, and rightly so. But if these same institutions and other concerned groups offer no organized parenting classes that teach parents how to parent well, then we have a big problem on our hands.
In developed countries, books and peer-reviewed journals have come to acknowledge parenting, motherhood, and fatherhood as scientific and distinct areas worthy of study. Multidisciplinary sciences (sociology, psychology, medicine, neurology, to name a few) acknowledge and show the complexity of issues involved in parenting, and they realize the dire implications when parents fail in their responsibilities. Thus, government, churches, organizations, and various stockholders interested in children invest in parenting education programs to intervene and support families, especially those in poverty and at-risk.
In contrast, there is little or no formal preparation for the vital task of childrearing in our country. The standard practice is to start families with little or no marital counseling or parent training. The cycle of parenting gets passed on, good or bad, to future generations unless intervention is applied to break the bad and unhealthy ways of parenting and enhance the good ones. Also, attention and focus are given mostly to children’s physical (food, clothing, health), mental development (send them to school) while other essential aspects (emotional, social, spiritual) are neglected. In affluent families, parents usually relegate childrearing to yayas (nannies), or to available kin or kasambahay (house-help) if a parent works. In low socio-economic status communities, parents are caught up with eking out a living or dealing with vices and neighborhood violence that children are left to fend for themselves or to scavenge to provide food for the table.
With such a massive need and our challenging times, there are very few entities that are addressing the need for intentional and formal parenting education. The DSWD developed the Parent Effectiveness Service programs and have parenting manuals, Manual on Effective Parenting for ages zero to nine, Empowerment and Re-Affirmation of Paternal Abilities Manual or ERPAT for fathers, and Parenting the Adolescent Manual used by social workers and trained community parent volunteers and hopefully implemented by local government units. As to how much of the program is being done, there is no available record in literature. The Consuelo Zobel Alger Foundation also has locally adapted and translated the Healthy Start Program’s Growing Great Kids Curriculum for parents of children aged zero to five. They train community parent leaders to do home visits and follow-up on maternal care and early childhood development in several depressed communities in the country. There is also the Masayang Pamilya program to reduce child maltreatment and improve child well-being in low-income families aged 2-6 that was field-tested in MetroManila. My dissertation output, Pagsasanay sa Pagiging Magulang Para sa Pinagpalang Pamilya (P4S for short) being conducted in several public schools by trained facilitators and has a MOA with DSWD for 4Ps parents in Luzon, is also FamilyLife’s contribution to this great need to educate and train parents of public school children. There is definitely a need for more of these kinds to aggressively be brought to communities to come alongside parents to engage and support them in their roles. It is easy to blame the parents, but if there is no concerted effort to address and equip parents, the problem will progress and compound.
In view of this, I will deal with the many aspects of parenting in my column. It is also a topic close to my heart because of the lifelong and generational impact of, and the joys and growth parenting affords even if it takes a lot of work, sweat and tears. It is definitely a worthwhile investment of our time, talents and treasures to help raise children who are our nation’s assets.