Beijing, 24 June 2019 – This June, for UNICEF’s first-ever global Parenting Month, we are celebrating caregivers for all that they do and are recognizing that the earliest years with children are chaotic and crazy, joyful, messy and rewarding all at once. Instead of striving for ‘perfect moments’ or trying to be the ‘perfect parent’, UNICEF encourages caregivers to embrace all time spent with babies and to remember that every moment devoted to providing the nutrition, stimulation and protection – or more simply eat, play, love – is helping babies thrive during these earliest years.
“We must acknowledge that parenting during the early years is not only beautiful, but also challenging, and that every moment with babies won’t be perfect. You won’t always know the right answer, and that’s alright,” said Cynthia McCaffrey, Representative of UNICEF China. “Parents aren’t perfect, babies aren’t perfect, caregivers aren’t perfect. Appreciate these precious early days for all that they are and know that by providing babies with the basics of nutrition, protection, love and stimulation, you’re setting them up to thrive.”
To raise awareness about the importance of early childhood development during the earliest years, under the theme of ‘Parenting is Not About Perfection', UNICEF is releasing a short video and asking all caregivers to share their experiences and photos of ‘imperfect moments’ through our online channels Weibo and WeChat. The #Parenting is Not About Perfection Weibo campaign is launched today, June 24th through July 5th and is a joint cooperation between UNICEF and Micro Platform for Public Welfare.
Why Early Moments Matter
Between birth and the age of five, children’s brains grow rapidly – at a once-in-a lifetime speed of more than one million new neural connections every second. It’s during this time that children develop the foundation on which they will build intellectual, social and emotional skills to acquire and understand knowledge, form beliefs and attitudes, and make decisions.
Early childhood support in nutrition, health, education, child protection and social welfare systems – all of which help optimize brain development – have longstanding ramifications for individuals and nations. This is what we refer to as early childhood development or ECD.
Early Childhood Development in China
Globally, over 249 million children under the age of five, of which 17 million live in China, were estimated not to have fulfilled their full potential because of early adversities related to poverty, poor health, nutrition and care.
Global evidence indicates that access to high quality early childhood care is critical, whether its provided by family members, caregivers in community or facilities. A loving and nurturing environment can weaken the effect of adversities that children might face as a result of poverty or other social conditions.
In China, most children under three years of age are under the care of their mother or a family caregiver. Despite a greater number of women joining the workforce, mothers and the elderly take on most of the responsibility as caregivers and young women often take on dual responsibilities of full-time work and childcare. In this environment, the demands for childcare services are as high as 33.3 per cent in 2016, while the proportion of children receiving formal, paid child care services was 5.55 per cent according to the latest surveys conducted by the National Health Commission (NHC).
Given these population and demographic changes, the Government of China has attached great importance to the development of childcare centers that can deliver high quality care to improve early childhood development. The government’s development goals focus on the establishment of more early childcare centers, standardization of care and quality within these centers and supporting families and communities to be primary care providers of early childhood development for children aged 0-3. This new initiative is urgently needed in both urban and rural settings, for children from all economic strata, and including children of all abilities.
Access to improved early childhood development support and care should be universal, whether its provided at home, through communities or facilities. As a shared responsibility, UNICEF calls on government and industry to embrace its action plan:
UNICEF’s six-point call to action on early childhood development:
- Invest urgently in services that give young children, especially the most deprived, the best start in life.
- Expand access to effective early childhood development services in homes, schools, communities and health clinics.
- Make family-friendly early childhood development policies a national priority – and a private sector imperative.
- Drive demand for quality early childhood development services.
- Collect data on indicators of early childhood development and track progress in reaching the most deprived.
- Provide dedicated leadership for early childhood development programmes and coordinate efforts more effectively across sectors.
For Parenting Month, UNICEF China has launched a new UNICEF Parenting Site. This is a resource for parents and caregivers, providing practical, expert, unbiased guidance to help them do the important work of parenting. The site contains valuable articles on child development, nutrition and breastfeeding, health and medical resources, education and more.
UNICEF works in some of the world's toughest places, to reach the world's most disadvantaged children. Across 190 countries and territories, we work for every child, everywhere, to build a better world for everyone.
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