A leading health expert in Britain is pushing for the government to offer parents lessons on how to raise their children, as he believes some children to be neglected by schools and “bad parents.”
Professor John Ashton, outgoing president of the Faculty of Public Health (FPH), said it is up to the state to offer children help in order to reduce the rates of anxiety, anorexia, and obesity. He suggests this should be done through offering parenting lessons that will encourage parents to be more open with their children instead of avoiding topics they find difficult to discuss.
Included in those lessons would be the topic of preventing children from looking at online porn. Ashton said that parents need to openly talk about sex at the breakfast table. He states that if children’s questions are answered while they are still small, it can help to pave the way for more mature conversations later on.
A recent study found 53% of children between the ages of 12 and 16 have seen explicit images online. The majority of these children had seen the images by the time they were 14, writes Rebecca Perring for Express.
Siobhan Freegard, founder of the video parenting site Channel Mum, said she thought the lessons would be a good idea, adding that although love is innate in parenting, everything else needs to be learned. However, she was unsure if the government was the right agency to carry out the lessons, as it could be perceived to be a negative experience for parents who do not like the “nanny state” to interfere. Instead, she suggests investing funds into grassroots organizations such as Home-Start and Parents First, which will work with the parents on a daily basis, writes Amy Packham for The Huffington Post.
A similar announcement was made in January by Prime Minister David Cameron, who said parenting classes should be made ‘normal.’
Children’s charity YoungMinds found that hospitals in the UK are admitting over 21,000 adolescents each year for self-harming, up from about 12,000 nearly a decade ago, reports Elisabeth Perlman for Newsweek.
In a recently released report, the FPH states improvements need to be made in the area of mental health:
“Mental, emotional or psychological problems account for more disability than all physical health problems put together. Although we cannot say yet exactly how much of the burden of mental illness could be prevented, we know prevention is possible.”
According to the report, one in ten children between the ages of five and 16 have a mental problem that requires support and treatment. The relationship children have with their parents, as well as the parenting style used to raise the children, are said to have played a primary role in the development of these issues.
“We’ve done well in terms of producing live, healthy babies over the last 60, 70 years, but, by the time children are leaving school, between 10% and 15% of them are in trouble emotionally or mentally, and suffer from things like obesity, eating disorders, anxiety and stress. Having produced healthy babies we then set about neglecting them.”
Ashton suggests existing networks, like health visitors and schools, should offer parenting advice and support. In addition, social media could be used to set up hotlines that operate around the clock in order to offer parents help on a variety of topics, such as raising adolescents.
Report producer Professor Sarah Stewart-Brown said that although diet and exercise do play a role in mental health, parenting is the key to success, with the first 1,001 days of life being the most important. She went on to say that more than 75% of all mental health issues present themselves in childhood and adolescence.
Ashton added that although disadvantaged parents have trouble bringing up their children, “there’s some terrible parenting among wealthy people,” who do not spend time with their children, but spoil them in other ways.