November 20 is National Child Day
This Saturday, November 20, 2021 is National Child Day. It is celebrated in Canada as a “recognition of our country’s commitment to upholding the rights of children and two historic events: the 1959 signing of the UN Declaration of the Rights of the Child and the adoption of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1989,” according to the official website.
The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child “sets out the rights of children with 54 articles that provide us with a solid road map of what is needed to raise healthy and happy children and youth.”
This year’s theme is The Right to Survive and Thrive. We chatted with Samantha Simpson, Executive Director, The Hub Family Resource Centre, and local early childhood consultant Hope Moffatt, whose career in the field spans 55 years about the importance of this day, and how the pandemic has impacted children.
Simpson has been with The Hub Family Resource Centre in different roles since 2013. She is also the co-chair for the Early Years Coalition, which is a community of united voices working to empower parents, caregivers, teachers and the community with the knowledge of healthy child development. She highlights The Hub’s work.
“The organization provides programs to strengthen capacities and encourage the best possible development of children 0-18, and families in Wood Buffalo. All programs are designed to encourage positive parent/caregiver-child relationships, promote community connection and socialization, encourage healthy development, as well as prevent family violence and maltreatment. We also offer safe visitation and safe exchange services for families who have experienced domestic violence and/or custody and access issues, allowing children to develop a positive relationship with both caregivers,” explains Simpson.
“The Hub celebrates National Child Day by talking with the families who use our services about child rights and the importance of respecting them. It is also part of our everyday work to help parents/caregivers to support their child’s healthy development and encourage them to reach their potential. This year we are asking adults on social media to share what their child or a child in their life has taught them. Visit facebook.com/thehubfrc to participate,” adds Simpson.
Discussing this year’s theme of The Right to Survive and Thrive, she continues, the pandemic “has been very difficult for children. The Hub has continued to offer services in modified formats throughout the pandemic, but what children and teens are missing most is the social interaction with their peers. Anecdotally, at The Hub we have seen that the lack of social interaction with their peers has led to increased delays in all areas of development and increased separation anxiety. Additionally, the mental health of teens has been impacted by losing the freedoms that they would normally have from their families with their peers.”
For Hope Moffatt, who is now running Northern Hope Consulting for four years as early childhood consultant National Child Day is about children’s rights first.
“Part of my consulting work now as a pedagogical partner with early learning centres has been helping educators learn about and implement the Alberta Early Learning & Care curriculum framework – Flight (see www.flightframework.ca). One of the core concepts of Flight is having an image of the child as a mighty learner and citizen. National Child Day celebrates the fact that children are citizens from the day of their birth, and have rights as citizens of our country. Those of us who care for children either as parents/guardians or the early childhood educators who choose to care for children as a career, must become their guides, advocates and champions to help ensure that their rights are respected and upheld. Each year a different right is highlighted for the adults in children’s lives to consider how we are doing to support that right for our children and consider what else we can do.”
In early October, the aforementioned Early Years Coalition, which Moffatt is part of – presented to Mayor and Council, and shared challenges faced by local early learning and childcare centres/programs during the pandemic. We are sharing a few here.
“Fluctuating enrollment - decreasing enrollment causes financial strain and increasing enrollment causes stress due to the transition time that new children require and ensuring that there are enough qualified educators; shortage of qualified candidates available and seeking work; no candidate pool for casual coverage for vacations, illness, leaves, etc.; existing certified educators are seeking secondary employment, and sometimes third jobs, just to make ends meet.”
Moffatt continues, the pandemic has left the region, with “no prenatal classes, and no chance for young parents to get together with other young families in the pre and post-natal times. Isolation for young parents (usually mothers) increased and adds to stress for children. Many of the elements in childcare environments that make them responsive and home-like, have been taken away, so soft furniture, pillows, fabric, and soft toys are not part of their experiences now. Their educators have been wearing masks which impedes articulation of speech sounds and deters from language learning in the earliest years. On the other hand, for the youngest babies the pandemic is likely a blessing in disguise since they have not been exposed to over-stimulation and germs of being out in public and of friends/family dropping by to visit. Their family’s lives have been slowed down, and that is really what young babies need.”
She adds, many child care centres may be “following the lead of the Canadian Child Care Federation who recommended that they focus on Article #30 this year: ‘You have a right to learn and use the language and customs of your family whether or not these are shared by the majority of the people in the country where you live.’ In our multicultural community, Article #30 really rings true as most childcare centres have both educators and families who come here from elsewhere in the country/world.”
“One of the four aspects of holistic, play-based goals that are outlined in our Flight framework is Diversity & Social Responsibility – again acknowledging children as citizens and they see themselves as belonging and contributing to their family, their childcare program and their community. ‘When children engage in respectful, responsive, and reciprocal relationships guided by sensitive and knowledgeable adults, they grow in their understanding of interdependency… As children practice living with heart and spirit as well as with mind, they require caring adults who listen responsively to what they have to say. They learn to find their voices, to speak freely and to hear the voices of others as they engage in matters that concern them,’” (Flight. p. 110).
Helping our children find their voice, and guide them to be their best – no matter what age they are - remains a job of the utmost importance – always.
List of National Child Day events can be found here.