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Family Law Blog

Comment on divorce & family law 

Five a day for parents

Mention “five-a-day” and it is likely the first thing that springs to mind is fruit and vegetables. It is the modern day campaign/tool used by the Government to encourage people to get their fill of vitamins by having five pieces of fruit or helpings of vegetables each day. However, there is another five-a-day that is said to be gaining ministerial support and it is more about effective parenting than just kids eating their greens.

Under the scheme, parents will be given a five-a-day checklist detailing how they should bring up their children, according to reports in the media. The guidance will suggest how adults play, read, talk, praise, and feed their children every day, with adverts on TV, billboards and transport used to remind parents of their duty to their young offspring. There could even be a dedicated logo used on official products and toys which support the scheme. It is suggested that the initiative could “overhaul” society’s attitudes towards parenting in the same way that attitudes towards drink-driving have been realigned since the 1950s (though we have seem some slippage in this recently). I guess then the rationale is about highlighting the social benefits of behaving in a certain way rather than simply threatening punishment if guidelines are not kept to.

Looking at it on that level, it does seem a little too intrusive. A little bit big brother. Parents cannot be trusted to do a job on their own so the state intervenes and puts reminders for them on toys, clothing, packaging, buses...

However, that aside, I have to say that I think it is a good idea – and a lot better than the parenting leaflets advocated in the current Family Justice Review that I mentioned recently. It comes from think-tank CentreForum Parenting Matters report as part of a campaign to aid child development and is modeled on the food campaign of the same name.

It don’t think any of us needs research to spell out that quality of parenting in a child’s life has a significant influence on their later progress at school, in work and perhaps even as being a wider benefit to society generally (can’t help but comment on the state of some elements of society when seeing all the riots/looting on television at the moment. Where are/were the parents?). Using five simple messages to remind parents of basic steps they can take to aid their child’s development seems to me to be a good idea. When parents split up, too often you can see examples of where the children have not benefitted from the attention that a scheme like five-a-day might bring them.

Now, in suggesting that they need these five a day reminders I know I’m doing a huge disservice to the vast majority of parents who do an exemplary job of bringing up their children and preparing them to be good adults. They don’t need this and in an ideal world, no one would – but in the current climate, what is the harm in having them out there to help steer the adults who need help?

Andrew Woolley
Family solicitor


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