Universal Children’s Day is officially celebrated on Friday, November 20th, but people around the world have been holding events all this week. Universal Children’s Day marks the date in 1959 when the UN General Assembly adopted the Declaration of the Rights of the Child. It is also the date in 1989 when the UN General Assembly adopted the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Ireland ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1992.
Why is this so important? It recognises, on a global scale, that children have special rights and that all children deserve to have their rights protected. Everyone has a role in protecting the rights of children: governments, schools, communities, families and parents. Parents, as the first carers and protectors of children, have a special role to play. Below is a summary of some of the rights included in the Convention and ideas as to how parents can help protect those rights.
- Children have the right to care and to be part of a family. All children need love and affection—for babies, parents and carers show this my holding them close and responding quickly to their needs. As children grow older, they still need as much love and affection, although this may look different. Babies need to be held and cuddled often; teenagers need to know that you are still there to provide safety and a warm hug even if they seem to be pulling away
- Children have the right to food, clothing, a safe place to live and to have their basic needs met. If, as a parent, you struggle to provide any of these things for your child, the government has a responsibility to support you and your child to meet their basic needs.
- Children have the right to an education. Education is essential so that all children can reach their full potential. In the early years, this means talking, reading and playing with your child. As they grow, this continues, but parents also have an important role in ensuring that their child attends school and advocating for their child if any issues arise
- Children have the right to play. This is how children learn, and all children should have access to open, safe spaces where they play, explore and spend time with their friends
- Children have the right to use their voice and to have it heard. Children, of all ages, have the right to express their views on what happens to them, and, as far as is possible, to have their views respected. Parents play a pivotal role in listening to their children and supporting them to express their views.
This is just a taste of some of children’s rights. If you would like more information on the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, please see www.itsyourright.ie for a child-friendly explanation. Discussing this with your child can be a great way to explore your child’s understanding of their rights and the rights of all children. It can open up a discussion of how family and government should support the rights of children in Ireland and around the world. If you are struggling as a parent in supporting the rights of your child, please go to www.loveparenting.ie for a range of services in Limerick that can help you.
This article was contributed a member of Parenting Limerick. Parenting Limerick is a network of parenting and family support organisations.