National parenting strategy: making a positive difference to children and young people through parenting

Our national parenting strategy seeks to strengthen the support on offer to parents and make it easier for them to access this support.

Section 6: Additional challenges

In tandem with improving the level of support on offer to Scotland's parents as a whole, we will also take steps to provide targeted support to those groups facing additional challenges that impact on day-to-day parenting.

This includes groups such as fathers, lone parents, parents of disabled children and young people, parents of teenagers and teenage parents to name just a few. We want to reach the widest range of parents possible to help them feel encouraged and supported in their role, able to manage their own needs and provide a loving, stable home for their children.


Children whose parents do not live together have the right to stay in contact with both parents unless this might hurt the child. UNCRC, Article 9 (3)

An increasing number of fathers are, and want to be, playing an active role in their children's upbringing; a role we know to make a real and practical difference, providing a positive role model that benefits children's development, communities and our country at large.

All too often however, when discussing parenting we still tend to think of the mother rather than the father, leaving fathers feeling of secondary importance or worse, excluded altogether – perhaps nowhere more so than where fathers have separated from the mother of their child and no longer share the family home. Many fathers confided that they feel neither welcome nor supported by family services, and feel as if they are just expected to cope while mothers receive support.

Some of the things fathers told us would help, included:

'More support groups geared for and attended by fathers.'

'My son won't encounter a male in his education until secondary school. This isn't directly a parenting issue but it reflects and enforces a cultural view that children aren't really a male concern – a view that DOES affect parenting.'

Encouraging and supporting fathers to play an active role in their child's upbringing is key if we are to improve the health, wellbeing and life chances of Scotland's children and young people. As such, making our policies and services more 'dad-friendly' is a priority – including addressing fathers' wishes to see more men working in children's services.

Our commitment to Scotland's parents:

  • Through the funding we have put in place for organisations such as Men in Childcare, we are working to redress the existing gender imbalance and raise awareness of the need for more men in early years settings
  • We are funding a father's project run by Children in Scotland to promote ways that public policies and public services can ensure more equal treatment of fathers and male carers, and identify and encourage strategies and practices that result in greater equality in parenting responsibility
  • We are also funding Families Need Fathers to run a project providing information and support for fathers and other family members facing contact problems after separation. They are also working to improve understanding of existing legal rights and promote involvement of non resident fathers in their children's education
  • Following the Women's Employment Summit which included a focus on women's experience of occupational segregation, we plan to address the barriers men face, such as in the area of men working in early years settings
  • A fathers' roundtable meeting will be held twice a year, acting in an advisory capacity on national policy and how this impacts on fathers, and ensuring the interests of fathers are properly included in the implementation of the National Parenting Strategy
  • NHS Health Scotland will set up a Fathers' Forum to share practical knowledge and experience of working with dads to help ensure NHS policies and services are more dad-friendly.

Lone parents

Both parents share responsibility for bringing up their children and should consider what is best for each child. UNCRC, Article 18 (1)

Almost one in four children now live in one-parent households – a figure that is projected to rise further over coming years. Whether children have always only had one parent, their parents have divorced, they were never married or one of their parents has died, there's no evidence to suggest that children of lone parents automatically do any worse in life than those with two.

Their parents however, have told us that having sole responsibility for the roles of breadwinner and carer can, at times, make their role much more difficult as they juggle caring for children, maintaining child contact with the absent parent, seeking/retaining employment, managing finances and so on.

Some of the things that parents told us would help included:

'Information on what's happening and what support exists in the local community.'

'Having someone get to know my situation and point me in the right direction for help.'

We want to ensure that the services and support exist to meet the particular needs of lone parents.

Our commitment to Scotland's parents:

  • We will continue to provide specialist information, advice and support services tailored to meet the needs of lone parents and practitioners working with lone parent families.

Parenting disabled children and young people

Disabled children have the right to special care and support. UNCRC, Article 23 (2)

Finding appropriate childcare facilities, sourcing coordinated support, help with the adolescent years and beyond – feedback received tells us these issues are all the more acute when parenting a disabled child or young person.

Some of the things that parents told us would help included:

'Information specifically for parents of children with additional support needs.'

'Places for young people with disabilities once they leave school.'

Allied Health Professionals (speech and language therapists, physiotherapists and occupational therapists) have an important role in supporting parents of disabled children, promoting development in critical areas such as communication and language, mobility and play and access to education. They also help parents get the right support for their children, dealing with a range of different services.

Our commitment to Scotland's parents:

  • We will be working with Parent Network Scotland to take forward a Parent Support Project that offers help to parents of disabled children, including:
    • General parenting support
    • Strategies for coping with challenging behaviour and managing stress
    • Specialist information, advice and support including access to services and other sources of support
    • Opportunities to share concerns and experiences, and support each other to resolve problems
  • We are setting up a network of 'Disability Champions' whereby every taskforce and advisory group working with Scottish Government on children and family issues will have a Champion identified from the existing membership, making sure the needs of disabled children, young people and their families are considered. The network is likely to include statutory and non-statutory representatives, including parents.

Parents of teenagers

Governments must ensure that adolescents are given a genuine chance to express their views freely on all matters affecting them. Parents and other adults working with or for children need to create an environment based on trust, information sharing, the capacity to listen and sound guidance. UNCRC General Comment no. 4

In a rapidly changing world the task of parenting is becoming increasingly challenging – and for many parents of teenagers increasingly stressful. So much so, a third of all calls to ParentLine Scotland are now made by parents of teenagers.

It's during the adolescent years that teenagers develop the desire and ability to think and act independently from others [29] . For some, it may also be a time for experimenting in risky behaviours, the consequences of which can impact on health and wellbeing in later life [30] .

Parents face the challenge of balancing their teens' desire for independence alongside the need for continued parental involvement, guidance and nurturance [31] . Many find it hard to cope, experiencing symptoms of depression and anxiety, particularly one-parent families and those on low incomes [32] .

Some of the things that parents told us would help included:

'Advice on how to handle mood swings and broach the subject of body changes.'

'Coping with teenagers. As they get older, it gets harder.'

Many parents said they not only found the teenage years especially hard, but also more difficult to get help with, and we recognise this is an area in which we need to do more.

Our commitment to Scotland's parents:

  • We will assess the information and advice we provide to parents of teenagers in Scotland, to ensure that it is comprehensive, consistent and appropriate, meets their needs, and is accessible to a diverse range of parents and carers. We will work with local partners to ensure this is delivered to all parents in the right ways.

Teenage parents

There is strong evidence that the children of teenage parents are more likely to experience poorer outcomes. Much of this can be attributed to the fact that 75 per cent of teenage parents come from the most deprived areas of Scotland [33] , with inequalities at pregnancy, birth and the early years often having a significant bearing on maternal health and the subsequent development of the child, its health, happiness and productivity in society [34] .

That said, teenage parents also want the best for their children and need support that is tailored to their specific needs. Support such as antenatal and postnatal groups that are aimed at younger mothers, where they can establish social networks with their peers are a good way of services providing the right support.

As one teenage parent commented:

"I think everybody at those groups would just be too old anyway. They'd be like twenty… mid-twenties or something." [35]

Some of the things that parents told us would help included:

'Being able to ask questions, no matter how small or embarrassing, without feeling you might be judged.'

'Feeling properly listened to and understood.'

Supporting pregnant teenagers and teenage parents – first-time teenage parents, in particular – is a priority and we are committed to using evidence-based interventions and policy making to support sustained behaviour change.

Our commitment to Scotland's parents:

  • We are extending the Family Nurse Partnership ( FNP) programme to five NHS Boards areas by the end of 2013 [36] , meaning we will reach three times as many first-time teenage mums and many of the dads too by the end of 2013. We remain committed to extension of FNP over the longer term so that it is available across Scotland
  • Over the coming year, we will be working with NHS Lothian to develop a teenage pregnancy pathway, to complement and enhance the established policies around Maternity Care, but including both pre-conception preventative activity and support for those who do not continue with their pregnancy.

Families affected by imprisonment

Ensure children can stay in touch with parents in prison (unless this might harm them) and to ensure they are treated fairly and with respect. UNCRC, Concluding Observation 45 (d)

If parenting in general is becoming increasingly challenging amidst today's changing cultural and social climate then parenting from prison can be exceptionally difficult given the physical separation, uncertainty over what to tell their child and the lack of access to formal and informal parenting support.

Some of the things that parents told us would help included:

'Bonding visits… essential for children and maintaining a relationship with the family member imprisoned.'

'Having a play area in the visiting room.'

Maintaining good relations with loved ones on the outside can have a huge bearing on how successfully offenders reintegrate into their communities and with it, their children's wellbeing and future life chances. The Scottish Prison Service is hard at work promoting meaningful contact between prisoners, their children and families.

Our commitment to Scotland's parents:

  • For the first time ever, parenting issues will be included in the next Prison Visitors' Survey in Winter 2012
  • Together, the Scottish Prison Service and Scottish Government will consider ways of supporting families affected by imprisonment, looking at:
    • Encouraging involvement between parents in custody and their children
    • Providing targeted support for parents in prison to aid their reintegration and help them to deter their own children from offending behaviour
  • As part of its updated Child Protection Procedures for Children Visiting Scottish Prisons published in summer 2012, the Scottish Prison Service will develop a set of minimum standards for family support
  • The Scottish Prison Service, Scottish Government and community partners will continue working to create more positive visiting experiences, including exploring the feasibility of family-friendly visitor centres.

Youth crime

Children in secure care should be able to keep in touch with their families. UNCRC, Article 37 (c)

A background of disrupted family life has been strongly associated with youths who offend. To minimise the damage caused it's important that we support initiatives aimed at helping young people who offend to build up their personal resources during their stay in secure care or custody and ensure the smoothest transition possible when returning to their families and communities.

Family involvement can make a huge difference, both to the ease of transition and to building on any gains made while in secure care or custody, and it is a priority of the Scottish Government under the Whole System Approach to provide the right support at the right time to young people who offend and to their families.

Our commitment to Scotland's parents:

  • Over the next year, in partnership with Families Outside, we will work with families of young people in secure care to research the needs of this group, identify effective strategies for engaging them and ensure they have the information they need to play a meaningful role
  • Over the next three years we will work in partnership with the Criminal Justice Social Work Development Centre for Scotland and a family therapy training network to deliver postgraduate, professionally accredited, foundation and intermediate level training courses in systemic practice and family interventions for up to 20 practitioners per year.

Domestic abuse

Ensure that professionals working with children are trained to report and take appropriate action where they suspect domestic violence affecting children. UNCRC, Concluding observation 51b

Domestic abuse can have a devastating impact on the adults, children and young people at risk, their families and their communities.

Some of the things that parents said would help included:

'Information on how to get help.'

'Listening to the parent's views when considering what services to put in place for the child.'

The Domestic Abuse Delivery Plan for Children and Young People 2008–2011 outlined 13 priorities for improving outcomes, many of which we are committed to taking forward.

Our commitment to Scotland's parents:

  • We will take forward key recommendations as the legacy of the Domestic Abuse Delivery Plan for Children and Young People including:
    • Introducing and evaluating a child-centred approach to ensuring safe contact for children in domestic abuse cases
    • Developing a training programme that raises awareness of the issues around contact and introduces a basis risk assessment
    • Piloting specialist domestic abuse risk assessments in a family court
  • We are implementing The Caledonian System – a programme that works with men convicted of domestic abuse-related offences to reduce re-offending and offers support to women and children – across 13 local authorities
  • We have provided funding for a cohort of trainees to run The Caring Dads Parenting Programme – a 17-week group work programme that follows on from The Caledonian System, aiming to help fathers improve their relationship with their children and end controlling, abusive and neglectful behaviours.


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