Quality Mentors from Early Years facilitated a parents workshop to help include parents more in Good Relations.
Early Years is the largest organisation in Northern Ireland working with and for young children, and is core funded by the Community Relations Council.
The parents workshop occurred on 29 September 2021 with Early Years practitioners and parents from settings implementing the Media Initiative for Children Respecting Difference Programme (which is also funded by the Community Relations Council).
One of the key elements of all successful early childhood programmes, according to Early Years, is a partnership between the early childhood setting and parents. This partnership needs to be authentic, meaningful and respectful of the particular strengths of parents and their needs.
Family involvement is also crucial to the success of young children’s learning. It is acknowledged that parents are the first educators of their children and to carry out this role they need ongoing support and meaningful engagement in children’s care and development. It is integral to respect the values and culture that parents bring to the work with young children.
Experiential Learning Opportunities
When parents enrol their children on the Media Initiative for Children, Early Years ensures they share with them all aspects of the curriculum. This provides an opportunity to talk about the MIFC and their involvement as partners in the delivery of the programme. This initial discussion will provide parents with opportunities to voice any fears or concerns that they may have about the programme. Parents will benefit from experiential learning and opportunities to reflect on their own values, attitudes and prejudices and also learn how to support the programme in their own home.
Gives children the chance to talk about feelings, emotions and how to handle situations they might come up against. Also highlights similarities and differences in each other and that’s ok to be different”
Workshops will help build parents own confidence in dealing with diversity issues with their own children at home. Workshops will also support practitioners and parents to work together towards ensuring that the MIFC is implemented. Workshops also provide the opportunity for parents to explore together how the approach can foster a culture of inclusion and diversity within their local community.
This is all brilliant I work in healthcare(mental health) and it’s great to educate people on diversity because it can have very detrimental effects on children, adolescents and adults”
Frequently Asked Questions from parents/carers
Early Years has provided the following information about the Media Initiative for Children programme.
What is the Media Initiative for Children?
The Media Initiative for Children (MIFC) was developed by Early Years (formerly known as NIPPA) and the Peace Initiatives Institute (Pii) USA. It combines a series of cartoon messages with a pre-school programme. Together they aim to build a better understanding among young children of physical, social and cultural differences.
Why does my child need to become involved in the project?
The following quotations from Professor Paul Connolly’s research shows that children become aware of differences at an early age.
“Children are naturally curious. They usually become aware of disability sometime around three years of age and will ask many questions about a child they perceive as different.”
“Children as young as two years do notice differences in physical appearance, such as skin colour.”
“Some children will undoubtedly develop quite entrenched sectarian beliefs at a very young age while others may not even come to appreciate that Catholics and Protestants exists until they are much older.”
“Children become aware of symbols in their environment around the age of two or three. By the ages of five or six some children are making sectarian remarks.”
Professor Connolly recommends that children from the age of three should be encouraged to explore and experience a range of different cultural practices, events and symbols and to appreciate and respect difference and cultural identity. (Connolly et al, 2002)
What kind of things will the children be doing?
Children will view the cartoon messages and take part in games and activities which are age appropriate and will provide opportunities to discuss and acknowledge similarities and differences between themselves and others. There are also home-links activities for parents and children to participate in together.
Will this not only highlight differences to children who might not otherwise notice?
There is clear evidence that children notice human differences at a very early age and that these distinctions become part of the earliest construction of their social world. It is a hurtful reality that children can be excluded from play on the basis of difference and that they may be teased and ridiculed because of this. This is a painful experience for children, families and those who work with children.
This project does not seek to reinforce or create stereotypes but to challenge those which already exist in society. On the contrary, it aims to eliminate such prejudices and prevent them from developing in the first place.
The MIFC Respecting Difference Programme aims to build a society which respects difference; therefore, we have to break the culture of silence that surrounds us. If we are to be effective we need to highlight issues which is not the same as highlighting a child.
In fact when a child’s difference is not recognised in a group in which they are a minority, there is a danger that they may feel overlooked and ignored because they are different. For example, stating that all children in the group are the same when in fact there may be children in the group from different minority ethnic backgrounds. This is sometimes called ‘diversity blindness’. With this approach a child may receive a message that their difference is not valued, or is embarrassing to talk about.
The parent workshop will be facilitated via teams to parents & practitioners in settings throughout Northern Ireland including; Belfast (East), Belfast (South), Newry, Mourne and Down, Lisburn & Castlereagh and North Down & Ards.