The impact of your living environment

The impact of your living environment
Are you familiar with the community organizations in your area? Does your city support families? Read on to see how local activities and services also have a role to play in your child’s development.

Are you familiar with the community organizations in your area? Does your city support families? Read on to see how local activities and services also have a role to play in your child’s development.

An increasing number of towns and cities across Quebec are making efforts to improve their support to families by adopting family policies. These improvements concern various spheres of community life, including recreation and sports, cultural activities, real estate development, and access to municipal infrastructures such as arenas or parks.

“Family policies may even dictate urban planning and design to ensure children can play safely,” highlights Marc-André Plante, General Manager of Carrefour action municipale et famille, an organization that supports the development of municipal family policies in Quebec. For example, Beloeil, Verdun and Sorel-Tracy have amended their regulations to allow children to play in the street.

“Playing in the street is an opportunity for young kids to explore their neighbourhood,” explains Marc-André Plante. “It’s where they have fun with their first friends and develop social skills.”

Cities are having to adapt to meet the changing needs of families. “In most families nowadays, both parents work, and one of them may have an atypical schedule,” explains Marc-André Plante. “There are also more blended families.”

Cities are therefore offering more flexible activities that fit in better with parents’ hours. Families can choose to go at the times that suit them best, without being obliged to sign up or follow a complete session. For example, the city of Rouyn-Noranda, in a joint effort with community organizations, has created Tic-Tac Parc. Through this initiative, the city’s parks now have boxes containing toys and books available to everyone all the time. Other towns and cities put on free events such as outdoor movie nights or story times.

Also, today’s dads are more present in their children’s lives. “Before, you’d almost never find changing tables in men’s washrooms,” Marc-André Plante points out. “Decision-makers have now understood that changing a diaper is not a task reserved for moms. Family locker rooms in public pool facilities also make it easier for dads to accompany their daughters to swimming lessons.”

In fact, to recognize the commitment of cities and some establishments towards children and families, several certifications have appeared in recent years such as Child Friendly Cities, the Certifié famille program or the ISO Famille certification.

Community organizations

Community organizations in cities also play an important role in the lives of families and children. For example, some offer workshops or playgroups where children can socialize. “These organizations offer complementary stimulation in a different setting and so add to a child’s experiences,” explains Annie Bérubé, professor with the Department of Educational Psychology and Psychology at Université du Québec en Outaouais.

“Others offer respite to parents, help lines or psychological support,” adds Marie Lindsay, president of the Regroupement des organismes communautaires Famille de la région de la Capitale-Nationale (Association of family community organizations for the National Capital Region). “Some even organize coffee get-togethers or seminars for parents. These services help in toddler development since a supported parent is a better parent.”

Unfortunately, there’s a lack of information out there. According to the Institut de la statistique du Québec, a quarter of parents with young children don’t know about the services offered to families in their area. Many parents are also reluctant to seek help for themselves; they think they don’t really need it.

Your municipality’s website can help you find activities offered in your neighbourhood!

Yet these services can benefit parents in several ways. “Mothers often feel quite isolated after the birth of their child,” says Marie Lindsay. “Our organizations allow them to talk to other parents about their experiences, develop friendships and help each other out.” Annie Bérubé adds that the dads and moms who participate find it very rewarding to discover that they can be so helpful to others.

These services are also good for children. In her research, Annie Bérubé evaluated several community organizations. “We questioned about one hundred parents, whose comments were all positive,” she says. “They see the benefits on their child’s socialization and overall development.”

Montreal: A new children’s policy
In spring 2016, the city of Montreal introduced a Policy on Children to mark its commitment to all children from birth to age 17. The city wants to create what it calls a “child reflex”, to ensure that children are taken into account in municipal decision-making. The Policy on Children aims to help meet children’s needs by creating more favourable environments for them, by improving access to culture, sports and recreation, by promoting healthy eating, and by stepping up efforts to encourage academic perseverance.
  • Grandparents, uncles, aunts, friends, neighbours : everyone can contribute to a child’s healthy development.
  • When surrounded by people who love and take care of her, your child will build self-confidence and learn to bond with other people.
  • Your entourage offers your child different kinds of stimulation, which allows her to learn new things.
  • The environment your child grows up in and the services available to families in your local area can also help her thrive.
Naître et grandir

Source : Naître et grandir Magazine, November 2016
Research and copywriting : Julie Leduc
Scientific review : Julie Brousseau, psychologist

Photo : Futcher