Abu Dhabi

The Department of Community Development in Abu Dhabi (DCD) has launched, in cooperation with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), an awareness campaign entitled "Listen First" which aims to increase awareness among community members in general and families in particular of the need to listen to children from early childhood to age 18 as post-adolescence.

Her Excellency Dr. Laila Al-Hayas, Executive Director of the Monitoring and Innovation Sector at DCD, explained that the cooperation with the UNODC has led to launching this awareness campaign for the first time in the Arab region. In fact, we recognize this campaign’s important educational value for the family. Individuals mainly learn the art of hearing and listening through the interactions that take place between family members, as family is the social environment or, so to say, “the first life school” which teaches its members the foundations of life, in addition to effective communication skills. Indeed, the approach of the late founder of the UAE, Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, regarding education through listening and engaging children in dialogue is one of the most distinguished examples in the Emirati society on teaching skills and providing children with experiences.

In this regard, many studies have shown that actively listening to children is one of the most protective factors against dangerous behaviors, most notably bullying, substance abuse, and violence. These studies emphasized the importance of parents listening in promoting the proper growth of children, refining their personalities, and enhancing their self-confidence, on how to nudge children to evade risky behaviors.

Al-Hayas explained that the first phase of the campaign includes the distribution of a set of educational publications, on the scientific fact sheets and educational videos display both cartoon figures and real life that portray children and caretakers. These have been developed by a team of specialists based on the latest studies and scientific foundations to come up with scientific steps that enable parents to create a healthy and positive relationship with their children. Among the main topics that were highlighted in the educational content, we list the importance of patience in dealing with children, the importance of following a daily routine with children, the importance of using praise and commendation for positive behaviors, and the importance of showing affection and friendliness towards them. The publications also tackle the important role of parents in educating their children about the digital world and listening to their opinions, concerns and the challenges they face, in order to better protect them from online abuse and bullying.

Al-Hayas stressed that the DCD is constantly striving to implement initiatives and campaigns that mainly serve the community and its members with the aim of achieving social welfare in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi, and reaching the highest indicators of quality of life for all segments of society. HE highlighted the extent of the interest that our country attributes to the family in general and the child in particular by providing strategies, infrastructure, and programs that enhance family cohesion and quality of life.

Judge Hatem Aly, Representative of UNODC for the Gulf Cooperation Council Region, commended the DCD for the launch of the “Listen First” campaign. “The campaign attests to the relentless commitment of the UAE authorities to investing in youth and communities at large to promote safe, resilient and sustainable societies. Children and youth empowerment is a key part of UNODC’s work towards preventing drug use and crime, and thanks to the collaboration with DCD we hope to expand this initiative to other countries in the region.”

For his part, Engineer Thamer Rashid Al Qasimi, Executive Director, Special Projects & Outreach at Abu Dhabi Early Childhood Authority, said: “As parents play an active role in developing the skills and capabilities of their children, it is necessary to promote communication and dialogue with them, especially in the early years of their lives. This helps parents build a sound relationship with their children based on trust, appreciation and better understanding of their emotional and mental needs, while enhancing their social skills and shaping their personalities. In addition to elevating the societal awareness of the importance of listening to children and respecting their right to expression and participation, the ‘Listen First’ campaign will help increase parents’ understanding of the importance of positive communication with children and its potential impact on their behavior. This prevents our children from developing negative behaviors in the future, and fosters their linguistic, cognitive, social, emotional and physical development, while ensuring their growth and prosperity in an enabling and supportive environment.”

Al Qasimi added: “To help create a favorable environment for children, the authority is working in collaboration with its partners on several initiatives and programs to empower and build the capabilities of both parents and caregivers in early childhood development. We are also set to launch several development programs, including a safe school program to coordinate efforts among various entities to ensure a consistent approach in protecting children at Abu Dhabi schools. We have also planned a positive parenting program to develop standardized scientific content and disseminate knowledge on the duties of parents towards children, the principles of positive parenting, communication and conflict resolution between parents and children, and achieving better response to children needs. These programs will allow various service sectors to play an active role in elevating parental awareness and ensuring improved level of child safety and psychosocial wellbeing. Furthermore, these programs will support the development of specialized research studies in the area of early childhood by measuring and evaluating their impact on the children and society.”

Abdulrahman Sayed Al blooshi, Strategic Planning & Institutional Development Division Director of Family Development Foundation (FDF), said: “The launch of this campaign by DCD comes at a crucial time when children need the best possible care, and parents need to be reminded of the importance of being close to their children, and allowing themselves enough time to listen and build confidence in them.”

“We live in a harmonious and homogeneous society, where the family has long played a pivotal role in the upbringing of children before help from domestic workers, virtual friends, and new communication channels came into existence. The family dialogue has been of great importance in understanding, protecting, and knowing children and their needs. Amid the rapid pace of development that the world has witnessed, societies have undergone significant changes, thus it has become crucial for families to pay more attention to their role in protecting the internal social structure. Since the time of the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, our leadership has set an excellent example in promoting constructive dialogue with diverse segments of society as a fundamental pillar of building a modern state.

“Her Highness Sheikha Fatima bint Mubarak, Chairwoman of the General Women's Union (GWU), Supreme Chairwoman of the Family Development Foundation, President of the Supreme Council for Motherhood and Childhood, and the "Mother of the Nation" has been a role model in raising children, listening to their needs and shaping their personalities. H.H. has not missed any opportunity to urge families to take care of their children, and protect them from the challenges presented by the rapid technological transformation and its repercussions on our social structure. Therefore, such issues should be dealt with high level of awareness, understanding, patience and wisdom away from violence, bullying and unnecessary pressure on children, especially when it comes to their education,” Al blooshi added.

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