Twenty years ago, Ellen Ringier founded Stiftung Elternsein (the Parenthood Foundation), following her inner conviction that more support was needed for parenting training. Since then, bringing up children has become much more complex. Stiftung Elternsein has taken on this challenge. Through the services it provides, it has become an established institution when it comes to parenting classes.
As human beings, we tend to brush problems and feelings of being overwhelmed under the carpet,’ points out Thomas Schlickenrieder, Managing Director of Stiftung Elternsein. That’s where the foundation comes in. They discuss problems such as parental burnout and shine a light on them. ‘When we raise the issue and make people aware that thousands of parents suffer from depressive exhaustion, we put a face to the topic and those affected no longer feel alone,’ he adds. ‘The knowledge that others are hurting too doesn’t lessen your own pain, but it does make it easier to bear.’ The foundation encourages discussion among those affected to get parents out of their isolation.
Easily accessible training
The idea for Stiftung Elternsein grew from a desire to exchange experiences and a curiosity to find out more. When asked about her motives, founder Ellen Ringier says: ‘I suspect that highly trained lawyers like myself often think they know the answers to life’s questions.’ Completely underestimating the difficulty of bringing up children, she had never picked up a parenting manual or anything like it before. To drive a car or a motorboat you need training and a licence. But not to become a parent. ‘That didn’t make sense to me. The name of the foundation came from the German saying that becoming a father is easy, but being a father is a different matter. ‘Vater sein’ (being a father) became ‘Elternsein’ (being a parent), and Stiftung Elternsein was born.’
Parenting training for all
In the foundation’s anniversary report, experts express their opinion that the challenges faced by parents when raising their children will only grow in the future. As an example, Katrin Aklin from Stiftung OPA is quoted saying, ‘Something that seems obvious in the world of work is not universally acknowledged when it comes to the role of the parent: it’s become more complex. Parenthood is no longer just a matter of common sense … We urgently need to update our knowledge in this area, instead of referring back to our own childhood experiences. Preparing children for the future requires parents to rethink their role and keep learning.’ Stiftung Elternsein tackles this with the future-focussed project ‘Elternbildung für Alle’ (Parenting training for all).
The readers of Fritz+Fränzi and the visitors to the website will be actively honing their skills as parents on a continual basis, writes Thomas Schlickenrieder. One group of parents might seek advice if they have a specific problem, and another might not access parenting training at all, because they deem it unnecessary. Due to the increasing complexity of child-rearing, he considers parenting training indispensable. ‘Our new digital, easy-to-use formats are highly accessible to new learners,’ explains the Managing Director. The foundation hopes that this will lead sceptical parents gently towards their offerings. ‘We aim to keep parents one step ahead of their child’s development in terms of their own knowledge, so that they perceive their child as an enrichment to their lives and support them, rather than seeing them as an inconvenience.’
A whole spectrum of media channels
Stiftung Elternsein began 20 years ago with the print magazine Fritz+Fränzi. ‘Today, we’re active across nine channels,’ says Thomas Schlickenrieder. ‘We have print media, newsletters and our website, along with social media – Facebook, Pinterest. We have films, as well as events, workshops and awareness weeks. The expansion of our offerings has meant that we take social changes into account, as well as altered, varied media use and the trend towards simple, easily understandable, mainly digital formats,’ he explains.
All you need to know about Fritz+Fränzi; a review of 20 years of parental education.