November 19, 2004 | By: Aimee Heald-Nielson

People from all walks of life can affect a child’s upbringing. From parents, teachers and doctors to social workers, religious leaders and many more, children are influenced by everyone around them.

As a result, recently the University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service partnered with UK Department of Family Studies, UK College of Social Work Training Resource Center and several community sponsors to host an interactive parenting conference at the Fayette County Cooperative Extension office in Lexington.

The conference theme was “What Does it Take to Raise a Child?” Carole Gnatuk, an Extension family child development specialist at UK and one of the organizers of the conference, said the goal was to answer the theme question from three perspectives.

“We wanted parents to hear what it takes to raise a child from the perspective of the family; the village, that is the community; and the perspective of knowledge, that is the land grant university with its research that should be reaching out to the community,” she said.

During the daylong event, participants engaged in three interactive sessions to discuss issues affecting parenting and children. Professor and Chair of UK’s Department of Family Studies Gladys Hildreth said "experience is the best teacher.”

“I parented four children, now adults, and used some of the same messages I heard today regarding research and education,” she said. “Taking what has been proven to work and putting it into practice works with children and parents. So, I want people to understand that there is some method to raising children.”

Participants came together over lunch to listen to keynote speaker Diane Levin, professor of education at Wheelock College in Boston, Mass. Levin spoke about how the media and popular culture affect children. She has written six books including “Remote Control Childhood? Combating the Hazards of Media Culture,” the focus of her keynote address.

“I hope people realize there’s so much more we can do to help children than we have been doing,” she said. “We border on being irresponsible in leaving it up to the media and popular culture to socialize our children, rather than trying to influence the messages and lessons they’re teaching.”

There are so many implications for child development and parenting just by being aware of media culture, Gnatuk added.

“It really is exciting and important for communities to come together and think about children,” Levin said. “It really is to their credit that they are working to get better and create community and support networks for families that are needed to raise a whole child.”

After three panel discussions and the keynote address, participants compiled ideas and discussion topics.

“We hope we’ll be able to synthesize all the information from today and determine some action steps to take to make life better for families so that children grow up in more healthy ways,” Gnatuk said.



Writer: Aimee D. Nielson  859-257-4736, ext. 267