Jeannine Schumann heads up the EltereCafé meeting place for parents.
Photo: Mike Zenari
On a quiet corner in Esch-sur-Alzette is a room with bright, upcycled furnishings, and shelves lined with children’s games, toys and books.
There is also plenty of coffee and tea on hand: the “EltereCafé” (or Parent Café) serves as a meeting place where parents can pop in, with or without their children, to have a hot cuppa during the café’s opening hours (Tuesday mornings and Wednesday afternoons at the time of writing).
While some of the parents visit to exchange advice or their own experiences in raising children, others come merely to practise a foreign language or to meet new people. During the opening hours, a staff member is also on site to help answer questions parents may have.
According to the team at the Eltereschoul Janusz Korczak (part of the Fondation Kannerschlass), which runs the programme, there’s been an uptick recently in the number of English speakers at the café, in part due to new families living in the area to be close to the international schools in Differdange and Esch.
By autumn, the team hopes to have an additional opening time specifically geared toward new parents, according to Jeannine Schumann, who heads the Eltereschoul, for “a mother or father who is on parental leave… [who] are used to working all day and having a social life”.
The café is just one of a number of initiatives run by the school runs, which welcomed around 5,600 parents in 2018. The team works mainly on two levels. First, it offers a number of conferences and classes tackling some 70 topics ranging from screen time for young children and school bullying to its “You are not born a parent” workshop geared for future mums and dads. But it also works with a number of other institutions and is open to customisation according to their needs.
“I think one of the best examples is the ‘épiceries sociales’ organised by the Croix Rouge, for people who don’t have much money and cannot buy things in a normal shop,” Schumann says. “These people are perhaps doing well with their children, but they have a difficulty which links them together, this problem of not having enough money.” She adds that it’s important that parents get the right messages that even if they find themselves in a difficult situation, they have support available when it comes to their children. (Even if the support isn’t coming from the Eltereschoul or the Fondation Kannerschlass more broadly, the team is equipped to point parents in the right direction for other services.)
Although French has been the main language of its activities in the past, the Eltereschoul team adapts accordingly and has held a number of activities in English as well.
It is increasingly being asked by companies to run lunchtime workshops, ideal for working parents who don’t necessarily have the time to meet in the evenings. Not only is this a way for companies to participate in one aspect of the “positive actions” scheme outlined by the ministry of Equality between women and men, but “it’s also showing parents the importance, as a company, that you are giving to their family lives,” Schumann says. She adds that parents also gain certain skills while they’re home with their children that can be transferred to the company. “You get a lot more stress-resistant, more organised… both [parents and companies] can benefit from this.”