We know how to create stronger foundations for children’s development. One active ingredient is the “serve and return” relationships that children have with their parents and other caregivers in their family or community. Like the process of serve and return in games such as tennis or volleyball, young children naturally reach out for interaction through babbling and facial expressions. If adults to do not respond by getting in sync and doing the same kind of vocalizing and gesturing back at them, the child’s learning process is incomplete. This has negative implications for later learning.
Chronic stressful conditions such as extreme poverty, abuse, or severe maternal depression—what scientists now call “toxic stress”—can also disrupt the architecture of the developing brain. This can lead to lifelong difficulties in learning, memory and self-regulation. Children who are exposed to serious early stress develop an exaggerated stress response that, over time, weakens their defense system against disease, from heart disease to diabetes and depression. We must take steps to minimize children’s exposure to toxic stress and offer help to children in these situations to buffer this stress and make it more manageable.
The Children’s Movement of Florida aims to help parents offset the effects of toxic stress by advocating for more state investment in high-quality information and support for all families. Parent initiatives like Help Me Grow, can help increase their knowledge of child development, provide examples of safe and healthy things to do with children, build skills for managing the rigors of parenting, and, in more intensive initiatives, provide support during challenging times
When we don’t attend to these important aspects of development now, there are serious consequences later. Trying to change behavior or build new skills on a foundation of brain circuits that were not wired properly when they were first formed requires more work and is less effective. This means we need to invest in the kinds of programs that affect child well-being early on, because remedial education, clinical treatment and other professional interventions are more costly and produce less desirable outcomes than the provision of nurturing, protective relationships and appropriate learning experiences earlier in life.
What We Propose
- To help parents with the early development and effective nurturing of their children, we must continue to expand and publicize Help Me Grow Florida, a 2-1-1 phone network of trained staffers ready to help. Those services are available at no fee to families. In addition, the Help Me Grow website in available 104 languages, including English, Spanish and Creole.
- While young children’s development research has exploded in the last two decades, many parents are often are unaware of it. As a consequence, we must make developmental information common knowledge.
- The Impact of Family Involvement on the Education of Children Ages 3 to 8 – MDRC. A report that discusses the vital role that family involvement has on the development of their children’s reading, math, and social skills.
- The Science of Neglect: The Persistent Absence of Responsive Care Disrupts the Developing Brain – National Scientific Council on the Developing Child. Defines Neglect and explains how and why it negatively impacts a child’s development.
- The Influence of Parenting on Early Childhood Health and Health Care Utilization – Journal of Pediatric Psychology. This journal article discusses the impact of parenting practices on children’s health and healthcare.
- Parenting and Outcomes for Children – Joseph Rowntree Foundation. This review provides an insight into different parenting theories and how the parent-child relationship impacts a child’s social outcomes.
- Special Kids, Special Parents, Special Education – University of Michigan Journal of Law Reform. This report details the hardships that the parents of children with special needs often face when attempting to ensure that their children receive the educations that they need while also highlighting possible solutions that can be pursued.
Disclaimer: These links to third-party websites are provided as a convenience and for informational purposes only. They do not constitute an endorsement or approval by The Children’s Movement of Florida or its affiliate organizations and partners.