Child play, Parenting

Our Children: Our Future – by Dr. Mercy Luguterah – Montessori Director and Adjunct Faculty in Behavioral Sciences at UMUC

Children, we love them, they love us. They are cute to behold and are loved by both strangers and family. Sometimes, we have children because society expects us to and other times, we have them because we desire to be parents and can’t wait to complete our family with a child. I will admit that there is nothing more charming than the smile of an innocent little baby clad in the most adorable clothing. All over the world, we speak the same language when it comes to children; they tug at our heart strings and we know they need to be protected and loved. Most of us with children already have dreams of what our children should become, and we aspire to give them the best. We remind ourselves that the children are the future and we look forward to the day when they will become adults.

While this is a great goal to have, it’s important to note that caring for a child begins even before their birth and continues throughout their lifetime. There is countless research on how practices employed during early childhood development (specifically from birth through age 6) can have profound and lasting effects on a child. Women planning to be pregnant are advised by their doctors to eat healthy and exercise right. These steps are intended to create the right environment for the baby in the womb. For those women who eventually conceive, they are asked to maintain or develop healthy eating, rest patterns and other positive habits. These habits include exercising and avoiding alcohol or any other substance use. These are all vital precautionary measures to undertake because they are known to have a direct impact on a child. A mother who abuses alcohol and other substances places their child at a high risk of a lifetime of cognitive and other behavioral deficiencies. Rest is important for the mother because a continuously stressed mother can result in the birth of a child with irritable and aggressive tendencies. An unborn child can certainly experience all the emotions of the mother. Immediately after the birth of a child comes excitement however, over the ensuring weeks and months, families are faced with the realities of the demands of a child and the sacrifices that need to be made to ensure they thrive. Sadly, not all families are prepared or equipped to support this child on the crucial journey called LIFE.

While it’s important to adequately clothe, feed and provide children, there are other salient issues that are equally essential but seem to be ignored. A young child whose cries or needs are tended to frequently develops a positive and secure attachment with the parent and their surroundings, whereas a child who is neglected often begins to view themselves poorly. They will later develop insecure, avoidance and conflict forms of attachment that continue later in life. A child with a secure attachment or a “home base” is more likely to have a positive view of themselves and develop healthy social relationships whereas a child with a negative attachment is at risk of being aggressive. As children get older, these tendencies, whether good or bad increase. In his book “The Boy Who Was Raised As A Dog”, Dr. Perry highlights the pivotal role that positive early relationships play in a child’s life. Most parents are looking for their child to survive but the ultimate is for our children to thrive. The innate needs of a child transcend culture, race, and socio-economic backgrounds. What a child truly needs is not the most expensive clothing or the most expensive house to live in (although these are nice to have). Rather, they desire and crave a relentless and undeniable assurance of love, care and protection.  

For children who are repeatedly ignored, neglected and abused, the part of the brain that is known to regulate empathy and compassion becomes flawed and as a result, they are unable to connect effectively, or to accept or give love. Sometimes, these children become sociopaths and we wonder why. Other times, we label them as bad children, but the truth is that if we take time to analyze ourselves and our interactions, we will discover that we made them “bad”. Simple measures such as hugging our children, a warm embrace, using positive and assuring words, professing our love and belief in them, disciplining and redirecting them in love, reading to and listening to them, can work wonders in positively shaping the lives of our children.

Some cultures erroneously believe that showering your child with so much care will “spoil them” so they refrain from the above-mentioned actions. Such beliefs are at best myths that need to be debunked.  Children deserve and need to be loved, not punished. We have heard that the children are our future; while that is true, we must also be cognizant of the fact that the future is here and now. It’s crucial to invest in children emotionally, socially and academically. Any community or nation is only as strong as it’s children. The current state of the children alongside child-centered programs and policies will determine the future trajectory of that nation. Young children today are faced with many distractions, ills and temptations. More than ever, there is a greater need for quality early childhood centered programs that specialize in decreasing negative stimuli and upholding/preserving the innocence of childhood.

Raising a child is not the effort of just the immediate family, it involves everyone. Indeed, “it takes a village to raise a child”.  Caregivers, organizations and others who work closely with children must take the time to learn best practices in working with children and to provide a consistent and nurturing environment that addresses the many phases of a child’s development. Good and healthy children don’t just happen, they are made with love, care, dedication and selfless sacrifice. And in the sad event that a child has been neglected or abused, there is still hope. Dr. Perry outlines the many steps that can be employed to redeem such a child.

To Be Continued …….

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