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A nurturing, stable and facilitative parent-child relationship can foster good neurological development and influence the level of aggression and maladjustment in today’s youth, says Executive Chairman of the Early Childhood Commission, Dr. Maureen Samms Vaughn.
Speaking at a National Parents’ Awards ceremony in Kingston yesterday (December 11), the Chairman stresses that Caribbean early childhood stakeholders are concerned about how well children adjust, learn and communicate, as well as the physical health of children, among other things.
“Probably the reasons these skills are considered so important for our Caribbean children relates to the major problems our societies now face as a result of poor emotional health and well being. There is aggression, crime and violence with acts so devious and deviant, those persons committing the acts seem to have no empathy and feeling,” says Dr. Samms Vaughn.
“Making children feel wanted and loved begin when they are just babies.this allows baby to develop appropriate attachment responses where they learn to interact well with other persons. In a very few instances, this does not take place,” she says.
She says that lack of emotional development affects cognitive development, thinking and reasoning skills are impaired, and this leads to slower language development as well as poor relationships.Dr. Samms Vaughn argues that humans, as the most advanced animals on the planet, should have a long period of parenting and this is tied to the development of the brain of a young child.
“Most of our brain development takes place in those very important first few years of life,” she emphasizes.
According to the Chairman, “although social and emotional health seem to be so important to our lives today, it seems that providing guidance on children’s social and emotional development is probably the area we are least familiar with and therefore we find most challenging”.
Dr. Samms Vaughn emphasises that inasmuch as parents seek after the physical and developmental welfare of their children through adequate and meticulous care to these aspects of their health, most parents are not as apt in the promotion of emotional wellbeing and the prevention of emotional ill health.
She outlines that when the link between parenting and emotional health was studied among adults who became criminals in the United Kingdom, “it was found that the best predictors of being a criminal as an adult were the experiences the adult had as a child before the age of eight years. A disrupted family life and having a parent who was a convict were two of the important features”.
Dr. Samms Vaughn states that although similar studies in the country have not been done for such a long period of time, “in Jamaica we have found that a disrupted family life with children having multiple caregivers is linked to aggressive behaviour”.
The Chairman says research indicates that although many Jamaican babies are adequately developed emotionally, this is not so for older children and young adults as the treatment of warmth and love are often not continued as they grow up.
“As much as one in every 10 of our 16 year olds says they do not feel close to anyone.these are important warnings to use, as parents and as a society,” she says.
Parents need to provide guidance for their children until the brain is fully developed, as “there is a whole lot more to parenting a human being than just having offspring”, Dr. Samms Vaughn adds.
Minister of State in the Ministry of Education and Youth, Senator Noel Monteith, agrees.”Involved parents equal better students, less disciplinary issues and lead to a kinder, more compassionate school environment. We believe in educating our children and also educating their heart,” says the Senator.
“Children learn from seeing what their primary caregivers do. No child is born violent but rather very quick learns from those who are close to them – adults and indeed the wider community. We as parents and guardians are indeed the ones who shape our children’s sensibilities, actions, desires and expectations of themselves,” he notes.
He says parents are powerful role models as children mimic their behaviours. As a result, he says that when parents engage in disruptive and violent actions, children assume violence as appropriate responses in their situations.
“Our society is at war as we try to hold on to the values that are important to civil society. As parents and families, the first socialization grouping for our children, we must put out all the strategies in order to win this war,” stresses the State Minister.
“I strongly believe also that every Jamaican parent would like his or her child to do better than they have done, irrespective of how they behave sometimes,” he adds.
Senator Monteith says the children are crying out loud and clear for good examples to follow. “Some parents and some teachers too have lost the respect of our children, simply because of the very way we live, talk and walk, the way we dress, and our attitude to work. I therefore warn that we all cannot be young forever. Somebody has to be the parent, so that the other can be a child,” the Senator says.
The State Minister points out that good parenting is a trade-off, as disciplined parents are likely to beget disciplined children.