Press-Republican

Local News

April 8, 2012

Ready, Set, Grow!

Groups focus on childhood development

The question of whether it is nature or nurture that most influences the type of individual a person grows into has long been debated.

And while both may play a role in human lives, the presence or lack of nurturing relationships in one's life begins shaping their future abilities from day one, according to experts.

While many organizations focus on fixing adult issues that may have emerged from early, unhealthy relationships, such as depression and substance abuse, said Juliette Lynch, parenting enrichment coordinator for the Child Care Coordinating Council of the North Country, her organization is dedicated to preventing them.

Instead of fishing people out of the river, she said, the organization tries to stop them from falling in, which requires providing resources, support and information for parents about the importance of children forming healthy attachments to others long before they enter school.

EARLY RELATIONSHIPS

In fact, Lynch said, a child's ability to succeed in a classroom can be greatly affected by the relationships that that child experiences as an infant.

"Learning is relationship based," she said.

"Social and emotional development is really fundamental for a child to be able to learn anything."

A child's first relationships, she explained, help determine his or her abilities to have self control and positive communication skills, which are necessary for interacting with teachers and peers.

And in order for a child to form healthy attachments with caregivers, those caregivers must be consistent, responsible and resilient, said Ann Fraser, training coordinator and infant-toddler specialist for the Child Care Coordinating Council.

INFANT FEAR

The problem, Fraser said, is that many parents are unaware of the extent to which infants are affected by the people close to them.

In a 2009 national survey of 1,615 parents with children ages zero to 3, 69 percent of respondents were unaware that babies as young as 6 months are able to experience feelings of sadness and fear.

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