Early Childhood is the Most Critical and Vulnerable Time

Sandra Allen, Director

Le Bonheur Center for Children and Parents

Early Success Coalition

“Early childhood is both the most critical and the most vulnerable time in any child’s development. In the first few years, the tone for intellectual, emotional and moral growth is set. We cannot fail children in these early years” (Brazelton & Greenspan, 2000, p. x)

Recently, my nephew had his third little girl. This is an exciting time in our family. Nora Mae was born healthy and off to a good start. Nora Mae’s arrival caused me to think about all the precious babies in our community. What do babies need to grow to be healthy, striving adults? All children need safe, secure and stable relationships and environments to reach their true potentials. Family is the first relationship and environment that babies have. What can we do to ensure that families in our community are strong and have what they need to provide for their babies?

The Center for the Study of Social Policy (CSSP) introduced its Strengthening Families Framework in 2003 as a research informed, strengths-based initiative. At the very foundation of the Strengthening Families framework are five interrelated factors that studies show promote family strengthens and optimal child development.   They are:

  • Parental Resilience: Managing both general life and parenting stress and functioning well when faced with stressors, challenges or adversity;
  • Social Connections: Having healthy, sustained relationships with people, institutions, the community or a force greater than oneself;
  • Knowledge of Parenting and Child Development: Understanding the unique aspects of child development – implementing developmentally and appropriate best parenting practices;
  • Concrete support in times of need: Seeking and receiving access to concrete support that addresses their needs and helps to minimize the stress caused by challenges and adversity;
  • Social and Emotional Competence of Children: Providing an environment and experiences that enable the child to form close and secure adult and peer relationships, and to experience, regulate and express emotions;

Being a parent, especially a new parent, can be very rewarding but also at times challenging. No parent or family knows everything about parenting or has all the resources they need by themselves – they need help from others. The factors in the Strengthening Families framework tells us what families need to be strong. These factors increase the probability of positive, adaptive and healthy outcomes, even in the face of challenges. Strong, stable, secure and safe relationships in families ensure that babies have a good start in life.

For more information on the Strengthening Families Framework visit the website: http://www.cssp.org/reform/strengtheningfamilies 

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