Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Encouraging Connections

George will finish his lectures at Antioch University tomorrow. These classes were for Early Education Endorsement for teachers in special education. Part of George's job as a child development specialist is to evaluate special ed teachers in the classroom, and to provide feedback and counseling services to clients and their families.

Early brain development - even neo-natal - has enormous implications for social and emotional development. Research has indicated that two things are predominent:

If a child is raised in an environment that is abusive or neglectful, the child's brain actually "grows itself" to hardwire adaptations to this environment. The focus is on survival, and the child does not know how to deal with nurturing and kindness. The child's brain has adapted to an unpredictaable and dangerous world.

Second, the level of "attachment" (to parents, caregiver) , determines how their brain will grow. If that attachment is positive, the child develops healthy emotional, social, and cognitive skill. But, if the attachment to parents and caregivers is harsh and inconsistant, the child will not attach effectively, and this will show up later in social-learning disorders and problematic behaviors involving self-regulation and communication.

Mechanisms by which we become and stay attached to others are biologically primed and increasingly discernable in the basic structure of the brain. Nurturing environments, or the lack of them, affect gene transcription and the development of brain circuitry.

The conclusive presentation that George will present tomorrow will be that we have to move from special programs for "at risk" children to recognizing broad societal conditions that are contributing to growing numbers of suffering children. Neuroscientists, doctors, and social scientists are all indicating a rising rate of mental/emotional distress among U.S. children - as indicated by a 300% increase for psychotropic medication for 2 to 4 year olds in just the past five years.

Positive nurturance and consistant, careful parenting provide the basis for close connections to other people, and deep connections to moral and spiritual frameworks provide solid patterns of thought and behavior. These give kids a running start in a changing, difficult world.


marrie said...

I was fortunate to read a book called Attachment Parenting by Dr. Sears when I was pregnant with Faith, and to realize that it was the right parenting style for me, and luckily, my husband agreed. We then read many more books by the same man about discipline, breastfeeding, nutrition and living with fussy babies. Although we have dealt with some teasing (OR down right rudeness) by people who think our parenting style is strange, (the focus is all about forming strong attachments so the child learns to be inter-dependent, rather than independent, so it encourages "baby-wearing" in a sling, co-sleeping, and breast feeding with child lead weaning), I know that it is the right thing for our family. The same people who told us things like "you are going to spoil them", "they'll never learn to sleep by themselves," "how will they ever learn to walk if you carry them around in a sling all day?", "If you don't spank them they'll go to hell" and "you're going to be breast feeding until they are 5" are the same people who compliment us on what good kids we have.

I have never spanked either of them, they both walked around their 1st birthdays, they both self-weaned around their 1st birthdays (sooner than I was ready for)and they are on and off about sleeping in their own beds.

It makes sense to me that children need to form strong attachments early in life, and I would recommend Dr. Sears books about the subject to anyone.

Sorry for the long comment, Bonita, this is a subject I'm passionate about, I guess.

Bonita said...

Marrie, you are on the right track, most parents following this mode are creative like you.

I hope you will always disregard negative feedback. I got a lot of it when my kids were little, and it saddened me, but they all turned out fine - they enjoy being with me, that is what amazes me!

Also, I'm glad you know about attachment disorders, most people don't.

marrie said...

It is hard to ignore negative feedback, after all, my kids are little and they aren't perfect, and I do take responsibility for the things they do, so when someone tells me how I'm not doing it "right" I worry, but then I remind myself that we are doing the best we can, and we continue to educate ourselves, and we love our kids and that is all we can do.

Bonita said...

Marrie, I wish people would realize that parents try to do the best they can, and also be supportive and kind, in any way possible.

Anonymous said...

Excellent, love it! »