More than half of parents worry about their child’s early development, but here’s how to help your child thrive |  Nation
5 mins read

More than half of parents worry about their child’s early development, but here’s how to help your child thrive | Nation

A recent survey commissioned by Primrose Schools of 2,000 parents of children aged five and under found that 59% of parents are “deeply concerned” about their children’s personal and academic development. The study was conducted by OnePoll for a private preschool franchise system with more than 500 educational centers in 34 states.

Parents who took part in the survey were most concerned about whether their children would acquire social skills. 50% were concerned that their children would learn the principles of fair play and cooperation, and 49% wanted them to communicate well with others. Children learning to express themselves was third on their list of concerns.

98% of parents realize that the first five years of life play a key role in ensuring a successful future for their child. However, despite their best efforts, parents still struggle with the problem.

When asked about the most difficult stages of parenting, 38% of parents answered: “creating a routine.” They also mentioned other difficulties: how to plan activities for children, reinforce good behavior, maintain a stable and consistent environment, and work on improving math and reading skills.

However, worried parents don’t have to do it alone. Most parents benefit from the support of a network of people and institutions. Eighty-eight percent of parents count on help from their immediate family, and 82% count on kindergarten care.

Dr. Amy Jackson, former educator and director of early learning strategy at Primrose Schools, highlights the importance of the early years of child development in a press release.

“Learning will never be this easy again,” explains Dr. Jackson. “The environment and experiences children have during the first five years of their lives will shape their academic, physical and social-emotional development. These critical years lay the foundation for learning and ultimately who a child will become.”

The first five formative years

Experts emphasize the importance of brain development processes in the first five years of life. Consider the exponential rate of growth – a newborn’s brain doubles in size in the first year of life and is almost full size by the time he or she enrolls in kindergarten. During this period of development, the brain creates over 1 million neural connections per second.

Early experiences form the basis for future social and academic life. For parents, these years are the best time to develop the skills necessary to be capable adults. Communication, problem solving and emotional self-regulation are just some examples of the soft skills necessary for success. Because the brain loses some of its ability to make new connections as we age, it becomes more difficult for people to acquire these traits as adults.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention expects that with proper care, neurotypical children will reach the following milestones by age 5:

  • Physical – buttoning clothes and jumping on one leg.
  • Cognitive – recognizing some numbers and letters and understanding time.
  • Communication – Telling a story, answering questions, and having a conversation.
  • Social – Following the rules, taking turns with playmates, and doing simple chores.

Children who experience parental neglect at a very young age are likely to develop problems that will continue to affect them in adulthood. They may lack emotional intelligence and social skills, which hinders their ability to socialize on the playground. More extreme consequences include low self-esteem, behavioral problems, addiction, depression, and other mental health problems.

Recommendations for concerned caregivers

Parents know what role they play in their child’s development. “It’s clear that parents want their children to acquire these important academic and character development skills while their brains are as open to learning as possible, but we know many are concerned about finding the right approach,” Dr. Jackson noted.

As a representative of Primrose Schools, Dr. Jackson promotes the school system’s preferred research-based curriculum that combines “purposeful play with the caring guidance of trained teachers.”

However, parents can count on other options for help. “Families of all kinds can find tremendous value in family therapy for a variety of reasons,” says Anna Harris, mental health counselor at OnlineMFTPrograms.com.

“These sessions can provide parents with time to connect with their child and talk to them about important topics related to emotions and skill development,” advises Harris. “Under the guidance of a licensed professional, this type of therapy can help parents learn how and when to help their children meet their developmental needs.”

Ashima Sahore, researcher and clinical psychologist, recommends that worried parents or people feeling stressed and isolated turn to local support networks. “Managing early childhood development as a parent may seem overwhelming, but you are not alone,” she says.

“Seek support from family, friends and professionals when needed. Community resources such as parenting workshops, libraries and early learning centers can be invaluable,” Sahore advocates.

Parents can also combine fun with learning. “Through play, children discover the world, learn to deal with emotions, solve problems and build relationships,” explains Sahore. “Encourage play that requires both thinking and physical activity.”

“While parents’ concerns about early child development are valid, there are many proactive steps that can be taken to positively shape young children’s developmental trajectories,” says Sahore. “Remember that every small, loving interaction with your child contributes to his or her development.”