In this article you can find
- Two resources why it is important to begin peace education at birth
- Important information about the consequences of chronic toxic stress and what to do about it.
- Resources for how you can talk to your children about community violence and racism.
- 10 Tips How to Raise a Peaceful Child that you can start doing at home right now to begin building healthy and peaceful relationships.
The State of Babies 2019
ZERO to THREE is an organization that works diligently on using the science of early childhood to develop helpful resources, practical tools, and responsive policies for millions of parents, professionals, and policymakers.
The early years are crucial for healthy human development as this is when we have the most influence to build resiliency and a solid foundation for the future. It is a time of life when most rapid physical, cognitive and emotional development happens.
The Interactions babies have with their caretakers and their environment influence the development of their brain and the person that they will become.
This is why it is crucial that families, communities and policy makers work diligently to meet the developmental needs of babies which range from food, housing, safe and stable environment and nurturing care.
The yearbook states that
“When babies and toddlers do not have the supports they need to thrive, their development can suffer, leading to lifelong consequences.”
Factors like chronic stress, unstable housing, racial discrimination, poverty and hunger are all risk factors jeopardizing the healthy development of a baby causing long-term consequences such as health problems, shorter life-span and poor academic achievement.
Research has found out that good health, strong families and positive early learning experiences are the building blocks of healthy development.
Good physical and mental health in babies can be achieved when the baby grows up in a stable family environment with minimal stress and safe neighborhoods with resources. Early learning opportunities largely depend on the family’s income and the community they live in.
Babies and toddlers need positive and nurturing relationships to support their social-emotional development which impacts their brain growth. If babies developmental needs are not met, even infants can face mental health problems such as depression.
Strong families support child’s development and result in positive outcomes such as social-emotional development which leads to the ability to form trusting relationships as an adult. Adverse experiences such as hunger, abuse, neglect, household instability and violence creates stress that negatively impacts healthy development and has long-term consequences.
Chronic stress results in problems with self-regulation, poor social-emotional development and chronic health problems in adulthood. Infants and toddlers are the most susceptible to stress which has the most significant impact on the trajectory of their lives.
Babies of color are the most disadvantaged as they disproportionately live in poor families and in unsafe neighborhoods characterized by violence. The households are also often crowded and the babies experience frequent moves. As a result of systemic and institutional biases, babies of color are also disproportionately represented in the child welfare system.
The State of Babies 2019 yearbook emphasizes the importance of early intervention and support for families of young children.
The ACEs Study
The CDC in collaboration with Kaiser Permanente conducted a landmark study called Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) which looked at 17,000 children in the 1990’s, and how adverse childhood experiences such as abuse, neglect and negative household environment (parental mental illness, substance abuse, violence etc) impact development.
The study concluded that consequences of such toxic stress cause changes in normative brain development which impacts attention, decision making, learning and how one responds to stress. These results are long lasting and impact the entire life-span of the person resulting in negative outcomes.
Over time this toxic stress literally “gets under the skin” and causes health problems such as:
- Pulmonary disease
- Drug and alcohol use
- Suicide attempts
- Poor academic achievement
The study found out that the stressors children experience have a cumulative effect and that having 4 or more ACE’s risk factors significantly increases health risks
To find out more about the ACEs study watch this video by Dr. Nadine Burke Harris, the Surgeon General of California
Balancing Stress with Resiliency
Both the State of Babies Yearbook and the ACEs study emphasize the consequences of chronic toxic stress on children which impacts their normative development.
The good news is that childhood risks can be balanced out with building resilience in children, families and communities.
Research has identified a set of resilience factors that “balance out” the risk factors thus resulting in more positive outcomes.
- Supportive adult-child relationships
- Building a sense of self-efficacy and perceived control
- Providing opportunities to strengthen adaptive skills and self-regulatory capacities
- Mobilizing sources of faith, hope, and cultural traditions
To find out more about the balance of stress and resilience, watch this video by Harvard University’s Center on the Developing Child
10 Tips to Raise a Peaceful Child
Here is a list of ideas you can start doing right away to help build resilience in your child, and to begin talking about racism and community violence.
1. Balanced, peaceful children with high self-esteem have their emotional needs met. Be sure to attend to kids emotional needs such as providing them unconditional love, power and control, help them feel important, letting them explore, play and have fun.
2. Limit exposure to the news and social media as this may increase children’s fears. Children are not yet able to process information provided in the news the same way adults too. Make sure the TV is not running in the background. If the child saw something in the news and wants to talk about it, have an open, honest and age appropriate discussion.
3. Provide consistency and structure which creates safety and predictability.
4. Talk about race. Here’s a few guides for you how to begin the conversation:
5. Don’t raise kids to be color-blind but instead embrace differences. Here is a good book to read with your child: What’s the Difference?: Being Different Is Amazing
6. Be aware of your own biases and educate yourself first
7. Teach kids to be “upstanders” instead “bystanders”.
- Article: How to Raise an Upstander
8. Address racisms and call it out when you encounter it even if it is your own parents! Modeling is a powerful way to learn
9. Expose kids to diversity by having friends from different backgrounds and visiting diverse neighborhoods and restaurants.
10. Engage the child in activities that promote their self-esteem and sense of mastery
- Involve your child in a community service project and/or volunteering
- Make an Identity Crown: Do an arts & crafts project of making a crown that the child decorates and writes all the amazing things about him or herself on it.
- Read Books that promote inner peace, compassion, and acceptance of self-and others
- Play games that build mastery, are fun and nourish family relationships