Take a moment to picture an infant or toddler you are very close to. Now imagine this child as a young adult just graduating from high school. As this child prepares to enter the world, what skills would you like him to take with him? You may be thinking of traits such as a positive self-concept, confidence, trust and security, all contributing to his journey of success. The quality of care we provide for children today will have a profound impact on whether these characteristics develop.
Research tells us that the interactions a child has during her earliest years are critical to future success in life, including academic learning, social competency and lifelong well-being. Healthy, positive relationships shape the way a child understands and approaches all of her relationships and social interactions for the rest of her life.
Studies conducted by L. Alan Sroufe, Ph.D., and his colleagues at the University of Minnesota found that infants who had their cries met promptly, warmly and responsively learned to cry much less and slept more at night. In addition to less crying, as these children grew older, they were found to cope with difficult times more easily, were more curious, got along better with their peers, and did better in school compared to children who did not develop these secure attachments early in life.
Focus on Caregivers
The social and emotional development that takes place in these early years is influenced most powerfully by the relationships and interactions between young children and their caregivers.. Mothers, fathers, grandparents, early care providers and educators all play a crucial role in laying a strongfoundation for all future development. All children need nurturing relationships with a few responsive caregivers in a safe supportive environment in order to develop to their fullest potential socially and emotionally. It is through these conditions that children are given the opportunity to:
Learn to trust those who care for them.
Learn about themselves, their feelings, and their abilities.
Gain a positive self-esteem.
Learn to respect others feelings and rights.
The importance of these early relationships has been recognized in Nebraska, by both public and private studies, planning efforts and initiatives. Rooted in Relationships is a statewide initiative of the Nebraska Children and Families Foundation to help communities support health relationships and environments for children from birth to age 8.