The Science Is Clear: Children Need Adults to Step Up

A popular song once asked – “What’s love got to do with it?” For those of us who are working to make sure that our youngest children have what they need, we need to ask a similar question: What’s adults got to do with it?

Recent groundbreaking research on brain development has shown us that children have a critical window in their brain development between birth and age five. Responsive and attentive interactions between young children and the adults around them during this period form strong neural connections and shape the architecture of the brain. This is why every single interaction with babies and preschoolers matters so much. Indeed, fostering strong development in those early years is vitally  important to children’s success in life.

But the window doesn’t slam shut when children turn five. The brain is still open to intervention and change throughout life, with some areas still maturing in the early 20s. That doesn’t mean we should wait until then. It just opens up a wider window and invites us to step in as soon as we can and go as long we can.

Research also says that the chain of adults who are part of children’s lives starting at birth can have a profound impact on what happens to children and how their lives are shaped. Instead of throwing up our hands in despair when confronted by the many problems that children face, we can instead direct a laser-like focus on the adults who touch their lives every day.

That is what the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University and its Director, Dr. Jack P. Shonkoff, are talking about in a compelling new video that offers a theory of change for children that we, as adults, can act on.

We all know that living day to day in toxic stress is not good for children: they do not do well in the midst of violence, neglect, hunger, and anxiety. But what we seem to have forgotten is that the toxic  stressors that young children experience also can come from the lives of the adults in their communities: The skills that we know young children need to thrive are the very same skills that parents and caregivers and aunties and uncles and neighbors and family friends need (and may not have) to hold down jobs, to create stable routines at home, and to be there for kids when they cry, when they are angry, when they are asking questions, when they are looking for hugs, when they are unsure and confused, when they are worried, when they are sick, when they need something or someone and are not sure how to ask…..

While we need better policies to help remove all the stressors facing families and particularly those families who are very vulnerable and isolated and poor – what we must also do is help the adults better understand and take up their roles in the lives of kids. Many of us who are grown and doing well today grew up poor, living in less than ideal circumstances. But the adults in our lives – at home, at church, at school, and next door – never let poverty and bad situations define us. They shielded us. They encouraged us. They taught us. This is not impossible work; it is simply work we have forgotten how to do, were never taught, or tragically decided that we do not want to do.

Too often as a society we talk about how we want to “save” the children – but to do that, in addition to creating policies that make our community environments safe, stable, and enriching, we must be willing to “redeem” the adults in their lives, starting as early as possible and continuing through their 20s.

We invite you to talk about how you and your organization are “redeeming” adults on behalf of young children. And if you are not, how could you?

What’s adults got to do with it? Everything…..

Little Children Big Challenges

Imagine you’re a little kid playing football with your dad, and all of a sudden he gets taken away. This sudden absence of a parent is a life changing circumstance that comes with feelings of confusion and anger. According to prisonlegalnews.org 1 in 28 children in the United States have a parent in state or federal prison, and have to cope with their dramatic loss of losing a parent. 2.7 million Children are emotionally overwhelmed by this transition and are oftentimes reluctant to open up about their feelings.

Unfortunately there are not enough resources to support young children and families coping with a parent in prison. For this reason, Sesame Workshop launched the Little Children, Big Challenges: Incarceration initiative. They aim at supporting children with an incarcerated parent and help them persevere through such a challenging experience. The resources include videos and a storybook for children to help comfort them. There are guides for parents and caregivers to help them talk to their children about incarceration.ifwt_sesame-place-gang

This initiative is raising awareness of the struggle children go through when facing a parent in prison. Ideally, more people will get involved in this initiative to further expand the resources for children with an incarcerated parent.

A quote to end with, “I may not be perfect but when I look at my children I know that I got something in my life perfectly right”

What do Summer and Childhood Obesity have in Common?

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Since 1980, the number of overweight children has doubled in the United States and between 16 and 33 percent of children in the US are obese (O’Connor 1). Statistics like this have caused schools to take the problem with childhood obesity into account. More health and physical education programs have been implemented, and a healthy school environment has been enforced. This correlates with the ban of sodas and sugary foods at schools. But the real question here is, “Do children pack on more pounds at school or during summer recess?”

A study from the American Journal of Public Health shows that children’s body max index accelerated at a faster rate during summer recess than the school year. Non-school environments are serving as a ground for kids to eat whatever they want without much supervision. In fact, for overweight students the school environment had a protective effect.

Maybe more money should be spent on campaigns for healthy living as a family. Schools definitely did not see this plot twist coming, but at least they can feel secure in the fact that their movement to stop childhood obesity is working. In order to really reduce childhood obesity, families should be more aware of what their children are eating and promote a healthy lifestyle.

Here are a few sites where you can find ways to keep your children active and healthy

What do you think could be done to reverse this effect? Comment with opinions!4564993752d34c0e11dcb70ea9b70f08

Interview with Patti Baloyra

Patricia Baloyra is a children’s novelist with a law degree from the University of Pennsylvania and a B.A. from the University of Miami. Her love for Miami led her to write and publish in August 2012, Goodnight Miami, a children’s book about the splendors of living in the Magic City. “She dishes up a wonderfully illustrated tribute to our Magic City. The essence of Miami is found in this bedtime book that children and adults alike will enjoy reading over and over,” said Michelle Bernstein, James Beard Award-Winning Chef.

I was overjoyed having the opportunity to interview Patti. She truly is a praised figure here in Miami and an inspirational powerhouse.

What inspired you to write a children’s novel?

I have always loved books and travel – I was what you’d call a voracious reader as a kid.  After the birth of my son, Sebastian, I was inspired to write a book for kids that honors this great city of ours.

Do you have any kids of your own? If so, are they fans of the book?

Yes – he is 6 years old now and is really proud of the book.

What are the degrees you’ve earned and the past jobs you’ve had that lead you to what you do today?

B.A. in Political Science from the University of Miami and J.D. from U.Penn.

Did studying away for college make you appreciate Miami more, or have you always been in love with the “magic city?”

Both!

In one word how would you describe your experience of living in Miami?

Home – which, as one word, is not quite enough, but if you know Miami, you know we are lucky to call this place home.

What are some of your favorite memories growing up here?

Water skiing in Biscayne Bay, especially at the old Miami Marine Stadium; lobstering in the Bay; going to UM and Dolphins games the old Orange Bowl; eating pan con lechon from one of the many excellent Cuban restaurants; spending the whole day on Miami Beach and then going for pizza and shaved ice

Where did you grow up? Ex. Pinecrest, coral gables, kendall

Kendall – near Killian High School

Being a lawyer and a children’s novelist couldn’t be more polar opposite jobs. Which one do you prefer more? Why?

You’re right, they are quite different!  [ Writing Goodnight Miami was a pure pleasure – no one on the other side with whom to argue.  😉 ]  But, you may be surprised at the similarities:  each involves writing and conveying to an audience a clear picture of what you want them to know, and the most enjoyable part of each has been working with a team toward a goal.goodnight miami 

Inspiration from a Bowl of Cheerios

A trending news topic surfacing the web is the debate over race in America following the biracial Cheerios commercial. Some of the reaction to the campaign was so offensive that General Mills, the maker of the cereal, disabled the comments section on the YouTube video of the ad. It’s astounding that racism is still a topic in the year 2013, almost 60 years since the Civil Rights Movement. How can an interracial ad stir up such controversy in the minds of some Americans? It causes some to scratch their heads in confusion…

Thankfully, not the majority of Americans feel this way. 86 percent of Americans believe that intermarriage is good for our country. A project was created this month by an interracial couple, Alyson West and Michael David Murphy, to combat the hate. Hundreds of interracial families are submitting photos of themselves to their blog “We are the 15 percent.” They created this blog “To publicly reflect the changing face of the American family,” as stated in the introduction of their blog. The stream of interracial photos will show the normalcy behind intermarriage, and hopefully promote equality to all.

What do you think about the racism following the cheerios commercial? Leave a comment below and express your thoughts!CheeriosBowl[1]

Summer Learning Day

292319_10151035389668322_1778978937_n[1] Today, we would like to share with you the celebration of summer learning day! It is a day dedicated to spreading awareness about the importance of summer learning for children. Summer learning programs maintain and advance the academic and developmental growth of kids, support working families, and keep children safe and healthy. Here at the ELC in order to recognize summer learning day we typically hold a contest. Last year we asked kids to send in pictures of summer learning day activities. The center that submitted the photo that received the most “likes” on Facebook won a special prize. We received pictures of children engaged in educational field trips, making arts and crafts, playing at parks, or learning about animals. It was a joy to see how much fun the children were having by attending a summer learning program. We believe that every child deserves that opportunity.

Help us spread awareness by telling your friends about this important day. If your child is a participant of a summer learning program feel free to leave us a comment about how much you love the program.599440_10151035389033322_478968576_n[1]

A Birthday Roar

Yesterday marked what would have been Maurice Sendak’s 85th birthday. As many of you know, he is the acclaimed author of Where the Wild Things Are. The main character, Max, is liberated by his wild imagination, as he explores a world of monsters completely unparalleled to reality. Centered around children’s growth, survival, change and fury, it’s one of the essential stories to share with your children.

In honor of Sendak’s birthday, here are some other books you can read to tap into your child’s imagination:

Aunt Molly’s Attic by Breann M George

Oh the Places You’ll Go by Dr. Seuss

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs by Judi Barett

Eloise: The Absolutely Essential 50th Edition by Kay Thompson

With kids becoming more and more dependent on video games or the Internet, it’s important to let them explore their imagination, a lesson that Sendak was very much aware of. Imaginative thinking is a key trait children need to exercise!

Happy Birthday, Maurice! Thank you for your literary contributions and for reminding us the importance of using our imagination!picstitch[2]