As adults, we make decisions on behalf of our families, communities, county and world. These decisions, both good and bad, impact the lives of those around us. However, no one experiences a more significant effect than the youngest members of our society.
The recent decision to separate families at the U.S. border, is an undeniable example of a policy that was enacted without considering its implications on young children.
Leading researchers at the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University have explored how traumatic experiences and prolonged, “toxic” stress impact child development. This research shows that, unlike normal stress which is a healthy part of child development, toxic stress can have a developmental, and even physical, impact on children’s brains.
Young children depend on parents to meet their most basic needs — food, clothing, shelter, love, affection and encouragement. When considering the vital support parents provide, it’s not hard to see how separating families can cause serious trauma.
While the border separation debate highlights a tragedy, it also shines a light on a great opportunity. We need to turn our focus to developing happy, healthy and educated children. The policies we put in place, good or bad, will be of little importance if we haven’t prepared the future generation to react and respond to tomorrow’s great issues to the best of their ability. Children are the most important building block of a successful future.
Just like toxic stress can have a negative effect on child development, intentionally supporting healthy child development can have a profound impact. From birth to age five, 90 percent of brain growth will occur. During this crucial development period, through interactions with parents and caregivers, children form foundation for future learning. We can do a lot for ourselves and our communities by enacting policies and investing in programs that help children make the most of the early years.
When we make decisions based on the competing interests of adults, there is always a loser. Far too frequently the loser is the one with the faintest voice. If we made decisions with the best interest of our future in mind, we all win. Let’s ask ourselves, “Is it good for the children?”