25 November 2013
Support the basics in a complex world - Hon Barbara Scott OAM
Getting back to basics and supporting parents and families in the early years of their children's lives should remain fundamental, in a word that is becoming more complex, says Barbara Scott OAM.
“The best place to start is with the family – a loving, caring family will build secure attachments and a sense of wellbeing, and the stability for young children to develop the resilience to face life’s challenges,” Ms Scott says.
“The early years of a child’s life are imperative to their long-term competencies, so all the support you can give in the early years reaps benefits later on.”
Ms Scott says it is time for a community reality check to reign in unrealistic expectations that could be stressful for new parents.
“There should be a wider acceptance that for a new mother at home with a new-born baby, things can be tough.”
“They ought not be expected to appear at the shops or the playground, looking like someone out of Vogue (magazine).”
Young parents also need to have their role and efforts positively reinforced by extended family members.
“All parents want to do the best job they can do, some are better equipped than others but those who have extended family, community and neighbourhood support will thrive best.”
“They need to be supported in those early years so they can do what’s best for them and their children without trying to meet the expectations of every expert.
“Parents know best, those inner instincts of parents are rarely wrong and we should be respecting and supporting that.”
Community playgroups, mothers' groups and groups that provide valuable early supportive connections for parents should remain accessible, without being costly to all young families, Ms Scott says.
She says many important lessons can be learnt in the sandpit and rejects proposals to formalise early education and care programs from a very young age.
“A child allowed to develop at their own level of achievement will do far better than one who is pushed and tested,” she says.
“Early childhood programs that encourage optimal intellectual, physical and emotional development provide little children with the opportunity to experiment, to explore, to learn through play, to share and to take turns and must not be dominated by formal learning programs and continual testing.”
Also basic but essential to the healthy development of little children, is safe and secure housing, healthy food and regular sleep, she says.
Other priorities should include wider access to therapeutic interventions such as speech therapy, free immunisation and ready access to health professional care.