Against educational poverty: the importance of "care " for small children

"If we change the beginning of the story, we change the whole story ". But also: "It takes a whole village to raise a child ". We could thus summarize, with these two simple sentences, the profound meaning of a document on care for early childhood development issued last May by the World Health Organization (WHO), in collaboration with Unicef ​​and the World Bank, the Italian version of which was presented today, October 23, at the Chamber of Deputies.

If we change the beginning of the story, we change the whole story

The starting point of the document is the awareness of how important pregnancy and the first three years of a child's life are for its future development: for its health, its emotional and social well-being, its realization, but also the professional productivity when he becomes an adult, with relapses that at that point will affect the whole of society.

To put it another proverb, "who gets off to a good start is halfway through the work ", and scientific evidence is now increasingly strong demonstrating how important the type of care of a newborn is in providing him with adequate bases to stay healthy. world in the best possible way.

For example, we know that one adequate nutrition of the child - but also of the mother during pregnancy and even before, of the couple during the period preceding conception - is very important to allow one psychophysical development able to fully express their potential. Similarly it has been shown that the skills promoted through a safe and loving relationship with parents and other adults who care for the child help him develop greater self-control, self-confidence and empathy.

Read also: Babies, the importance of a secure attachment

The components of proper care

The document, in which the Italian pediatrician also participated Giorgio Tamburlini, president of the Trieste Child Health Center, expressly speaks of nurturing care, the care to be dedicated to children especially during early childhood, underlining that it consists of five fundamental elements:

1. Good health of the children, which is obtained when who takes care of it

  • pay attention to their physical and emotional conditions;
  • responds affectionately and appropriately to their daily needs;
  • protects them from the dangers of the domestic and external environment;
  • follows hygienic practices that reduce the risk of infections;
  • is concerned with providing them with appropriate treatment in the event of illness, through contact with health services.

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2. Adequate nutrition
The document recalls the importance of breastfeeding - exclusive up to six months and complementary after weaning - for the prosperity of the baby.

Furthermore, remember that from the age of six months babies need a sufficiently frequent and diversified complementary diet, containing all the necessary micronutrients for the rapid growth of the body and brain, possibly to be provided in the form of supplements, if necessary.

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3. Responsive parenting, that is an attitude that involves observation and adequate response to the movements, sounds, gestures and, later on, to the verbal requests of the child.
An attitude, that is, that does not ignore or neglect the child, does not leave him alone when he expresses a need, for example through crying, but welcomes him, cuddles him, follows his gaze, seeks eye contact, speaks to him, perhaps during moments of daily care such as feeding, bathing, falling asleep. Things everyone can do, even the busiest parents.

4. Early learning opportunities

It is an aspect that goes hand in hand with responsive parenting, precisely because the exercise of the latter favors not only secure attachment of the child, but also his ability to learn. A capacity that can then be further enhanced through exposure to an environment rich in social interactions and stimuli, such as reading or listening to music.

5. Security and safety
Young children are very vulnerable to unpredictable dangers, physical pain, emotional stress, but also to environmental risks such as exposure to toxic substances. They have the right to grow up in a protected and safe environment, from the point of view of family and social life.

Read also: UNICEF alarm, too much pollution for one in seven children

Adequate care for the very young

How to take care of a newborn with a view to promoting its development potential? The WHO document recalls that nurturing care begins before birth, when mom and dad talk and sing to their baby still in the belly.
In the first moments after birth, early attachment is facilitated by skin-to-skin contact, by the possibility of an immediate start of thebreastfeeding, from the availability of concrete support for the efforts of the mother.
Further on, nurturing care provides, in addition to attention to the health and nutrition of the child, the promotion of early interactions between him and those who take care of him. Interactions that pass through smiles, cuddles, little words in "Mammese ", stories, reading books, listening to music together, small games.
All of this aids in the development of connections between brain cells, which in turn enhances learning abilities. The relapses will be positive not only for the small child, but also for the teenager and the adult who will be.

It takes a whole village to raise a child

A good start, therefore, is essential. But who is responsible for putting the child in the best possible conditions for optimal growth and development? To parents, of course, but not only to them, because in order to really do their best parents need an adequate context, information and services, as well as to some degree of social and economic security. Raising a child is already a difficult task, doing it in degraded, violent contexts, devoid of opportunities and stimuli is a very difficult challenge.

Precisely for this reason, the WHO / Unicef ​​document is not addressed directly to parents, but to governments (national or local), civil society, the private sector, the media, so that they really put at the center of their agendas, their interests, their development plans. , attention to small children and their families. So that they are concretely committed to fighting the educational poverty and the factors that promote it, from economic poverty to racial discrimination to thesocial exclusion (for example in the case of children with disabilities or developmental disorders, precisely those who would benefit most from careful and thorough care).

In this sense, a family is not enough but it takes a village - a community - to raise a child to become a healthy, serene, balanced adult. It is also productive, and therefore capable of generating wealth for itself and for its country, escaping the vicious circle of poverty.

The villages to grow of the Center for the health of the child

It is no coincidence, therefore, that "A village to grow up " is called the latest initiative developed by the Trieste Child Health Center: a series of educational spaces for children 0-6 years, promoted in various disadvantaged contexts in collaboration with associations and local authorities. Free spaces where, a few times a week, the little ones with their families can meet to be together, read, listen to music, play, practice infant massage, maybe cultivate a small vegetable garden, with the help of specialized educators.

The villages to grow are present today in Policoro (Matera), Cosenza, Naples, San Cipriano d 'Aversa, Cervinara, Genoa (in Val Polcevera, the valley devastated by the tragic collapse of the Morandi bridge, last August), Turin, Syracuse , Foligno.

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