Expanding Contacts

Standard

Today I would like to share with you some of my favorite web pages and international contacts. It is a smart move on the part of anyone in the field of child development/early childhood education to have as many resources as possible. Here are a couple to add to your collection:

Let’s start with the best website for those of you working or interested in children ages zero to three:

http://www.zerotothree.org

logo
 Their mission is to “ensure that all babies and toddlers have a strong start in life. ” It is the granddaddy of all information concerning this age group. Some of the category titles you can click on and spend many many hours looking at are:

1. behavior and development

2. maltreatment

3. care and education

4.public policy

5. professional development

6. resources for parents

Just about any question you have regarding these topics -they have the answer. It is time well-spent.

international Contacts:

Marc Armitage : http://www.marc-armitage.eu/

Marc Armitage is an independent consultant, researcher and writer in children’s play and the wider social world of children and young people (0-19 years).

He delivers a variety of projects including consultancy, training, independent evaluations, research and development work.

Marc is a regular speaker at conference and seminar events around the world and has been published in magazine articles, periodicals, journals and books in English, Swedish and Dutch. He is also is a member of the Society for the Study of Childhood in the Past, the History of Education Society and the Folklore Society.

One of his newest passions is Malarkey. Malarkey is a company supporting people in the children and young people’s workforce with training, publications, advocacy and support. Based in Melbourne, Victoria it operates throughout the whole of Australia and New Zealand. The company was registered in December 2013 and began operating fully on March 8th 2014. Marc has been involved in this project and promotes it shamelessly wherever he goes….

 

Well….that is what his website says of him….those who know him know he is a dynamic, energetic force to be reckoned with the moment you lock eyes. He knows more about play than anyone I know and I could sit at his feet and listen all day long.  Here..take a listen

Then we have the Pikler Institute’s Anna Tardos:

anna tardos

http://pikler.org/

http://www.rie.org/

If the name Magda Gerber is familiar for those of you who work with infants and toddlers, then Dr. Emmi Pikler  should sound just as familiar. Dr. Pikler opened Loczy in Hungary and developed an unique approach to educaring: http://pikler.org/PiklerPractices.html.

Though Dr. Pikler has passed away, her daughter Anna Tardos has continued and expanded her work beyond Bucharest.  I have not had the pleasure to speak with her in person, but have been in webinars and corresponded with her via email. She is a delight and has so much respect for babies. I learned so much from her and the literature that the institute puts out that I share it with all those I work with both privately and professionally.

So there you have it – some new resources to add to your collection. I hope they inspire you just as they have inspired me!

Kari

 

 

 

 

Dear Everyone….Play has something to say!

Standard

This letter was passed on to me via facebook, and since the author said I could share it – I share it with you! Play has something to say and I think we should listen…

A Letter from Play to Parents
Dear Parents,
It’s me, Play.
We have not spent much time together lately. When you were a kid, we were together all the time: riding Big Wheels, sculpting stuff out of play dough, building moon bases out of blocks, and squishing mud.
Heck, we were together all the time.
Remember when you were told to “quit playing with your vegetables and eat them”?
How about all the times you heard someone yell that “goofing around with those toys is not going to get that pigsty-of-a-mess you call a bedroom cleaned up!”
Or how we had so much fun on car trips—until the order to “stop the silliness back there!” boomed from the front seat?
Back then, all you wanted to do was hang out with me. Those were good times. Remember how that big slide burnt your legs, but you could just not stop going down over and over again?
Anyway, I’m not writing to relive old times (although it would be great to get together some time).
I’m writing about your kids. I don’t see them that much and I’m worried. They’re MIA. From what I hear, their days are full of adult-led activities, screen time, and academics. They don’t even play in the back seat like you used to—they’re plugged into a DVR watching something “educational”.
I know you want the best for them—you want them to get ahead in life and be ready for whatever it tosses at them. You’re scared that if you don’t push them a bit they will not “be read”. You feel there is learning to be done and that there is not time for your old buddy, Play.
A Letter from Play to Parents
You’re also under a lot of peer pressure to do what other parents are doing. If the kid down the street can’t climb trees or get messy and is shuttled between academic preschool, dance, karate, a traveling soccer team, and a foreign language class you’d look like a bad parent if your kid just ran the neighborhood half naked and covered in mud having adventures the way you did back in the day.
I get the Fear and the Pressure, but it’s getting a bit intense. You’re expecting things out of your kids that are not developmentally appropriate—things most of them are not cognitively or physiologically ready for. You’re expecting them to do things at the age of 3 that you did not learn to do until the age of 5 or 6.
The thing is, I’m the answer. If you want your kids to be ready for whatever life throws in their path, if you want them to be able to thrive in an ever-changing world, if you want them to be creative, and knowledgeable, and well-adjusted– I’m the answer. Me, you’re old buddy, Play.
I don’t want to brag, but the fact is I’m an evolutionary strategy that lots of creatures use to learn about, and survive in, their worlds. Puppies, chimps, whales, elephants, tigers—the list is huge. They all use me, Play, as a strategy for gathering information about their surroundings, sorting things out, gaining understanding, and so much more.
Don’t take my word for it; there is plenty of research showing that I’m a better choice for young kids than learning videos, flashcards, worksheets, and adult-led academic settings. Here’s a link to a list of resource my buddies Jeff and Denita complied for their book, Let Them Play. Check it out when you have time (and please make the time).
Right now, I’m just asking you to relax a bit. Let them play. Let them enjoy their childhoods. Stop rushing them. Stop pushing them.
And you…you could use some more of me too. How about right now? Go on, grab that big fluffy towel from the bathroom, tie it around your neck, and see if you can still fly off the third step the way you used to. It’ll be fun.
Hope to see you (and your kids) soon!
You’re Buddy,
Play
http://www.explorationsearlylearning.com
http://www.facebook.com/explorationsearlylearning
jeffajohnson@cableone.net
http://www.jeffajohnson.com

The Wonder of it all

Standard

There are no seven wonders of the world in the eyes of a child. There are seven million. ~Walt Streightiff

Recently I have been spending a lot of time with babies – mostly at work. The curriculum is simple – set up environments where they can touch everything. The goal is to say ‘no’ as few times as possible. This is quite easy when one is intentional about setting up the environment and have parents who understand how important it is for children to engage all their senses during play.
Today I watched a little girl just over a year old do some remarkable things. She dropped slips of oval construction paper through a slit on the top of an empty formula can. With each drop into the can she would look at me then break out into giggles of happiness. She repeated this until all the pieces ended up in the can, then she handed me the can and signed “more.” So I promptly removed the lid off the can and dumped the papers onto the table, then returned the lid to the top of the can, and she began to repeat the activity. I watched her every move; I could see the wheels in her mind turning, watching her make the connections. I thought about how I could modify the activity so that she could discover something different, but she did that on her own. She shook the can. She took the lid off and dumped the contents onto the floor, then sat down next to the little pile and put the papers back in the can. I handed her some wooden geometrical shapes, some I knew would fit through the slit in the lid, others would not.I watched her as she marveled with each attempt at trying to put the new objects through the slit. With each success, she would giggle her contagious giggle and the play would continue until it ended on its own. It is unique to each of us – what draws our attention and how we explore what interests us – no matter what our age.
The wonder of it all, I thought. This is what our lives should be about.
“When we play, we are engaged in the purest expression of our humanity, the truest expression of our individuality.”
—Stuart Brown, M.D., researcher, psychiatrist, and play advocate

What I love about the field of early childhood education is watching the wonder in children’s eyes as they move through the world in complete “wonder” mode. What is sad is that children are only allowed to have the freedom to explore in this unadulturated way for such a short amount of time in their childhood – now it seems in some settings as little as the first three years of life – then their time is “programmed” and the pure joy of play for the sake of play is programmed out of the child’s life in lieu of academic pursuits that those in power label “school readiness.”
It is a child’s ‘job’ or ‘occupation’ to play to develop physical coordination, emotional maturity, social skills to interact with other children, and self-confidence to try new experiences and explore new environments. The more time and freedom to engage in activities that children find engaging, the better children do their “job.” I find that many of my well-meaning co-workers and colleagues in the field are so pre-occupied with curriculum and assessments that the time children are given to explore and discover what is ‘wonderful’ to them is limited.
Play is so important to optimal child development that it has been recognized by the United Nations High Commission for Human Rights as a right of every child. By limiting play we are depriving our future generations of their right to develop in ways that are healthy and good for them.

Undirected play allows children to learn how to work in groups, to share, to negotiate, to resolve conflicts, and to learn self-advocacy skills.
When play is allowed to be child driven, children practice decision-making skills, move at their own pace, discover their own areas of interest, and ultimately engage fully in the passions they wish to pursue.
This is true school readiness….spread the word.

Seriously – support this film….our world just may depend on it!

Standard

Since I started my blog in September 2010 as a class project I have continued to advocate for play in the world of early childhood studies. I have engaged with other play-based advocates in many forums, some I have shared with you.
Today I want to share with you this trailer to a feature film-in-progress called Seriously:The Future Depends on Play.

Trailer – SERIOUSLY! The Future depends on play from Gwen Gordon on Vimeo.

I see such little play going on in our schools, in the lives of children today for a number of reasons – fear and ignorance being the leading reasons why children are being deprived of this basic need. It is as basic as needing oxygen to breathe.

Please join with me in spreading the word about this film and support its makers in any way you can. The future of childhood will be a brighter, more playful one.

A Pause, Some Quotes, and a word about Play…..

Standard

Here we take a pause – our eight weeks studying early childhood development has come to an end. I say we have only paused in our journey – to that end, I want to thank those who have taken interest in my blog and what I have had to say on the subject of child development. I want to especially thank ECeducator2011 and Gregory Uba for your contributions to my blog and on your own blogs. They have been very insightful and I have enjoyed reading them very much.

So this week’s assignment (besides thanking people for visiting and contributing to our blogs) was to share quotes and/or video.

So here are some of my favorite quotes about play – and then I found this wonderful video that I wish I had done- as it sums up why I am so passionate about being an advocate for play:

“Every time we teach a child something, we keep him from inventing it himself. On the other hand, that which we allow him to discover for himself will remain with him visible for the rest of his life.”

Jean Piaget

In play a child always behaves beyond his average age, above his daily behavior. In play it is as though he were a head taller than himself.

Lev Vygotsky
Russian psychologist
1896–1934

The opposite of play is not work. It’s depression.

Brian Sutton-Smith
Contemporary American folklorist

The debt we owe to the play of the imagination is incalculable.

Carl Jung
Swiss psychoanalyst
1875–1961

If you want to be creative, stay in part a child, with the creativity and invention that characterizes children before they are deformed by adult society.

Jean Piaget
Swiss philosopher
1896–1980

“The child amidst his baubles is learning the action of light, motion, gravity, muscular force….”

~ Ralph Waldo Emerson (writer)

“The most effective kind of education is that a child should play amongst lovely things.”

~ Plato (Greek philosopher)

“Play gives children a chance to practice what they are learning…They have to play with what they know to be true in order to find out more, and then they can use what they learn in new forms of play.

~ Fred Rogers (Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood)

Thinking about buying your toddler technology for the holidays? Think Again……

Standard

 

 

As the holidays are fast approaching, and parents are trying to figure out the perfect gift for their kids, I thought this would be a great time to talk about children and technology. Should young children  have laptop computers, iphones,androids and/or kindles? By young, I am talking about preschool-aged kiddos. And apparently there are are some thoughtful parents who understand that technology should not br the centerpiece of early childhood.

Every year the organization Campaign for a Commerical-Free Childhood takes a poll as to which toy should be named WORST TOY OF THE YEAR. And the winner of the 2011 TOADY award …..drumroll please…..Capturing 43% of the vote, the Vinci Touchscreen Mobile Learning Tablet has won the2011 TOADY (Toys Oppressive And Destructive to Young Children) Award for Worst Toy of the Year. http://www.commercialfreechildhood.org/

I cannot contain my delight to know that parents saw through the hype of this “toy.” Meander over to the product’s website http://www.vincigenius.com/ and you will discover that this system (i.e. toy) was developed by a mom and designed (i.e.  targeted ) for toddlers and preschoolers. It even has objectives and sites constructive play(their definition:  play to have fun, play to be happy, yet play with a structure and objectives)as the driving motivation for parents, grandparents, and others to purchase this “toy.” They even drag Dr. George Forman into the fray,citing his well-respected work, “Constructive Play: Applying Piaget in the Preschool” (http://www.videatives.com/store/product_info.php?cPath=1&products_id=99) on their website as to give credibility to their “system.” No where in this tome does Dr. Forman condone or condemn technology in the preschool setting, and it is deplorable, and unethical to use such tactics to sell an “educational” toy. The first level, called “Curious” leads consumers to believe that babies need to be exposed to such ideas as:

Remembering

Emotions

Words and short sentences

Understanding the idea of 1 vs. more, single vs. plural

Foods, animals and people as categories

Aren’t children from birth exposed to these concepts in natural ways? A mother holding her baby models emotions. As the brain matures it starts to understand about numeracy and classification. Piaget would be appalled at how his ideas are being twisted in order to sell an “educational” product. What children need is human interaction.

Want some ideas about what to buy your child for the holidays?

Take a page from Geekdad – a regular dad who writes about technology for wired.com – says these are the best toys of all time:

1.a stick

2. a box

3. string

4.cardboard tubes

5. mud

 

I would like to add a couple of other “musts” that you should consider purchasing for your preschooler –

-blocks- all shapes, sizes, and textures (why? here’s the answer http://www.kiwifamilies.co.nz/Topics/Toys/Building+Blocks+and+Toys.html)

-books – all shapes, sizes, and topics (check out this link for ideas on books for toddlers: http://www.whattoexpect.com/toddler-learning/best-books-for-toddlers.aspx)

-a beanbag chair, a big pillow, and a soft rug to put them on.

-a worm farm, ant farm, sea monkeys

-toy cars, dump trucks – promotes large muscle activity and imagination

-pull toys – promotes large muscle activity

If you really feel the need to include some sort of technology under the tree or bush- cameras and tape recorders are good options. Kids like to take pictures (and videos)of their creations and talk about their creations. It encourages literacy and language development. It also allows parents to clean up when the kids know that there is a record of what they did and they can show it to others.

Take it from a veteran early child care professional and not a marketing guru. Like I shared with a colleague recently – computers will always be around, and what we think is important computer education today for children will be obsolete by the time they grow up. Give your kids the gift of human interaction this holiday season. Build a tower. Buy a copy of your favorite childhood book and share it with your child. Purchase a sea monkey tank and watch their movements, especially when you shine a light on them when it gets dark. These kind of gifts yield so much more than a overpriced piece of plastic  that they will outgrow in a couple of years. The memories your make with your child with my suggestions will last a lifetime.

 


 

 

 

Head Start Grantees – A Few Major Flubs Make Every Program Look Bad

Standard

Today an article by Kimberly Hefling, AP education writer made its way around the net titled: “Safety violations found at Head Start centers.” It outlined information released by the General Inspector regarding their findings during center audits earlier this Spring at centers around the country. As a former director, I have had to deal with inspections, audits and the like, and after reading the report for North Coast Opportunities, Inc. (one of the grantees from California), I have to say I was dumbfounded.
I looked at the findings and recommendations the auditors noted in their report after they visited and took pictures (which were included in an appendix in the back of the report)at  North Coast Opportunity’s sites. The major flubs that this organization committed had to do with uncovered electrical outlets, outdated 1st aid manuals, not locking locks that should be locked at all times, and storing mops to dry in inappropriate places. Some fences needed mending and paint was found chipped on outside play equipment.
My question is – how in the WORLD could these things have been overlooked by staff and administration? Head Start directors (who are very very well paid here in California, by the way) for the most part, do not have teaching responsibilities, so how could every site that was inspected not have covers over their outlets? This is a beginning supervisor error, not a seasoned professional’s. I was so embarrassed for them, and for our profession when reading this in the report. Outdated manuals? Gates unlocked? Emergency exits blocked by furniture? Had an analyst come out from Community Care Licensing, these sites would have been sited and a meeting set up to talk about this gross negligence of their center facilities.

In California, site directors have to have a Bachelor’s degree and 105 hours of professional development over 5 years to keep their permits valid. Program directors have the same requirements plus more experience. These people know better and if they don’t – they shouldn’t be running child care programs. It makes me even sadder to know that this story was picked up in the press and reinforces in the minds of the public and other funding sources that Head Start programs do not provide the quality programs that we have come to believe to be the truth. it makes me downright angry truth be told.
Directors – get your acts together or walk away from the profession. Kids do not need burned out, lazy teachers, supervisors, and directors to care for them.
http://www.linkedin.com/news?viewArticle=&articleID=978448586&gid=2139015&type=member&item=84796217&articleURL=http%3A%2F%2Fhosted.ap.org%2Fdynamic%2Fstories%2FU%2FUS_HEAD_START_SAFETY_ABUSES%3FSITE%3DWCMHTV%26SECTION%3DHOME%26TEMPLATE%3DDEFAULT&urlhash=u9bo&goback=.gde_2139015_member_84796217

Assessments and Testing both in the US and Down Under

Standard

In early childhood education, state funded programs are required to assess their students. In California, where I live, when a child enters the program, the first assessment is given within the 1st 60 days, then every six months after that first assessment. The idea is to assess the children, assess the data, and create lesson plans around the results. Some lesson plans are geared toward specific children, some are geared toward the group as a whole. The problem I find with this is that administrators do not want to pay teachers prep time and assessment time to do this task. You cannot observe to assess and be directly involved with the children. I know most teachers do this work on their own time as part of their job. And I know that a lot of observations are fabricated and thus do not give a true picture of the child. I don’t work in state funded programs anymore because I don’t believe that kids and teachers need the stress of assessments, unless there is a problem. Children, especially preschoolers grow at different rates, and how do you tailor individual activities to meet the needs of individuals if you are forced to create these environments that do not look at children as individuals? That is what I abhor about elementary school. Why are we doing this to preschoolers? Play-based facilities are busy allowing children to be children – to be attuned to what the child is doing now and how to help facilitate his curiosity about whatever interests him/her. Dealing with anecdotal gets in the way of this goal. The same in school age care. I had so much darn paperwork, recording this and that, that I could not enjoy my time with the kids, and I sure could not supervise them while doing paperwork.

There has to be a better way to prove that the money that centers get is being well-spent. I suggest having analyst go in and observe for themselves, similar to a licensing visit. I think it is great to have parent conferences – to collect children’s work and to talk about the child’s development over the last six months. This is what public school teachers do – no one has them do the kind of paperwork that is expected out of preschool teachers. Talk with parents – keep the communication open. Have state auditors come down and see for themselves what is happening in the classrooms. Let the teachers do their job – be with the kids, help the kids try new things, and play with them. That is all the kids want really – just to be kids.

As for other countries –

Australia just began doing national standardized testing in 2008.
World News Australia quotes government officials who provide three justifications. They argue it helps identify which students need assistance. It helps identify which schools need assistance. Finally, it doesn;t increase overall stress because students currently get tested http://justcauseit.com/blogs/alex-elliot/new-standardized-tests-australia

Australia has an interesting dynamic as all children are divided up either aboriginal or non-aboringinal. Historically the aboriginal children are behind the others for various reasons, the number one reason is that aboriginal parents are afraid that they will lose their children to Western Culture, and consequently, their own. The government does not hold indigenous children to the same standards as the “white” children, and the statistics prove it. Lastly, in the Aboriginal culture, English may be the child’s second, third or fourth language. When most of the teachers speak and teach in English and not of aboriginal culture, it proves challenging, even to the most seasoned educator.
Here is some further information regarding the educational situation in Australia:
In most schools across Queensland (and probably across other states) the proportion of Aboriginal children is about five percent or less [15]. Many white teachers do not have a lot of experience teaching and dealing with Indigenous kids or communities.
As a consequence white teachers can misinterpret certain behaviour by Aboriginal students, for example when students avoid eye contact. In Aboriginal culture direct eye contact to an adult is considered rude.
When teachers in such a way misdiagnosed Aboriginal students’ classroom behaviour we can speak of ‘soft racism’. Other forms of such racism might be when teachers ignore Indigenous students, expect them to deliver low results or victimize them.
For many Indigenous children English is their second, third or fourth language. White teachers should explain things in more than one way and more than once to enable Aboriginal students to understand and learn. In Aboriginal culture knowledge was passed on through repetitive story-telling.
Teaching Aboriginal students needs to convey a ‘relatedness’, which is a key feature of Aboriginal world views, and connect it with the skills necessary for them to have a full and productive life [17]. Aboriginal students need to receive an education that enhances and promotes their Aboriginality.

Read more:http://www.creativespirits.info/aboriginalculture/education/#ixzz1gC3YGL9q 
This country will also have to deal with how ELL learners affect the testing. Will teachers take the brunt of the criticism  like here in the US? Will they be the scapegoat of a system that does not take into consideration that a large percentage of the children who are tested do not have English as their primary language? It will be interesting to watch and see how they deal with this issue in the land down under……

Abolishing Childhood Obesity- at least making a dent in it….

Standard

All my life I have battled the battle of the bulge. I was a stocky kid, developed quite early, and had kids call me the “f” word more times than I like to remember. I don’t remember anyone talking about eating differently, or for that matter, that I needed more exercise. I bowled and took ballet on a regular basis. I was never in the house – I was outside and stayed out until the streetlights came on. I PLAYED when my mother would send me out to play. I didn’t wait for her to give me something to do – I made up my own games, my own dramatic play, and did this for most of my early and middle childhood. As a child of the ’70’s sports were not promoted as they were when my kids were little. Flyers weren’t sent home to my parents talking about signing me up for soccer, basketball, or softball, so my Saturday mornings were usually filled with TV. I know it sounds bad, but it really was the only time I watched TV unless I was getting ready for school. Compared to the kids today, I was a lightweight tv viewer.

I do remember Saturday morning blurbs between my favorite TV shows talking about making “healthy” frozen treats by pouring orange juice into the slots of an ice cube tray and then sticking toothpicks in the middle and freezing them for an hour.
or the same character always made me want a hunka cheese:

These were fun to watch and try at home. Even on a rainy day.
In the news today it was reported that a 200lb eight year old was placed into foster care when his mother took him to the doctor to get medical treatment for his asthma. Social workers in Cleaveland, Ohio said that the parents were not doing enough to control his weight.
Schools across this country serve lunches that fail to provide the proper nutrition that children need to maintain their wait and help with their concentration –
Check out this documentary on what two moms decided to do about it:

The first step in the fight against childhood obesity is to acknowledge that it does exist. My family treated my fat as if at some magical age it was going to fall off me. I would wake up one day and the “baby fat” would be gone. Voila!
It didn’t happen.
Once our nation, our state, our town, our community accepts this as fact, then education can begin and change can begin to happen. here are the latest findings from a RAND study regarding kindergarten-age children:

http://yourlife.usatoday.com/health/medical/pediatrics/story/2011-11-25/Many-kindergarteners-already-on-road-to-obesity-study-finds/51397354/1?sf2625438=1

There is a lot of information on how to do this online. Here are a couple of sites to get you going:

Playworks: http://www.playworks.org/

SPARK –http://www.sparkpe.org/blog/

The National Foundation on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition:
http://www.thenationalfitnessfoundation.org/

American Association of Pediatrics’ partnership with Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move It!” resources and additional links to information on this topic:
http://www.aap.org/obesity/whitehouse/index.html#resources

Do pass this information along to your friends, families, and peers. We want our kids and future generations to live long and healthy lives. We need to do our part as child advocates to make this a reality. Advocate for more play in our preschools, child care facilities, and public schools. Check menus. Pack a healthy lunch. Evaluate the physical education programs in the local schools. There is a lot we can do as a community if we set our minds to the task.

One Source of Chaos in a Child’s Life: DIVORCE

Standard

I know this topic all too well. I was a child of divorce and I went through my own divorce when my kids were about the same age as I was when my parents called it quits.
My parents divorced officially when I was ten. This is what I remember most about that time:
1. My mother constantly screaming at my dad.
2. Taking long walks with my dad around the block and watching tears roll down his face.
3. Listening to arguments about how my dad liked to break the visitation rules when all he wanted to do is watch me bowl in my Saturday morning league on weekends when he didn’t have the “right” to see me.
4. My mother trying to find herself – leaving me with a babysitter on a Friday night or Saturday night because she had the “right” to happiness too.
5. Watching both my parents bring adults in and out of my life that I felt some attachment to, then one day they were gone.

So my story doesn’t involve living in squalid conditions and neither of my parents were drug addicts. They didn’t beat me or my brother nor did they beat up on each other, except verbally, and oh the one time my mother threw a hot cup of coffee on my dad in front of me, some of it actually splashed onto my nightgown.
From kindergarten through sixth grade I attended the same elementary school, and to my recollection, I was the only kid whose parents divorced. Thank goodness I had Girl Scouts and ballet and bowling to keep me steady. But did I have scarring? Yes. Was I hurt? Yes. But in the ’70’s no one knew exactly how to help kids get “through” divorce. I remember some well-meaning person handing me a book with a neon-pink book and that was suppose to be the salve on my heart. I, apparently, was one of the few children that did not blame myself for my parent’s split. The blame laid squarely on my mother, from what I could see – through that in with the beginning of puberty – and it was the closest thing to hell that I knew of in my lifetime. It was bad enough that my parents were not together, but I had strangers in my house that I had to adjust to – one of them was one of my dad’s best friends. Statistics show thatToday, approximately 24 percent of children are born into a cohabiting household. Additionally, 20 percent more children will spend sometime in a cohabiting household with an unrelated adult some time during their child. That means that a more than 40% of children will experience a living situation that includes cohabitation.

The divorce statistics have stayed fairly steady since the ’70’s. One out of every two marriages fail in the United States. Most of the kids that attended the infant center I worked in were products of second marriages or other types of relationships. Children who live with mothers who were not married but living in a cohabitation situation were 170% likely to see that situation disseminate by the time they reached their 12th birthday:

*http://divorceministry4kids.com/2011/children-and-parental-cohabitation/
These kids tend to live close to poverty (as single households tend to do) and are at a higher risk of abuse than those children who come from “in tact” families.
Young children who experience recurrent abuse or chronic neglect, regularly witness domestic violence, or live in homes permeated by parental mental health or substance abuse problems are particularly vulnerable….

“All of these situations are stressful for children. Persistent activation of biological stress response systems leads to abnormal levels of stress hormones that have the capacity to damage brain architecture if they do not normalize. In the absence of buffering protection of supportive relationships, these hormone levels can remain out of balance. Known as toxic stress, this condition literally interferes with developing brain circuits, and poses a serious threat to young children, not only because it undermines their emotional well-being, but also because it can impair a wider range of developmental outcomes including early learning, exploration and curiosity, school readiness, and later school achievement.”

We as child care advocates – yes all of us are – need to be aware of this type of stress in our own children and children in our care and help them the best way we can, namely to keep our environment steady, loving, and supportive. Provide resources for families who ask for help. Lend an ear to a mom or dad who just had a rough day at work. Blowing off a bit of steam before going home and dealing with home stress may lessen the stress for the children. Just some ideas to keep in mind……

Spain – Divorce American Style….

Up until 1981 marriage was a forever thing in Spain, but since divorce was legalized, and the mandatory legal separation step in the divorce process was abolished in 2005, Spaniards divorce at the rate of Americans, approximately one divorce for every 2.3 marriages (Bernardi and Pastor-Martinez, 2011). Cohabitation before marriage is rare in this mostly Catholic country (73,2% according to the National Institute of Statistics, 2010), thus most children in Spain are born into a traditional nuclear family. (Bernardi and Pastor-Martinez, 2011). Spanish women tend to be more educated and live in a dual earner model of marriage at the time of divorce, thus economic concerns do not seem to play a part in their decision. This bodes well for the children of these parents. They do not seem to have the same psychological outcomes and fears as do their American counterpoints – but it is yet to be played out over generations. Divorce is a relatively new in Spain, and it will be interesting to see if as women choose to back away from traditional nuclear family choices and move toward more liberating Western lifestyles, and how this will affect their children and country. Few Spanish children are born out of wedlock and so there is very little professional research done on this population. Parents who divorce are required to provide “maintenance” for the children in the manner in which they are accustomed, and it seems that this system is effective. There is familial pressure to maintain stability for the children, and so far, this seems to be a plus in the Spanish culture. I hope this does not change any time soon.

Reference:

American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry 2006. Children of divorce facts for families. Fact Sheet. Retrieved on November 25, 2011 from http://www.aacap.org/galleries/FactsForFamilies/01_children_and_divorce.pdf

Bernardi F., Martinez-Pastor (2011). Divorce risk factors and their variations over time in Spain. Retrieved on November 25, 2011 from http://www.demographic-research.org/Volumes/Vol24/31/24-31.pdf