Making a Brighter Future for 2018 in San Diego County
On Jan. 1, many of us made resolutions about our health, time management, habits or relationships. While these all have value, allow me to suggest another idea – resolve to measure your success this year by the well-being of the youngest children in your life. Did you know that, according to the Harvard Center for the Developing Child, 90 percent of a person’s brain development happens before age 5? This means that the foundation for lifelong learning, social and emotional development, and good mental and physical health is established before a child enters kindergarten.
The building blocks for the future of our county reside in the interactions we have with our youngest citizens. Key factors like resilient families, consistent health care, and high-quality child care and education make all the difference. On the flipside of this, adverse childhood experiences (also known as ACEs), such as abuse, neglect, lack of affection, abandonment, domestic violence, substance abuse in the home, etc., can all create toxic stress in the developing brains of young children. Toxic stress is stress that isn’t made tolerable by a caring adult, and it erodes the foundation of brain development and increases the likelihood of chronic physical and mental health problems later in life. We live in a beautiful place, but it is also a place where generational cycles of toxic stress need to be broken and resilient families need to be built and supported.
So, how can you be part of the solution in 2018?
Think about the youngest children in your life – your own children, grandchildren, nieces/nephews, your friends’ children or grandchildren, your neighbors, the children who attend your church or walk through the doors of your business.
What can you do in 2018 to ensure that these children are getting everything they need to build a solid foundation for future success?
Parents: Sign up for a Positive Parenting class! Look into high-quality preschool and childcare settings and ask good questions. Find a family doctor or pediatrician who you trust and get a list of key dates to schedule well-child visits. Follow the First 5 San Diego Facebook page and engage with their parenting challenges each month. Take good care of yourself and pay attention to how your own stress impacts your children.
Grandparents: Check out the “Grandparents Raising Grandchildren” events hosted in each region of the county and get up to speed on everything that has changed since your children were born. Be a source of unconditional love and security. Keep a collection of toys and books at your house. Introduce your grandchildren to family traditions. Become familiar with local places for safe and engaging outings. All of us: Pay attention to local, state and federal legislation that could positively or negatively affect critical services for children, and be a vocal advocate. Write to your representatives; write letters to the editor and opinion pieces for the press. Look around your neighborhood and think about ways you can make your block, street, community safer, cleaner and more welcoming for children at play and parents with strollers.
You won’t be in this alone! The First 5 network (composed of local First 5 Commissions, the First 5 Association, and First 5 California) recently adopted this vision statement as we enter our 20th anniversary year: One day, California’s success will be measured by the well-being of its youngest children. Let’s resolve to make this vision a reality together, starting in 2018, right here in San Diego County.