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In the heads and hands of their parents

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In the heads and hands of their parents

Giorgio Tamburlini

Children have every right to be put back “at the top” of the priorities of a society that loves each other and looks forward. The first, fundamental step to achieve this is that “in the minds” of parents there is, alongside the concern of protecting the physical integrity and health of their children, the desire to nourish their minds and give space to their great development potential. The book by Giorgio Tamburlini.

A very large body of evidence derived from neuroscience, developmental psychology and longitudinal cohort studies documents how children’s well-being, health and development are, above all, in the heads and hands of their parents. It is therefore the task of communities and society as a whole to work to put parents in a position to make the best use of their resources and abilities, starting early, well before birth, with particular attention to the very first years of life, when the neurobiological foundations are laid. of motor, cognitive and socio-relational skills, influencing subsequent life itineraries and therefore health, educational and social outcomes. In fact, in this first period of life, precisely because of the influences of the environment in which children are born and grow, the roots of inequalities in the different dimensions of development are established. which, already documented in the first years of children’s lives, then tend to increase (1-2). In recent decades, evidence has also been collected from intervention studies conducted in different contexts which demonstrate how it is possible to work with parents to strengthen their knowledge of the child’s development and above all their ability to respond to the child’s needs for attention, affection and guidance, with results that last over time.

The services that deal with children and families, all of them, starting from the health services which constitute a universal, early and continuous point of contact with families, can and must work to integrate traditional interventions aimed at promoting and preserving health, ensuring adequate nutrition, protecting against accidents and violence, and offering learning opportunities with educational services, with interventions aimed at promoting parental responsiveness. This new field of knowledge has led to the consolidation of a new line of thought, research and action: theEarly Child Development and, in 2018, to a document produced by the major international agencies, led by WHO and Unicef, known as Nurturing Care Framework (3). This document in fact calls for a revolution, not only of childhood policies, but of economic and social policies, of education and health.

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The volume, inspired by this strategic vision, presents, in its first part, a summary of an informative nature, of knowledge on the development of the child in the first years of life and on the factors that determine it starting from what is appropriately defined familiar learning environment. In the second part of the book, again on the basis of a review of experiences conducted both globally and in Italy, a series of policies and interventions integrated into a “0-6 system” is proposed of which both the central government and, above all, local governments can be interpreters, and which sees the involvement of multiple sectors (health, education, social policies and interventions, and culture to name the most important), in ensuring that all families have the resources, both material and personal, to give all girls and boys the best opportunities to get off to a good start in life. This combination of both material and personal support is essential to obtain results in terms of cognitive and socio-relational development and to prevent the early onset of inequalities in development itself and therefore in educational paths and social opportunities.

“It’s about distinguishing, within the scope of factors that influence developmentbetween those that define the material resources and services available for the family unit and those attributable to parenting skillsrecognizing both theinterdependence of these two orders of factors that their autonomy in determining medium and long-term development outcomes” (4).

If support for families must first and foremost provide a solid basis of policies and services that enable families to be able to give birth to and raise children, evidence indicates, for example, that monetary transfers, necessary to enable families to meet essential needs, are used appropriately when combined with individual support interventions. The benefits of attending early childhood education services are greater and also extend to parents to the extent that the services are active in involving families. In the same way that holistic support for the child and his family is also necessary to obtain good results in terms of treating chronic conditions and disabilities. In this context, health services, precisely because they constitute a door of universal access and frequent opportunities for contact, can play a very important role in ensuring practices that favor positive and responsive interaction between parents and children and therefore their development.

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The aim of the volume is to help create awareness of the need to invest, much more than is currently done, in the very first – and so important – periods of life and on the need for the first recipients of this commitment to be parents, their material resources and their knowledge and skills. And to provide practical indications to legislators, administrators, managers and service operators on how to operate in this direction. In fact, children have every right to be put back “at the forefront” of the priorities of a society that loves itself and looks forward. The first, fundamental step to achieve this is that “in the minds” of parents there is, alongside the concern of protecting the physical integrity and health of their children, the desire to nourish their minds and give space to their great development potential.

To achieve this, the commitment of many is needed: legislators, administrators, service workers who care for children and their families, teachers who are entrusted with their training, third sector bodies involved in childhood issues. , companies that care about communities and their young employees.

“If all parents knew how much they could contribute, with some simple attention, to the mental development, both cognitive and socio-relational, of their children, the quality of their own days, their present well-being and their life itineraries would benefit. futures of their children. If all those who work with children in their early years and their families – health, social and cultural services workers, educators – knew how much difference they could make by promoting good practices that foster the relationship between parents and children, they would enrich with new contents their profession and would increase its effectiveness. If those who have public affairs in their hands – politicians, administrators, service managers – knew that, by implementing interventions to support the resources, knowledge and skills of new parents, many of the many problems – of physical and mental health, of social cohesion , development – ​​of the communities entrusted to them could be prevented or find an easier solution (from the preface of the book).

Giorgio Tamburlini, Center for Child Health.

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Black MM, Walker SP, Fernald LCH, et al. Early childhood coming of age. science through the life-course. Lancet 2017; 389 (10064):77-90.Save the Children, 2019, Il miglior inizio. Disuguaglianze ed opportunità nei primi anni di vita, Roma.World Health Organization, United Nations Children’s Fund, World Bank Group. Nurturing care for early childhood development: a framework for helping children survive and thrive to transform health and human potential. Geneva: World Health Organization, 2018.. Versione italiana disponibile su csbonlus.org.Black MM, Behrman JR, Daelmans B, et al. The principles of Nurturing Care promote human capital and mitigate adversities from preconception through adolescence. BMJ Global Health 2021;6:

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