Studies have repeatedly shown that talking and interacting with young children helps maximize their brain development.
When the pediatric surgeon Dr. Dana Suskind wrote her first book on the subject, she thought sharing that science would be enough.
With a simple “3T” mantra – Tune In, Talk More and Take Turns – Suskind’s work has helped educate thousands of parents and caregivers that exposing children to language and conversation early in life life is essential to help develop their brains.
However, as she continued her work, Suskind realized that implementing the 3Ts was not so straightforward for many parents. Many families struggle with basic needs like food, shelter, and health care, and even in more affluent households, parents often work demanding jobs that require long hours, nights, and weekends. ends away from their families.
There are more than 60 million parents in the United States with children under the age of 18 and approximately 20 million working Americans who have children under the age of 6. More than 70% of mothers were in the workforce in 2020, according to new research from Suskind. book.
Yet about half of Americans live in so-called “child care deserts,” and the United States spends less on early childhood care and education than any other developed country.
In his book, Suskind wrote: “Ultimately, we have made it exceedingly difficult for most parents to raise children in our country, and nearly impossible for some. And until we make it easier for all parents to keep their promise as mastermind architects so that their children can reach their full potential, our society will not reach theirs.”
Suskind will discuss lessons from this new book, “Parent Nation: Unlocking Every Child’s Potential, Fulfilling Society’s Promise,” at a 6 p.m. CivicCon event on June 12 at the Studer Community Institute in Pensacola.
Suskind is the founder and co-director of the TMW Center for Early Learning + Public Health, director of the Pediatric Cochlear Implant Program, and professor of surgery and pediatrics at the University of Chicago.
She first developed an interest in brain development after noticing a disparity in outcomes among her young patients. Suskind performs cochlear implant surgery, which gives deaf children the ability to hear, and she’s noticed that some patients learned to speak and excelled developmentally after surgery, while others didn’t. haven’t done it.
By researching possible explanations, she learned that the words children hear – and their quantity and quality – serve to stimulate regions of the brain that are critical to children’s ability to speak and later to read. Exposure to words also affects areas of the brain that deal with feelings and reason, which will help children regulate their emotions and behavior as they grow.
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As she learned and refined her research, Suskind eventually wrote “Thirty Million Words: Building A Child’s Brain”, a book that became a springboard for the TMW Center. The center focuses on evidence-based strategies to show parents the importance of talking to babies and young children, and it is estimated that the centre’s work will directly reach 15,000 families across the country by 2024.
Discussing why she wrote the follow-up book “Parent Nation,” Suskind said while honored to help parents feel more empowered to help improve their children’s learning experiences, “I had also hoped that a better understanding of this science would lead to structural change, that more people in positions of power would recognize what young children need to thrive and take action to help meet those needs. needs.
“That hasn’t happened. Real and essential change will only happen when there is a concerted collective effort to bring it about.”
Suskind said “Parent Nation” is an effort to reach every adult in the country because “every adult has a role to play in ensuring that parents are, in fact, able to shape their children’s ability to learn. from day one. And every adult – parent or not – stands to gain when the next generation has the opportunity to thrive.”
“Parent Nation” focuses on three ideas known as the “3Fs”:
- Host community: Parents cannot and should not be required to go it alone when engaged in the important work of raising children.
- Forging a collective identity: The tens of millions of parents in the United States are united by an irresistible desire to do good for their children.
- Struggle for change: When a group of people speaks with one voice, society listens. It’s time for parents and allies to demand more.
Suskind’s book notes that other countries around the world are increasingly recognizing that support for families and parenting is an important part of social policy and an essential investment in reducing poverty, reducing inequality and promoting the positive well-being of parents and children. There is global pressure for policies such as at least six months paid leave for all parents, safe and comfortable public and workplace places for women to breastfeed, and universal access to childcare. quality and affordable children from birth to the first day of the first year. .
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In the United States, however, we have perpetuated the belief that parents are meant to be “tough and independent,” according to Suskind. The result is that parents believe “that they should be able to take on the enormous responsibility of early childhood care, development and education on their own without formal support. And that if they struggled to do so, failure was their only failure.
“I think that’s starting to change. Now, finally, parents are looking around and noticing that they’re not alone. They realize that when parents repeat the same stories of struggle across the country, the problem is not personal, it is systemic. And systemic problems require systemic solutions.”
Suskind said that to help young brain development and better prepare their children for life, parents need to know how to best foster essential neural connections. They need time with their children to practice this knowledge and nurture these bonds. They need high quality child care that complements their efforts. They must be able to provide children with stress-free homes.
“I would like to see legislation that supports all of these goals,” she said. “Some solutions, like paid family leave and subsidized child care, are obvious. Others, like portable benefits and fair work week laws, are less so. I am neither a policy maker nor a But I can say this with confidence: If brain science is our roadmap, parents are in charge… But just as every captain needs a crew, every parent needs and deserves policies. that help them do what they do best.”
Suskind’s presentation will dive deeper into his research and the takeaways from “Parent Nation” at a free, open-to-all CivicCon event from 6-7:30 p.m. on Sunday, June 12, at the first floor atrium of the Studer Community Institute, 220 W Garden Street, Pensacola.
To register for the event, search for “CivicCon” on eventbrite.com. Registrants will have the opportunity to submit a question to Suskind.
The presentation will also be streamed live on pnj.com and the Newspaper Facebook page.
The event is part of CivicCon, a partnership between the Pensacola News Journal and the Studer Community Institute to empower communities to become better places to live, grow, work and invest through smart planning and civic conversations.
For more information, visit pnj.com/civiccon.