“If there is one thing developmental psychologists have learned over the years, it is that parents don’t have to be brilliant psychologists to succeed. They don’t have to be supremely gifted teachers. Most of the stuff parents do with flashcards and special drills and tutorials to hone their kids into perfect achievement machines don’t have any effect at all. Instead, parents just have to be good enough. They have to provide their kids with stable and predictable rhythms. They need to be able to fall in tune with their kids’ needs, combining warmth and discipline. They need to establish the secure emotional bonds that kids can fall back upon in the face of stress. They need to be there to provide living examples of how to cope with the problems of the world so that their children can develop unconscious models in their heads.” - David Brooks
Although we know what’s important and the many factors affecting growth and development of our children, sometimes, it’s easy to lose sight of it all. The stress and the chaos our already busy lives cause, coupled with the many struggles of raising our children can put most of us in a fix when it comes to knowing what’s right and most important for the development of young minds.
So when you find yourself thinking about what you need to keep in mind to make sure your children grow up to be healthy and well honed for society, here are 10 factors affecting growth and development in children, and therefore need your special attention as caregivers and parents.
This is one factor we can’t really help but transfer to our children without any interference. Physical aspects such as height, weight, body texture, eye colour, texture of hair and even physical and mental aptitude are naturally passed on from parents to their children. And not just the positives, your negative physical aspects such as any diseases if present or ill conditions might also be passed on to your children. So it’s best to know the limitations of your own body and nourish your children accordingly to reverse or rectify those conditions through lifestyle arrangements, if possible.
Whether it is the geographical location and the physical surroundings or the mental and emotional surroundings of the child, environment makes all the difference when it comes to the growth and development of a young child. The physical surroundings can affect the child’s interests and activities majorly, while the mental and emotional surroundings will affect how the child surrounds themselves when they grow up. Something to remember is that the kind of environment you create for a young child during their developing years, is the kind of environment they will unconsciously engage in, all their lives. So it’s best to constantly check the kind of environment you create for your child, whether it’s geographical location, or social and cultural nurturing you provide. It’s also good to keep it varied so they grow up to understand all kinds of varied environments and people later in life.
We all know how gender affects us in different ways. Especially during puberty, a girl and boy will differ growing up with regard to their physical and mental development, consciously, as well as unconsciously. Their temperaments, their choices, likes, dislikes, behaviour, all will be different, and which is why it makes it all the more important to teach them moral values that help them live a more gender inclusive life. This is when they’re most impressionable about their own, as well as the other gender. So make sure you check any behaviour that doesn’t reflect gender inclusivity and nip it right at the bud. Allow them to interact with all genders. It’s also good to invest in gender inclusive games like educational toys that create no gender bias.
4. Physical and Mental Well Being
Another factor we’re all well aware of is how physical and mental exercise or well being affects children. A healthy lifestyle that includes moderate amounts of sports, exercise is important for their physical well being and can contribute greatly to their growth and development. On the other hand, mentally stimulating activities such as educational toys that allow them to build their own toys, music, art and meditation can contribute well to the mental growth and development of children.
Nutrition is one factor that we need to be extra cautious of in this day and age when most of our food is processed, especially the ones that attract children the most, such as chips, soda, chocolates, etc. Treating them to such goodies once in a while may be alright, but it’s best to look at their diet as a building block of habits for their future selves too. If they develop the habit of eating healthy while they’re growing up, not only will it positively affect their growth and development, but will also follow them into their adult lives for good health.
6. Family & Social Life
The family environment and social life will be the building blocks of their adult lives, hence contributing greatly to their growth and development. More than material things, what affects your child’s growth and development is the love they receive. Moreover, what will greatly help them all through their lives is what they learn about relationships from their immediate surroundings, such as their families and friends. So make sure you surround them with the right kind of social surroundings when it comes to family and friendships. Take interest in their lives when they talk about their friends and encourage them to maintain good relationships with people who make them feel good. Whereas if you hear someone’s behaviour that doesn’t make them feel good, it’s always best to make them understand that they don’t need to be complacent to that kind of behaviour.
Needless to say, the kind of education children receive will greatly affect the growth and development of your child. And not only the education and learning they receive at school, it’s also important what they constantly learn at home. And again, it’s not just homework you should focus on. There should be mentally stimulating ways to learn that they would enjoy as well as nourish their minds with. Think educational toys, learning new languages, learning an instrument, or reading a good book for pleasure.
As much as education is important for the growth and development of your children, so is play. So make sure you create an environment that allows them to play and be as creative as they can, apart from studying and getting good grades at school. For such learning at home, tech learning toys and educational games can be a great tool to let them creatively build their own play toys and then feel the pride and pleasure of interacting with them as a user! Play time in the outdoors will also contribute to their physical nourishment and well being. So apart from educational games, it’s also good to encourage playing outdoors to create an active physical life in a social setting with their friends.
9. Cultural Nourishment
It’s so easy to be entertained in the current times. Especially with so much content in our (and our children’s) hands, we need to be mindful of the kind of content they consume and how much. The kind of culture they’re exposed to will greatly contribute to the growth and development of your children. So make sure you give them exposure to wonderful things that will inspire them, such as nature and cultural documentaries from around the world, music you love and why you love it, art and cinema that could produce wonder in young, curious minds.
10. Socio Economic Conditions
In an unbiased world, this might not affect the opportunities of growth and development in a child. But unfortunately in our world, it very much does. Even so, being open about the economic conditions of your family can help the child gain a positive view about the world, even with limited opportunities. On the other hand, teaching them about privilege if they are fortunate enough can make them into humble, empathising adults. So an open conversation about the reality of their socio economic conditions, no matter how they might be, can go a long way in the growth and development of your child.
In conclusion, there are many factors affecting growth and development of your child at a growing age. The best thing to do therefore would be to stay mindful of the kind of environment you’re creating for them at home, and outside. While how nature contributes to the growth and development of your child is not in much of your control, what lies in your control is how you nurture the young mind in your house. Make sure they’re getting the right amount of physical nutrition, the right amount and kind of mental stimulation. Moreover, also make sure they receive the love and affection they need from you as caregivers so they can grow up to be healthy, loving and kind individuals.