As a reader of these blogs, you are aware of the effects of parenting on relationships. If you’ve had the good fortune of having been raised in a loving and caring way, with needs sufficiently met, your chances of satisfying and fulfilling relationships in adulthood are very favorable. On the other hand, if you experienced a family situation in which negativity, criticism, and punishment were frequent, most likely you have much to learn about healthy and happy relationships.
Often the problem is that one doesn’t realize there is a “better” way to relate to others. A recent newspaper article describes a program launched in Pensacola, Florida, called the “Early Learning City,” which educates all new moms on the importance of building their children’s brains from infancy.
In 2017, as part of the program, Pensacola’s three major birthing hospitals launched a campaign that gives a gift to new parents, called the "Brain Bag." This bag, full of resources on brain development, is based on a University of Chicago research program called “Thirty Million Words.” Surprisingly this is about getting the newborn ready for kindergarten, as the purpose is bridging the gap between children from privileged families—who hear on the average of 30 million or more words by the end of age three—versus those from lower income families who hear fewer words. Children hearing more words are set on a path to greater school success! Each bag contains a binder with a bib and rattle reminding parents to “talk, talk, talk.” There is a picture book, P Is for Pelican, and a workbook with developmental milestones for parents. The bags cost $25 but are free to parents.
It will take at least five years to see whether this project (begun in April 2017) has an impact on kindergarten readiness. However, the next step will be to give new mothers a video on brain development, also a part of the University of Chicago’s research. Plans are to encourage area pediatricians to repeat the message of “Thirty Million Words” at well-child visits.
Do you wonder how knowing more words affects the relationship between parents and children? To begin with, teaching infants and children involves spending time together in a very positive way. The child delights in this kind of learning, becoming more confident and expressive of his or her feelings. Think of the toddler having a tantrum who, when it is over, can articulate more about what he or she is feeling—and the wise parent can then reflect that back to the child in an accepting way.
Even if you are not a parent or if your child is no longer preschool age, if you have interest in promoting this resource you can do so by googling “THE BRAIN BAG” and discover how your input and contributions can make this well known and widespread. For anyone interested in learning more about this topic and the University of Chicago research, Dana Suskind, MD (founding director of the Thirty Million Words Initiative) has authored a book: Thirty Million Words: Building a Child’s Brain (available on Amazon).