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Family Complexity

 

Direct-service professionals who are able to focus on both the child’s and the parent’s needs are better able to support the development of the family as a whole.
—Rebecca Parlakian and Nancy Seibel, Building Strong Foundations (p. 9)

 

A family’s ability to support their child’s social-emotional development is impacted by a variety of factors, including the quality of the parental relationship; the parents’ own experiences of childhood; the parents’ relationships with their own mothers and fathers; the practical and emotional support received from extended family and friends; the level of stress the family is experiencing and their capacity to deal with that stress; and the temperament, personality, and overall health of the young child.

 

Review “Recognizing the Complexity of Families” on pages 7–9 of Building Strong Foundations and reflect on the various family influences on infant mental health. Then, imagine that you are a child development professional working with infants and toddlers in a childcare program. You have recently welcomed two new children into your program. Consider the following scenarios, which provide information about the new children and their families:

 

Scenario One
Martina’s 3-month-old infant daughter, Jesse, was born at 28 weeks of gestation. Jesse’s first 8 weeks of life were spent in the neonatal intensive care unit at the local hospital, and although Jesse is doing well, she does have persistent health concerns. Martina, a single parent, was very excited about the birth of her daughter, and has a very close relationship with her own mother. Her mother has recently moved in to help Martina care for Jesse, and her assistance has been welcome and greatly appreciated. On the third day that Martina is dropping Jesse off at your childcare program, she mentions how exhausted and overwhelmed she is, and that neither she nor Jesse have been getting much sleep at night as Jesse often cries inconsolably.

Scenario Two
William and Sophia have recently moved to the community with their four children. Their youngest child, Aislin, is 8 months old, and is very predictable and easy to care for. Both parents work long hours, and neither has family that lives nearby. Sophia is often in a hurry when she drops off Aislin in the morning and picks her up at the end of the day. After a week in your care, you mention to Sophia when she picks up Aislin that she will need to bring in another set of diapers for the coming week. Sophia responds: “It’s always something. We really should have stopped at three kids, or I should have listened to my own parents, who felt they’d have been better off if they never had one! I wasn’t even sure I wanted one… I just don’t feel like I can even keep up with the constant demands of work, let alone kids, kids, kids.”

 

Based on what you have learned about the role of child development professionals in responding to both the child’s and the family’s needs, respond to the following:

 

  • What strengths does each family system present in terms of supporting their child’s social-emotional health?
  • What stressors and adversity are faced by each family?
  • How might these strengths, stressors, and adversities potentially impact the young child’s social-emotional development?
  • What strategies would you use as a child development professional to support each of these families?

 



Post your response to the unique strengths and challenges of each family and the potential influence on family members and children’s behavior and relationships, and explain how knowledge of these strengths and challenges can support your ability to positively influence family development.

 

Resources:

  • Course Text: Building Strong Foundations: Practical Guidance for Promoting the Social-Emotional Development of Infants and Toddlers
    • Pages 5–10 (“What’s So Important About Good Relationships?”)
  • Course Text: Concepts for Care: 20 Essays on Infant/Toddler Development and Learning
    • “Being Held in Another’s Mind” by Jeree Pawl (pp. 1–4)
    • “Nurturing Developing Brains, Minds, and Hearts” by Ross A. Thompson (pp. 47–52)


Optional Resources

 

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