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It becomes more delicate when children are three years and younger. Studies have shown time and time again that a series of remarkable changes occur in the children, which marks this period as one of the most important stages in a human being’s life. In their early years children begin to develop their motor skill; they begin to form their first neural pathways; and they form their primary bonds and attachments which serve as their template for future relationships. The environment of the child plays a key part in this development. The presence of a loving care giver who is able to satisfy the demand for care and attention has been found to be a primary element for positive development. Obviously, working parents must avail of alternative arrangements to settle the care of their child during their working hours. Sometimes this is entrusted to extended family. Others prefer hiring a childminder. Equally as popular is the enrolment in a childcare facility. The latter is perhaps the one which causes the greatest controversy in this debate. The greatest issue highlighted in this discussion is generally the unavoidable reality that childcare centres cannot provide the same level of one-to-one attention to the babies, as a stay-at-home parent can. In general I agree. It is very hard to equate the same standard. However, my question is whether this is such a disasterous experience. I guess, it depends on the standard of the childcare facility. If we had to rely on available research, it has been found that children who spend more time in childcare tend to show more impulsive and risk-taking behaviours compared to other kids who spend less time there. Other research shows that the emotional development of children can also be impacted. When children are left unattended (usually it is because we cannot reach everyone at the same time – it was the greatest problem of residential placements like Creche) and therefore no one responds to their cries immediately, their bodies will start to secrete certain chemicals which are harmful to the children in prolonged bouts of time. As the child cries for attention which is not given, we can expect a tragic cognitive reaction in the child in the sense that s/he will form a very negative rule in life: no one is here for me. This is called a script and we all have scripts like these. They are not necessarily all negatively charged. Some believe that they are good. However, these scripts will begin to operate as fundamental truth for us and they will become the very bedrock of our identity.

– Steve Libreri is a social worker and parent coach within Willingness. He offers parent coaching and social work sessions. He can be contacted on steve@willingness.com.mt.