5 Big Questions for early childhood: my thoughts

A baby's hand on that of an adult. 5 Big Questions.

I love taking part in radio conversations – it’s something bloggers are invited to do quite a lot – but hadn’t been involved in any since starting my new job.

When I was offered the chance to take part in one on BBC Radio 5 Live this week, I jumped at the chance. It was a fascinating subject and I could fit it in before my commute!

The topic was 5 Big Questions – the Duchess of Cambridge’s new NSPCC-backed campaign about the foundation years of childhood.

As the name suggests, it centres on five questions aimed at getting parents and carers thinking about the early years of children’s lives.

As is often the case with radio, I didn’t get asked the questions I had anticipated so, for what it’s worth, here are the 5 Big Questions and my thoughts on them.

What do you believe is most important for children growing up in the UK today to live a happy adult life? Rank from most important to least important.

  • Good physical and mental health
  • Good friendships and relationships
  • Access to opportunities
  • Access to a good education

I think it’s difficult to rank them as I believe these factors are interdependent in many ways. They’re all very important and it feels wrong to suggest that some have more weighting than others.

I’m pleased to see mental health included, though. It’s still seen as either taboo or nonsense by some but should be a key consideration alongside everything else listed.

Which of these statements is closest to your opinion?

  • It is primarily the responsibility of parents to give children aged 0-5 the best chance of health and happiness
  • It is primarily the responsibility of others in society
  • It is the shared responsibility of parents and others in society

I think it’s mainly the role of parents, but others have parts to play too. Teachers and early years experts, for example, can have a major impact.

How much do you agree or disagree with this statement: The mental health and wellbeing of parents and carers has a great impact on the development of their child(ren)?

I strongly agree with this one. Because our own mental health has such a big influence on everything we do. I struggle at times and, when I do, I see it reflected in my kids’ behaviour.

Children are very good at picking up on parents’ stresses and anxieties. I don’t know whether they do this consciously, but it’s definitely something I’ve noticed.

Which of the following is closest to your opinion of what influences how children develop from the start of pregnancy to age five?

  • Mostly the traits a child is born with (i.e. nature)
  • Mostly the experiences of a child in the early years (i.e. nurture)
  • Both nature and nurture equally
  • Don’t know

I think it’s a combination of both. Of course, we’re all born with different traits and these will influence how we develop to a certain degree but nurture is essential.

We often forget that we’re essentially animals, so a lot of things we encounter in life aren’t truly intuitive. As children, we all need parents and carers to show us the ropes so we can develop accordingly.

Which period of a child and young person’s life do you think is the most important for health and happiness in adulthood?

  • Start of pregnancy to 5 years
  • 5-11 years (primary school)
  • 11-16 years (secondary school)
  • 16-18 years (further education)
  • 18-24 years (young adulthood)
  • Don’t know
  • All equally important

While all are important, I think the first five years are the most vital as they lay the foundation for everything that follows. After all, our childhoods have a huge influence on the adults we become so, to my mind, there’s no substitute for trying to get things right from day one.

I suffer from depression now, but had a very happy childhood and think it played no small part in developing the resilience that gets me through tough times.

I’m determined to do the same for my children and am really pleased to see this initiative being launched.

What do you think of the 5 Big Questions?

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