Childhood development is influenced by a wide range of factors, governed by both nature and nurture. Understanding the factors over which we have some control will help us address our children’s needs better. Your child’s environment, such as their diet, day to day lives, learning, parental affection, is one of the major influences on their lives. Learn more about the role of the environment in child development.
Environmental Factors Affecting Child Development
Some of the factors that affect child development are:
1. Family and Bonding
The single most important influence on the development of your child is their family. Irrespective of who they are raised by, be it you and your spouse, older siblings, or relatives, the bonding provided within a family home helps nurture and protect them physically and emotionally. This includes different parenting styles such as disciplinarian, easygoing or mixed. Any time you invest in your child will show in their positive development and growth. There are several things you can do to bond better with your child. You can make it a point to read to them regularly, establishing a routine and helping the both of you bond with each other. Playing with your child is important as well, both in establishing a close relationship as well as in helping them develop their motor skills. You can also simply talk to them, be it about your day or theirs, showing them that their inputs and opinions are valuable to you.
In contrast, children who are abused or neglected by their families suffer in terms of their mental and emotional well being. These things include corporal punishment and verbal insults, but also indifference. Leaving a child watching TV the whole day without opportunities for genuine human interactions will prevent them from getting the required experiences required to develop.
Finally, it is important to ensure that maintaining a good relationship with your child is not enough. The entire family needs to be cohesive and caring of each other. For instance, children reared by parents who argue or fight consistently grow up having trust issues with building friendships and relationships. Similarly, caring for all your children equally and paying them the same amount of attention will make them develop a sense of fairness and camaraderie.
2. Physical Environment
The effect of the environment on child development cannot be understated, including their physical surroundings. If your living environment is cramped, noisy and filled with aggression, your child’s personality can be affected. If you have too many people living at home, this could cause your child to seek out alternative forms of attention, leading to an emotional distance between them and you. Further, unpleasant surroundings often cause children to block out or bury the negativity, making them more introverted.
An important factor for kids is their school life, considering how much time they spend there every day. As a parent, it is on you to identify the school most suitable to your children’s needs. Further, keep yourself up to date with school activities, meet their teachers regularly, interact with their peers and their parents.
You can also put them in enrichment courses like martial arts programmes, meditation, music classes, and so on, depending on your budget. Many communities offer these programmes at an affordable rate. This is even more important in recent times due to the dependence on technology and the internet.
3. Financial Situation
Unsurprisingly, money is a deciding factor when it comes to living in this society. It has been well established that the privilege of wealth is real, and has a greater impact on childhood development than education. For instance, rich parents can afford to spend more time with their children, whereas poorer parents need to make ends meet and are too busy to do so. Wealth also helps secure better academic training, opportunities for travel, tuition classes, and so on.
It’s easy to forget that it is not sufficient to provide for a child; you have to be deeply involved in their lives. You can start by explaining to them how money and budgets work in a way they can understand. Tell them that they will always be taken care of even if things are tough.
Children can thrive in a poor family as long as they are loved and wanted. Remember that children are more influenced by the quality of time you spend with them, not the quantity. Your child will not remember the many times you were too tired to read or play with them, but they will fondly recall that one time you went flying kites in the park or took them for a picnic. More than this, you can simply spend your free time with them, such as while eating meals and so on.
Children with a poor financial status may face the problem of poor nutrition, which limits their ability to succeed.
4. Health and Nutrition
Poor families also have less access to nutrition, which can limit the potential of their children. Nutrition is crucial for the physical and mental growth of a child and is related to important functional outcomes at later ages. A balanced diet is also required by pregnant women, as undernutrition can lead to problems like low birth weight, miscarriages stillbirths, slowed development, and so on. In children, habits like unhealthy or excessive eating lead to weight gain, obesity, diabetes, stunted growth, lethargy, and a host of other complications.
Infants thrive on breast milk, the ideal food consisting of carbs, fats, proteins, minerals, vitamins, antibodies and everything a growing newborn needs. Breastfed babies are less likely to become obese, have low levels of cholesterol, and improved cognition. After the first six months, you can complement your child’s diet with solid foods. Ensure that they are getting the full set of micronutrients such as Vitamin A, iodine, iron, the lack of which can cause serious problems like vision defects, goitre, cretinism, anaemia and so on. These problems have been linked with reduced motor skills and social development of toddlers and young children.
In addition to learning at school, please make sure your home environment also stimulates their mental development. This includes cognitive, linguistic, emotional and motor skills. The best environment for this is a calm and loving home, allowing your child to focus on improving their abilities. The absence of such a stimulating environment can have a negative impact on your child’s language and speech development. Some of these factors include the absence of stimulation, anxiety, constant shifts in their environment, and so on.
You should take the effort in creating opportunities for your child to explore their interests, especially at home. Instil a sense of curiosity in them, encourage them to question everything and teach them to find solutions by themselves.
As their parent, it is your duty to expose them to the right kinds of environments as they will have a direct impact on their behaviour, learning, and personality. It may not be easy or even possible to provide the perfect set of opportunities for your child, but you can certainly do as well as you possibly can to take care of them. The key things to remember are keeping your home environment peaceful and loving, bonding with your children, and providing them with the necessities required to grow and thrive.