Covid-19 reveals some worrying attitudes to childcare in Britain

Children being at home with their parents has revealed some worrying attitudes in Britain. How often have broadcasters talked about the awfulness of having ‘kids under your feet all day’, of the exhaustion of being expected to entertain them, and the mother who said her two-year-old would be distraught not being in daycare and having to spend time with her. Has society broken the link between mother and child? However, we’ve also heard some heartening views: mothers and fathers saying how rewarding it’s been to have time with their young children, how happy the children have been, and how they regret the joyous moments they must have missed while they were away from their babies all day – and they now wished they had done things differently.

Scientific research all over the world has agreed that the first three years of a child’s life is the time when the brain is developing at its maximum, when one-to-one physical closeness to a reliable, loving parent will enable the parent to ‘read’ both the child’s physical and emotional needs, essential to the brain’s healthy growth, and establish that bond through which the baby will find stability, confidence and self-esteem. It is the absence of these feelings which manifests itself later on in poor mental health, an inability to make good relationships – and too many of society’s problems, from anxiety and anti-social behaviour to teenage self-harming, and suicide. The costs entailed in trying, and mostly failing, to solve these problems are greater than what should have been spent at the beginning – enabling a parent to be with the child during those vital early years.

Let’s learn from Lockdown that the under-threes thrive in the care of a loving parent, and that parents too will find reward in that demanding, but essential role. Don’t push our babies out of the nest before we have taught them to fly with joy and confidence.