The Promising Start Program in The Netherlands aims to invest in the first 1000 days of life, Tessa Roseboom, ambassador of the Program, has written a blog about how the current pandemic affects all of us, and (future) parents and their children in particular.
APRIL 2020: A good start in life in times of the Corona pandemic
Professor of Early Development and Health, University of Amsterdam
The current pandemic affects everyone worldwide. The changes and uncertainty associated with the crisis induce stress. Stress can have negative effects on health. Especially during early life, when most of the development takes place, stress leaves lifelong traces. The stress creeps under the skin and becomes "baked" into the brain. Early life stress affects the way the DNA is expressed and thus has a lasting impact on the child's behavior, learning ability and health. We know this from research in people who experienced stress of previous crises during the first 1000 days of their lives, such as the flu pandemic of 1918, famines, natural disasters and terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. Fortunately, scientific research also brings a hopeful message.
We can limit the consequences of stress by providing social support and good care. Many of the negative effects of stress seem to occur especially when there is no safety net, no partner, family member, friend or (care) professional who offers to listen, or a helping hand. More and more research shows that social support buffers the effects of stress. Adverse childhood experiences such as growing up in an environment with domestic violence leaves lasting marks on the body’s physiology and can be seen in the connections in the child’s brain. If there was someone who provides support, the consequences were much less serious and the child developed much better. Similar results were found in a study of women who experienced a natural disaster during pregnancy. The women and their children were especially affected by the stress when obstetric care was no longer provided. When women were able to maintain contact with their midwife despite the disaster, they felt better, had fewer complaints after birth, and their children had fewer behavioral problems in the long term.It is inspiring to see how many creative ways are being found to allow remote care to continue, to provide additional support, to keep in touch and establish contact lines, and other heart-warming initiatives aim to support each other. The creativity unleashed during this crisis is inspiring and hopeful.Not only fear and stress are contagious. So is solidarity and creativity. We can make a difference by supporting each other. Connection and contact are the antidote to stress. When you share knowledge, you multiply it - just like luck and love. The more we share our innovative ideas about ways to support others, the more impact we can have and the more children can get a good start. This is how we can increase the impact of the Promising Start.