Focus on the Family with Dr. James Dobson
Question: My son is just over a year old. I quit my job when he was born, believing it was the right thing to do, but lately our finances have been so tight that I'm seriously considering going back to work. What are your feelings about putting a child of this age in day-care?
DR. DOBSON: Let me begin by saying that I understand the struggle you're facing. When our firstborn was two years old, I was finishing my doctoral work at the University of Southern California. Every available dollar was needed to support my tuition and related expenses. Although we didn't want Shirley to work when Danae was young, we felt we had no alternative. Shirley taught school and our little girl was taken to a day-care center each morning. One day when we arrived at the facility, Danae began to cry uncontrollably. "No! No! No, Daddy!" she said to me. She had a look of terror in her eyes, and I suspected that she had been very upset the last time she was there. I could only imagine what had happened. I turned and walked back to the car carrying my precious daughter. When we were alone, I said, "Danae, I promise that you will never have to stay there again." And she never did.
I share this to underscore the point that though I'm sympathetic with your financial anxieties, I'd still advise you to avoid the daycare option if at all possible. My opinion on this subject is based on hard data.
The National Institute of Child Health and Human Development has conducted the most comprehensive study of this issue to date. More than 1,100 mothers and children and ten premier childcare sites across the United States were evaluated when the children were six, 15, 24, and 36 months of age. Preliminary findings confirm that leaving a very young child in a day-care facility is associated with less sensitive mothering and child engagement. The child also tends to react less positively to the mother. In other words, the bond between mother and child is affected somewhat negatively by early day-care experience, especially if the mother tends by nature to be insensitive.
QUESTION: You've indicated when sex education should begin. When should it end?
DR. DOBSON: You should plan to end your formal instructional program about the time your son or daughter enters puberty (the time of rapid sexual development in early adolescence). Puberty usually begins between ten and thirteen for girls and between eleven and fourteen for boys. Once they enter this developmental period, they are typically embarrassed by discussions of sex with their parents. Adolescents usually resent adult intrusion during this time — unless they raise the topic themselves. In other words, this is an area where teens should invite parents into their lives.
I feel that we should respect their wishes. We are given ten or twelve years to provide the proper understanding of human sexuality. After that foundation has been laid, we serve primarily as resources to whom our children can turn when the need exists. That is not to say parents should abdicate their responsibility to provide guidance about issues related to sexuality, dating, marriage, etc., as opportunities present themselves. Again, sensitivity to the feelings of the teen is paramount. If he or she wishes to talk, by all means, welcome the conversation. In other cases, parental guidance may be most effective if offered indirectly. Trusted youth workers at church or in a club program such as Campus Life or Young Life can often break the ice when parents can't.
I'd also suggest that you arrange a subscription for your kids to magazines that provide solid advice — from the perspective of a friend, rather than an authority figure.
Dr. Dobson is founder and Chairman Emeritus of the nonprofit organization Focus on the Family, Colorado Springs, Colo. 80995 (www.family.org). Questions and answers are excerpted from "Complete Marriage and Family Home Reference Guide" and "Bringing Up Boys," both published by Tyndale House.
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