Recognizing the Importance of our Children on National Child Day, Nov. 20th, 2017

IMG_1470I am writing this message to you as an educator, advocate, and mother of young children. I feel privileged to work alongside so many brilliant and passionate Early Childhood Educators. I have spent many years advocating for more resources for vulnerable youth and families living in poverty. Five years ago, I was assigned the task of starting a committee in Calgary to celebrate National Child Day. I was a new mother then as well and I am almost embarrassed to tell you how little I knew about Early Childhood Education. The committee work connected me to a network of individuals and agencies that not only had the knowledge and research but were leveraging it to create change in their communities. After so many years of social work and advocacy, I realized I was missing the most critical opportunity to shape the emotional, social and physical development of a child and the adult they will become. I learned through this network that it is critical for parents, teachers, communities, and governments to invest in very young children to maximize their future well-being.

Since then I have read many articles and studies that support this statement, yet Early Childhood Education and Educators can still be undervalued. More awareness is still needed to challenge misunderstandings around the skill, education and personal assets required to teach our youngest learners. More advocacy is needed to ensure that we have the resources for play as a critical developer of language, social skills, and emotional well being. We need more champions of children’s rights, who understand how crucial the first 2000 days of a child’s life are for development. This work with your community has created a champion in me and I carry these messages everywhere I go.

NCD-PhotoI would like to ask you to join me in celebrating a day that recognizes the importance of children and their development. National Child Day is celebrated annually in Canada on November 20th in recognition of our country’s commitment to upholding the rights of children. The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child outlines 54 articles that provide us with a solid roadmap of what is needed to raise healthy and happy children and youth. The 2017 theme is a child’s RIGHT TO BE SAFE!

Supporting children’s rights is a key factor in improving their quality of life. It reaffirms our hard work and commitment to helping children reach their potential and advocating for change, throughout the year. Despite our abundant resources, many children in Alberta face poverty, bullying, discrimination, poor mental health outcomes and abuse. A community that promotes and invests in healthy childhood development, free from these adversities, raises healthier and more engaged citizens.

When children experience safe, stable, and nurturing relationships, they develop the strength necessary to cope with significant stressors or challenges. When they are placed in unsafe environments, children are at risk for toxic stress, hindered brain development, and negative physical and mental health outcomes later in life.

At the core of respecting a child’s right to safety is their voice being heard, believed, and valued in their community. Fostering a safe community involves creating positive relationships with caring peers and adults. We respect a child’s right to safety by being approachable; listening to, and believing their concerns; and advocating for safe spaces for them to learn, grow and play.

I encourage you to celebrate the day, wear blue and join the social media campaign. Mark your calendar for Wednesday, November 15th. A free National Child Day Panel will be held at the Alberta Children’s Hospital from 10:30 am – 12:30pm. Click HERE to view the poster for more information and to register.

Please visit www.nationalchildday.ca for booklists, toolkits, and more information on the events happening near you.

Melanie McIntosh

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