A program in New York City’s high-poverty areas is training parents to be more sensitive to their children

BROOKLYN, N.Y. — At age 2, Maya turns to her mother, Taneice Dawkins, to show off her every move. She pounds a spoon on a table, prompting her mother to exclaim, “Oh, it’s a loud banging spoon.” The little girl hands her mother a cup, a piece of paper, a plastic banana. Each time, the 36-year-old Brooklyn mother responds, “Thank you, Maya,” a phrase the toddler repeats.

Such parent-child interactions are vital, experts say. And a group working to strengthen bonds between mothers and babies in New York’s high-poverty areas believe they also take a lot of work. As a result, the group is coaching primary caregivers like Dawkins how to be more sensitive parents, which is loosely defined as parents who respond appropriately to their children’s signals and interact positively with them

“When families are living in poverty, the infants need extra-sensitive parents and it’s harder for the parents to give that extra-sensitive parenting,” said Anne Heller, founder of Power of Two, which opened in Brownsville, Brooklyn, last fall and has worked to help nearly 100 families become more sensitive to their children’s needs.
Politico New York

This story also appeared in Politico New York

The idea is that forming strong attachments in the first years of life can buffer children from stress over their lifetimes, and also lead to better academic achievement. Without these attachments, the theory goes, some of these children will already be at a disadvantage by preschool.

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