The data has been crunched and conclusions have been made. A fact-finding mission known as The Forum on The Early Years, spearheaded by Kate Middleton and The Royal Foundation of The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, has attracted over 500,000 responses this year, making it the largest survey of its kind in UK history.
The 5 Big Questions, an audit meant to help charities set their priorities for the future of early childhood education and support, has been the Duchess of Camrbidge’s primary focus throughout the year, despite the obvious obstacle of the coronavirus pandemic. The 5 Big Questions, her first solo project, is the culmination of nearly eight years she has spent working with family charities as a senior royal.
She spoke at a virtual event on Friday, reiterating her belief that “the early years should be on par with the other great social challenges and opportunities of our time.”
Touching upon the longterm nature of the work, she said, “it is a brave thing to believe in an outcome – in a world even – that might not be fully felt for a generation or more.”
The 5 Big Questions have generated what’s been dubbed the 5 Big Insights, guidelines to ensure mental health and wellbeing for parents, carers, and children. The data reveals nuance on the topic of nature vs. nurture, societal pressure in how to raise children, and the reluctance some feel in asking for help.
“People overwhelmingly believe that a child’s future is not pre-determined at birth,” the report reads. “However, most people don’t understand the specific importance of the early years.”
Additionally, “the reality of life makes it hard for parents to prioritize their wellbeing.” In other words, like they say on airplanes, you gotta strap on your own oxygen mask before you put on your kid’s. (The Duchess did not put it this way.)
The third Big Insight noted that “feeling judged by others can make a bad situation worse,” with 70 percent of responders saying that the opinions of others can have an effect, with nearly half feeling negatively impacted.
The fourth and fifth insights were specific to the coronavirus pandemic, noting an increase in loneliness, and unwillingness to be frank with their feelings, and how community outreach was found lacking in more economically disadvantaged areas.
A more detailed summary can be found here.
“Parenthood isn’t a prerequisite for understanding the importance of the early years,” Middleton concluded. “If we only expect people to take an interest in the early years when they have children, we are not only too late for them, we are underestimating the huge role others can play in shaping our most formative years too.”
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