Professor’s talk will help parents make child-care choices

Published 12 November 2009

margaretA public lecture in Armidale will help parents of young children make guilt-free choices when deciding whether or not to opt for child care.

“It’s not who cares for the child – it’s the quality of care,” said Professor Margaret Sims in summarising her approach to the current intense debate about parental and non-parental care.

“There’s such a focus in our society on parental care – and particularly maternal care – that parents who need to work often feel guilty about using child-care services,” she said. “And the more guilt they feel, the more difficult it is for them to do a good parenting job.

Margaret Sims (pictured here) is Professor of Early Childhood at the University of New England. “There’s a lot of research that is critical of child care,” she said, “and that adds to the guilty feelings of parents who need to work.

“There’s also a lot of research that highlights the benefits of exposing young children to a wide variety of learning experiences. But the choice between parental and non-parental care will not be an equal choice until parents’ feelings of guilt about child care are removed.”

Professor Sims’s lecture, titled “Who should care for our infants and toddlers? An examination of parental and non-parental care”, will be in Armidale Town Hall at 6.30 pm on Wednesday 18 November. This – her Inaugural Professorial Lecture – will be her introduction to the Armidale community as a leading UNE academic. Everyone is welcome to come to the free lecture, which will be followed by supper in the Town Hall foyer.

Professor Sims emphasised that her lecture would not be an “academic talk”, but would be aimed at helping the decision-making of people who have – or plan to have – small children. She said she would address questions such as: “What are the roles of parents and other carers in the lives of very young children in our modern world? Is maternal care the best for babies and toddlers? Are children disadvantaged by attending child care at an early age?”

Among other things, she will review research that helps to identify what very young children need from their parents and carers for healthy brain/behaviour development. Professor Sims is, herself, a leading researcher into the neurobiological effects of stress on young children.

“In a perfect world,” she said, “in which young children had the best possible opportunities for development, there would be adequate support for parents who want to stay at home, and high-quality child care for those who want to go to work.”