Dr. Anne Gearity discusses the importance of attention, connection and holding children "near and dear"


Leading child psychologist, educator and trainer Dr. Anne Gearity provided an extensive overview on child development through her presentation, “What Children Need to Grow and Thrive: The Job of Parents, Teachers and the Community” at Washburn Center on September 13. More than 200 community and staff members participated in the final session of the 2017-18 Let’s Talk Thought Leadership Speaker Series sponsored by Lesley and Stewart Crosby and Agency Squid.

Dr. Gearity, a key Washburn Center collaborator, highlighted children’s developmental needs and challenges, how parents, teachers and the community can provide positive scaffolding and the importance to being active, engaged participants in children’s lives.

Some of the key messages Dr. Gearity provided in her 90-minute presentation included:

  • Pay attention to development – it really matters.
  • A child experiences Developmental Tasks – Security, Exploration, and Mastery –beginning in infancy and repeated throughout childhood and adolescence. For a child, repetition is key to develop mastery and requires adult support.
  • Behaviors are a form of complex communication signaling to a child and others something is happening. Most children aren’t doing something on purpose, but for a purpose. It is our job to figure what that purpose is…so a child can learn.
  • It is vital to ask children “tell me what happened to you” versus “what is wrong with you.”
  • Stress is important and comes in three forms: positive stress, tolerable stress and toxic stress. Each of us will experience these forms of stress during our lives including toxic stress.
  • Social connections are important and must be fostered intentionally with children.
  • Advocate for your child’s needs – and make sure others hold them “near and dear.”

Throughout her presentation, Dr. Gearity emphasized the importance of paying attention to a child’s development as it can help identify the successes, challenges and growth opportunities in behaviors and learning.