The Duchess of Cambridge has suggested teenagers could be taught parenting and relationship skills to help them raise mentally and socially resilient children.
Kate’s comment came as she announced she was setting up a panel of experts to examine how best to help the nation break the “inter-generational cycle of disadvantage” that sees youngsters with emotional and psychological problems go on to bring up offsprings with issues.
Speaking at a symposium, convened by her Royal Foundation to look at the issue of early years intervention, the royal told delegates at the Royal Society for Medicine in central London that the earlier people intervened in a child’s development the better.
She said: “We all know how important childhood is; and how the early years shape us for life.
“We also know how negative the downstream impact can be, if problems emerging at the youngest age are overlooked, or ignored.
“It is therefore vital that we nurture children through this crucial, early period.”
Kate went on to say: “We do need mental health support in primary schools before the biological changes and academic pressures of adolescence kick in.
“We also need a focus on parenting and family support, so that parents feel able to get their children ‘school ready’, and are confident that they themselves can cope with the mental and emotional needs of their own children.”
With Kate, who wore a Jenny Packham coat, due to give birth in April the group is likely to report back to the royal sometime after the summer after her maternity break.
Her curiosity about the subject was triggered from her interest in issues like addiction, the effects of family breakdown, and her visits to charities and support organisations.
Kate has been struck time and again that so many of society’s greatest social and health challenges often stem from problems that start to manifest themselves in the earliest years in life.
Professor Peter Fonagy, chief executive of the Anna Freud National Centre for Children and Families, described the duchess as the person ‘who has done more to turn the tide of stigma around mental health more than any other single individual that I could name.’
He had seen her visiting providers, “energising, enthusing, deepening the commitment of front-line workers in an invaluable way”, he said.
“She has also changed all our way of thinking by her intelligent questioning and crystal-clear focus.”
He added: “It is vitally important to work together, to form a community that cares about early childhood.”
Voluntary organisations and statutory services had been divided for too long, he said.
Prof Fonagy said: “This is where the Royal Foundation can and should do a massive service to this country, because it has the power to bring people together.”