Night-time childcare may not be in child's best interest

While the potential expansion of night-time childcare services may be done with the intention of helping low-income parents, it may unintentionally be depriving young children of their emotional need for one-on-one interactions with their primary caregivers.

Sometimes, we cannot be everything to everybody. Parents still have to bear some fundamental responsibilities in providing for their child's well-being.

A young child's development is cumulative. Every bit of contact enjoyed with his parents adds up, even momentary engagement over a quick dinner or small conversations before his parents rush off for their night shift.

What are the pros and cons of night-time childcare from the standpoint of a child's learning and developmental outcomes?

The advantages would be extended social play time with their peers and having their physiological needs, such as dinner and sleep, met under supervision.

The cons would be that children will miss their parents, home-cooked meals, and the familiar sight and smell of their home and bed that offer them emotional comfort and security.

Under normal circumstances, children cannot thrive under constant supervision and community care. They need private time in a familiar setting to feel secure and in control.

Over time, will such night-time arrangements contribute to a child's social behaviour due to the lack of personal contact with and attention from his loved ones?

A 12-hour day care from Monday to Friday is long enough for any young child to endure.

By evening, most preschoolers are already looking forward to going home, just like any regular working adult.

If they do get the green light, then systems and processes must be put in place to prevent the abuse of night-time childcare services.

How can we discern genuine need for such services versus those who exploit them due to convenience?

Will some parents be encouraged to work more overtime because of night-time childcare?

Perhaps we could instead consider providing subsidies to low-income families so that they can make their own private childcare arrangements.

For it is home where a child truly belongs.

Rebecca Chan (Dr)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 13, 2019, with the headline 'Night-time childcare may not be in child's best interest'. Print Edition | Subscribe