A New Year's Wish for All Memphis Newborns

Over the past year, we have discussed a range of issues facing parents of young children in Memphis.  What should new parents focus on in the New Year?

Importance of Establishing a Secure Attachment with your child

One of the most important messages we like to convey to parents is that “Demographics are Not Destiny.” Instead, a critical element in providing a child a positive start in life is a secure attachment with a parent. By forming deep, enduring, emotional bonds, a mother can help her child develop a strong sense of security and confidence. The attachment bond is a key factor in developing your infant’s social, emotional, intellectual and physical well-being.1  Secure attachment helps provide your baby with an optimal foundation for life: eagerness to learn, healthy self-awareness, trust and consideration for others. It provides a secure base from which the baby is able to explore the outside world, trusting that you as a parent will be there to support them as they grow. Children who develop secure attachments with parents are more likely to feel confident about themselves as they grow and develop and are often better able to and to make friends and develop secure relationships with others.2

Being an Interactive and Responsive Parent

Building a secure attachment with your child is as simple as being consistent and stable; being a constant presence for your child.  Additionally, parents can foster positive development through eye contact, calm, nurturing responses, physical proximity and touch, and careful, deliberate listening, calming behaviors and respectful verbal language. Parents should look for opportunities to compliment their children.  By being responsive and receptive to your child, you are building a foundation of trust and attachment that they will carry with them throughout their lifetime. Responsiveness is typically a three-step process consisting of observation (observing a child’s cues), interpretation (interpreting signals such as illness), and action (working to meet a child’s needs).3

Another important way to bond with your child and foster their early brain development is by engaging in play. Research has shown that play is important for the healthy growth and development of children.  Through play, children learn to interact with their environments and develop an understanding of the world around them. Play has a number of implications for the development of cognitive and social competencies such as improved memory, self-regulation, oral language skills and interpersonal abilities as well as more successful school adjustment.4

Fortunately for parents in Memphis, the Better Brains for Babies series helps parents learn about the science of brain development and how to play with their baby in a way that stimulates brain development. These resources give parents ideas on how to effectively play with their baby while also helping them recognize what their child is learning during his earliest developmental years. In addition, the Neighborhood Christian Center in partnership with the Urban Child Institute, runs the Touch, Talk, Read, Play Program teaching parents the best ways to engage with their newborn children as they grow.

Modeling Good Behaviors and Reinforcing Positive Interactions

Lastly, modeling appropriate behaviors for your child can be one of the most important aspects of parenting. Children are highly perceptive and responsive to a parents feeling and interactions. By modeling behaviors that promote self-confidence and self-esteem you are helping to instill these traits in your child. Once your child has begun to engage in the same positive behaviors you modeled for them, focus on praising them.  Many times parents focus more on negative behaviors and miss opportunities to reward a child for a job well done. When parents focus on good behaviors, children learn that their good behaviors will receive attention and praise.

References: 

Levy, T.M. (2000). Handbook of Attachment Interventions, New York: Academic Press.

Wakschlag, L.S., & Hans, S.L. (1999). Relation of maternal responsiveness during infancy to the development of behavior problems in high-risk youths. Journal of Developmental Psychology, 35, 569-79.

Bodrova, E. & Leong, D.J. (2003). The importance of being playful. 60:7, p. 50-53.

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