Category Archives: Social & Emotional

Not set in stone: how environment shapes development

The environment your little one is immersed in is not only crucial in terms of memories and learning, it also modifies your baby’s genes even before he or she is born! Chances are you’ve heard of the debate of nature vs nurture, or the one about the determinant power of our genetic blueprint versus that of environmental factors.

This topic is particularly relevant to our generation since, just a decade ago, it was common knowledge that we were bound to particular predispositions determined by our individual genetic profile. Under this conception, things like temperament or resilience of cognition were as set in stone as our eye-color. In reality, the issue is far more complex as it is shown by research about how environment shapes development.

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Fostering Gratitude in our Kids

Studies show that people who regularly express gratitude toward others are more likely to be a helpful, compassionate, generous, happy, and healthy person. Although children can’t yet identify and express complex feelings, it’s important to begin to build a sense of gratitude from the early years.

There are many ways to nurture gratitude at home. Start by modeling it yourself and create family traditions that center around it. Here are some ideas:

  1. Let your children know what you appreciate about them. Notice all the things you appreciate and are grateful for about your children. Then simply tell them so! You’ll notice that appreciation is a great motivator, even stronger than praise.
  2. Model appreciation and gratitude towards others. Children learn through observation. They’re like sponges, absorbing information and then imitating and doing it themselves. Kids pay attention to the way we treat others; set a good example. Be caring and thankful in your everyday interactions with other people.
  3. Use the words “grateful” and “thankful” in your everyday vocabulary. By hearing it often, children will learn what these words mean. Tell them that being grateful means noticing something in your life that makes you happy. For example, you can say “I’m grateful for this beautiful day!”. Encourage the expression of their appreciation for the people who surround them and contribute to their lives.
  4. Choose a “gratitude” activity to incorporate into your routine. Whether it’s listing the things you are grateful for every day before you go to bed, sharing stories about thankfulness, gratitude and generosity; or keeping a gratitude journal together, incorporating an activity related to gratitude will help you practice it every day. Then, it’ll become part of who you, and your kids, are.

By practicing gratitude, we focus on the good instead of the negative things in our lives, helping us have a positive outlook. It’s one of the secrets for a happy life. Why not start today?

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My top 5 back-to-school books for little ones

Heading back to school can be an exciting, yet anxious time for parents and little ones alike. Books are the best way to get us prepared! They teach beautiful lessons and open the communication gates so that your tiny friend has a chance to ask questions and share feelings. Here are my top 5 favorites for this school year.

  1. The Pout-Pout Fish Goes to School

This book truly gives me all the feels! Our little pout-pout fish is feeling nervous about his first day of school and is sure that he doesn’t have the know-how to get through the day. After heading into a few wrong classrooms, our brave pout-pout fish finally ends up with the “brand new fish” and learns some brilliant facts! His new teacher tells the class: “fact 1: your are smart, fact 2: you can get it, fact 3: you belong, so 4: don’t forget it!”. I just love this mantra so very much! And just like the other pout-pout series books, the singsong pattern will have your child immediately enthralled.

 

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Brain-building through responsive interactions with your child

Babies arrive to the world in a state of complete dependency on their loving caregivers. During their first years of life, their brain is just as dependent as the rest of their body on the surrounding adult’s responsiveness. Harvard expert Jack Shonkoff PhD calls these critical moments where a child does something and the adult responds back (and vice versa) “serve and return interactions”. According to him, serve and return means you and your child are attuned to each other, engaging together in exploring the outside or the inside world.

As Dr. Shonkoff assesses, more than 1 million new neural connections are formed every second. The interaction of your baby’s genes, your caring and the attentive interaction with him or her will build your child’s brain architecture, one interaction at a time.

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Top 5 Traveling Tips

Traveling with our tiny friends can seem daunting –but proper preparation will make for a smooth ride! Whether it’s a long road trip, a train ride, or even a flight –these tricks and tips have you covered!

  1. Limit Screens

I know it is so much easier to keep your little one occupied with a tablet or device. However, screens really do promote self-direction and hyper-focused attention. That is, your child may direct all of his/her attention onto the tablet and forget that the rest of the world exists. We often also see a change in behavior following a significant amount of screen time. It is suggested that for children 2-5 years of age screen time should be limited to a maximum of 1 hour per day. (Okay, PSA on screen time complete!)

  1. Pack The Right Entertainment

I am all about packing smart, speechy activities to keep your tiny friend endlessly entertained! First, the Melissa and Doug Memory Travel Game comes with an easy to hold flip board and 7 game cards to switch out –it is also interactive if you are travelling with 2 or more friends. Next, I love the Crayola Travel Kit –coloring is a calming and grounding experience. You can make it interactive and play Pictionary or send letters back and forth to each other. Lastly, there are tons of Reusable Sticker Books that are great for travel since you can’t ruin the stickers and you can play over and over again. You’ll want to pack games without pieces that may get lost, quiet options since repetitive noises are the pits, and most importantly activities that motivate your little one.
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The importance of “being there”

Amidst all the chaos and our frantic day to day, it’s easy to lose sight of one of the most important things in early childhood development: being there. From numerous studies, we understand that in order to have a healthy brain development in babies and toddlers, they need a stable, responsive and supportive relationship with a parent or caregiver.

As a parent who’s fully devoted to their child’s well-being and development, you’re acting as a buffer for any potential stressful situation at all times. If a child is subjected to massive amounts of stress or unreliable, absent adult relationships, his or her developing brain architecture may be disrupted, and, with it, the subsequent physical, mental and emotional health may also be affected. We’ve put together a few of the most important aspects and questions out there about the concept of “being there”.

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Mindfulness 101

As parents, we are always looking for the best for our children; we want them to be happy and develop their full potential. But what happens when we do not live in the best way possible? By being stressed, worried, hurried in our daily life, we ​​set this example to our children. Kids are like sponges, and they can perceive emotions even from within the mother’s womb. This means they’re much more capable of absorbing and perceiving things after they are born. So, how can we be better with ourselves and transmit the best to them? Continue reading to learn more…

Have you ever gotten home and don’t remember what you saw on the road? Left home for work and don’t remember if you locked the door on your way out?

We live with routines both at home and at work where we do things on autopilot without really paying attention to what we are doing. We call it “lunchtime”, but is it if we are thinking about the pending errands we have to run or we are answering mails or texts on the phone?

As human beings we have the ability to think about the past, present and future. Which is a true blessing, but we often let our minds wander to the meeting board of last week, we think about what we’ll do over the holidays or what you have to get from the store. Usually the most recurrent thoughts in our minds come from obsessing about the past or worrying about the future. So, what happens to the present?
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Your baby’s emotional world: The appearance of your little one’s emotions

The development and appearance of your baby’s emotions follow an orderly process that goes from simple emotions, all the way to the complex ones we all know too well.

According to Michael Lewis, PhD, when your baby is first born he is able to demonstrate three basic emotions: interest, distress and satisfaction. Your newborn will show these emotions due to internal processes, physiological changes or as a response to sensory stimuli. As your little one continues to grow so do his emotional responses. Over the next 6 months these primary responses will evolve into happiness, surprise, sadness, disgust, anger and fear. These emotions, such as the ones stated above, develop in conjunction to the neurological and cognitive maturity of babies.

Once your baby is around 9-10 months of age he will go through a new set of cerebral development that will allow him to be pretty good at expressing a wide array of emotions. You might see your little one go from frustration to anger or sadness to happiness in a manner of seconds. This is completely normal and expected, so don’t stress out about it; you’re are doing a great job. When dealing with these intense moments remember to breathe and try to be the “container” that helps your kid regulate his emotions.

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Tantrum Survival Guide

Tantrums are extremely common in toddlers and preschoolers. They’re how young children deal with difficult feelings. It’s important to tune in to your child’s emotions to avoid situations that trigger those tantrums.

You don’t need to have a child to know the word tantrum. It is so notorious that everyone has either seen one or experienced it first-hand.

Tantrums are completely normal and expected in toddlers and preschoolers ages 1-3. They are an outlet for children to deal with big or difficult feelings. During this stage of development, toddlers are beginning to develop their independence but are still dependent on adults. They also don’t have the adequate skills or brain development to self-regulate just yet. To make matters even worse, children this age don’t have the appropriate language yet to voice their emotions, so expressing themselves via physical actions is their way to cope.

Tantrums can vary in type and intensity. They might involve crying, screaming, kicking, headbanging, back arching, falling to the floor or even breath holding. People making a tantrum are of the said to have ‘lost it’, and this situation is not exclusive for toddlers; older children and even adults can experience a tantrum when they feel overwhelmed by their emotions and can’t manage or don’t have the adequate skills to self-regulate.

What are the possible causes of a tantrum:

  • Temperament: Your child’s tolerance for frustration can influence his or her reaction. A kid who gets easily upset may be quicker to react and have more tantrums
  • Hunger, tiredness and overstimulation: These sensations are difficult to decipher for children. Ever heard the phrase hangry? Body needs have a great impact on our behavior and not noticing them can be triggers for tantrums.
  • Frustration and loss of control: If a toddler wants to complete a task above his or her developmental level or is faced with the will power of an older child or sibling, he or she might cope with a tantrum.
  • Big emotions: Emotions such as anger, shame and worry can be overwhelming for children.

 

Dealing with my child’s tantrums:

It is important to note that tantrums are a normal part of growing up, but there are things you can do as a parent to make them less likely to occur.

  • Have a routine: If you make sure your little one is fed and rested you can reduce tantrums due to physical needs.
  • Tune in: Become aware of your child’s feelings. Put yourself in your little one’s shoes and try to imagine what it must be like for him or her. Also, help your little one manage by naming the feeling and redirecting his or her attention to something else that he or she likes.
  • Know your little one’s triggers: If your little one always has a tantrum during an outing try to plan ahead with appropriate toys, make sure he or she is fed and rested, and try to choose environments that prevent tantrums.
  • Teach emotional literacy: Even if your little one does not speak yet he or she is always paying attention. If he or she has a fit and throws a toy instead of immediately reprimanding him or her, name the action and emotion that goes along with it. For example, “You threw the toy because you got frustrated. I understand it is hard, let me help you out so you don’t have to feel that way”.
  • Provide adequate toys and activities: Create a play-friendly space with toys that engage your toddler but are not way above his or her level of development because trying to complete them only causes frustration.

 

We know it is tough to watch your little one deal with a whirlwind of emotions. Be sure to care for yourself too. Here are some tips that can help you deal with these difficult situations:

  • Remember that your child’s brain is still developing and the prefrontal lobe responsible for self-regulation is not mature yet.
  • Take a moment to breathe, stay present and remain calm. Creating space between your child’s reaction and yours can help you regulate your response.
  • Acknowledge your child’s difficult feelings and your own too. Compassion and self-compassion are key!
  • Don’t try to reason or correct your child during the tantrum, let him or her blow off steam and intervene immediately and calmly if he or she is at risk of getting hurt or hurting someone else. It is important that your child understands that big feelings are not to be feared.
  • Be firm, kind and consistent. If you need to hold a limit don’t budge, empathize with your child, be unconditionally accepting and hear him or her out, but don’t give in if the limit is important to his or her wellbeing. Being consistent helps your child feel safe and learn the limits.
  • Finally, be sure to model self-regulation but ask for help too. If we ‘lose it’ too, we model this behavior to our children. But since we are only human, it is important that we also take a break, ask for help and repair when we make mistakes.

 

Teaching your child appropriate ways of behavior is essential to his or her development, but be sure to connect before you correct. Positive parenting experts agree that a strong connection between parent and child is the best way to teach and guide children towards the best versions of themselves.

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Feel the love with your little one

“Imagine if the hugs, lullabies and smiles from parents could inoculate babies against heartbreak, adolescent angst, and even help them pass their exams decades later.” (Winston & Chicot, 2016).

During the first three years of life, your baby will develop 90% of his or her adult brain size. This rapid growth accounts for 700–1000 synapse connections being formed each second. The experiences your baby is subjected to, whether positive or negative, are crucial to this early wiring and pruning that enables millions and millions of new connections to be formed. The importance of connecting with your baby can go a long way in ensuring his or her secure attachment to others, resilience, self-esteem, building of relationships and overall development.

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