Category Archives: Social & Emotional

Can early experiences impact whether genes are turned on or off?

In the recent years, scientific research has taught us that early life experiences can have a powerful influence on the developing brain. The brain is particularly responsive and malleable to both experiences and the environment we live in during the early years; this in turn affects how well our brain architecture develops and functions. Every experience, whether it is seeing a puppy for the first time, going to the park, or being in a car accident – impacts the neural connections of the brain. In other words, every experience can cause the brain to develop in different ways. Interestingly, scientists have discovered that early experiences don’t only impact brain architecture, they can actually determine how genes are turned on and off and even whether some are expressed at all!

This means that positive and nurturing early experiences can help the brain to develop well and negative experiences of neglect and abuse can cause some genetically-normal children to generate certain abnormalities. The lack of information about the critical role a child’s first experiences play in shaping his or her brain, led to a lack of focus on this particular stage of development. Most people used to think that a child wouldn’t remember those first experiences, but now we know they can actually impact a child physiologically, on a genetic level. Continue reading

Teach self-control through books!

Reading to your child for a few minutes everyday is extremely beneficial for his or her brain development, language skills and social skills! Even the American Academy of Pediatrics has urged pediatricians to constantly remind their patients about this!Books can become useful tools that help your child identify and make sense of feelings, and they help parents teach children how to deal with difficult emotions and situations. Many times books simply offer an easy and productive way to teach children about things like friendship, diversity, and self-control – a fundamental ability.

It is well known that self-control is very important for a child to thrive academically, socially, and emotionally. Self-control is the ability to stop and think before acting – maintaining composure in challenging situations. Therefore, to have self-control you must be aware of your own thoughts and emotions. For parents, teaching self-control becomes a priority, and it is an ability that requires practice to be learned. However, you should keep in mind that babies’ and toddlers’ prefrontal cortex (the part of the brain associated with self-regulation and control) is not fully developed; therefore, it is not reasonable to expect a kid to have self-control like an adult does. If your child is very young, he or she will have trouble effectively controlling emotions, thoughts, and actions – and that’s completely normal! The limits you establish should be according to his or her developmental stage.

Books can be a great way to talk to your little one about self-control! Your child will learn through the different characters and situations in the stories, and talking about it afterwards can help him or her compare and relate them to real life. Have you been introduced to Leslie Patricelli’s books? They are a must – very fun, light, and great for learning about self-control! Look out for these: Continue reading

What is the key to raising a happy child?

When people are asked what is their ultimate goal in life, they often reply: “to be happy”. So it’s a no-brainer why parents often say that their main goal is to raise a happy child. But what exactly does it mean to be happy? Is it an emotion, a positive subjective state, or a state of being? The answer is not as easy as it seems. Many parents – and scientists alike have tried to get the answer right. One scientist who has spent years studying the notion of happiness is Daniel Gilbert, from Harvard University, and he proposes three definitions to happiness: emotional, moral, and judgmental.

  • Emotional happiness is a feeling related to an experience. For example when your child is excited by a movie, by a trip to an amusement park, or even delighted by a cookie.
  • Moral happiness is more related with virtue and philosophical views. It is thinking that when your child lives a good and proper life full of moral meaning – then he or she will feel deeply satisfied and content. Dan Gilbert uses the Greek word eudaimonia to exemplify it, and it translates to ‘good spirit … human flourishing … [and] life well lived.’
  • Judgmental happiness is making a judgment about the source of potentially pleasurable feelings – in the past, present, or future. This type of happiness is usually followed by words such as “about”, “for”, and “that”. For example, your child might be excited about getting a dog or might be happy for going to the park.

Knowing this information clarifies what happiness means, but the question remains: what makes people happy? And Is there a formula we can follow?

Continue reading

The go-to tool to teach emotional intelligence

Books can be effective tools to help your child identify different emotions and learn how to cope with complex feelings.

The first years of your child’s life are normally an incredibly happy time for everyone, but that doesn’t mean that your baby does not experience other feelings. Current research suggests that a baby is born with around nine different emotions: interest, enjoyment, surprise, distress, anger, fear, shame, disgust, and dissmell. Over time, those feelings combine with each other and with experiences to form more complex ones. At times, babies and toddlers have trouble expressing their more difficult feelings, they have to cope with anger and fears as they grow. Those feelings can stem from challenging experiences like moving to a new home, losing a loved one or having a new brother or sister join the family. These changes often cause confusion.

As a parent, it’s tough to not be able to understand how your baby is feeling – after all, he or she is not able to put into words what he or she is going through. That causes frustration, imagine not being able to explain or even understand what you are feeling! Books can be useful tools to help your child identify and make sense of those feelings, and they help parents teach children how to deal with difficult feelings and situations. There are a lot of great books out there that were designed to help babies and toddlers begin to distinguish between different emotions. Reading them, and then talking about them together will certainly help!
I would like to recommend two books that I have found very useful – and am personally very fond of:

foto I am happy

 

I Am Happy: A Touch-and-Feel Book of Feelings by Steve Light is a great book for both babies and toddlers. It invites the reader to “touch” and “feel” different emotions by offering a variety of textures to touch. For example, the last page says ‘Every day I feel loved’ and has a picture of a baby tucked in bed under a soft blanket. The softness of the blanket represents the emotion of love. Your little one will love this special hands-on experience every time!

foto when i am : cuando estoy

 

When I Am/ Cuando Estoy by Gladys Rosa-Mendoza is another great addition to your toddler’s collection. The text is in both English and Spanish, so you can read both or choose one. The pages capture what a child could do when he or she experiences different emotions like happy, sad, angry, worried, scared, and surprised. Your child will easily relate to the common situations that are presented on the pages.

 

 

Do you have book recommendations of your own? Please share them by writing a comment below! Keep coming back for more information about the perks of reading to your child and suitable book suggestions!

9 ways to raise resilient kids

As parents, we are constantly trying to minimize fear and uncertainty for our kids, but are we doing the right thing? How can we manage to provide affection and understanding instead of transmitting anxiety and fear? We need to understand that is not possible for us to protect our children from all the dangers and disappointments in this world. However, this is not to say that they should go figure everything out on their own – parents do play an important role in providing children with the tools to navigate life successfully and raising them to be resilient adults.

What exactly does it mean to be resilient? According to the American Psychological Association (APA), resilience is “the ability to adapt well to adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats, or even significant sources of stress”. Unlike what most people may think when talking about resilience, these people are not unaffected by adversity, but are instead able to cope and overcome challenges effectively, even coming out strengthened by the events!

Continue reading

Developmental Edge: The Serious Need for Imaginative Play

When people think of play, they automatically think of children engaging in physical exercises such as tag, ball games, or playing on slides and swings – in other words, kids exploring their physical environments. Play has been shown to be a key component in development in a child’s early years – even the United Nations High Commission for Human Rights has recognized it as a right for every child! But although physical play is the first thing that comes to mind, this is not the only kind of play. In fact, there is another type of play – imaginative or pretend play – that has caught the eye of many researchers, educators, and psychologists because of the many benefits it may provide.

According to Laura E. Berk, renowned professor and researcher in the field of child development, imaginative play stimulates the senses and generates opportunities for exploration and creative thinking that can help your little one improve various language, emotional, social, and cognitive skills – including creativity, impulse inhibition, and empathy!

Given the importance of pretend play, many parents may wonder at what age does pretend play start to emerge in children?

Continue reading

Developmental Edge: When praise backfires, the secret behind motivation

The praise parents give to their kids can strongly influence their self-esteem, intelligence, and disposition to take on challenges. However, according to new studies, certain types of praise may actually do more harm than good. For example, saying: “you are so smart”, may not be the best type of praise – it could even discourage a child to take on new challenges. Research by Carol Dweck, world-renowned Stanford University psychologist, showed that children who perceive their success as a result of their inherent intelligence, were more prone to have a “fixed mindset”. This means that they see talent and intelligence as something they were born with, not as skills that can be learned and nurtured through effort. This becomes especially problematic when their identities become attached to an outcome.

But what exactly happens when a child grows up hearing praises like “you are so smart”?

According to Dr. John Medina, author of the national bestseller “Brain Rules for Baby”,  your child will start to perceive his mistakes as failures. This happens because he is used to seeing his previous successes as a static ability, that is, natural talents he was born with rather than a product of his effort. Failure is thus perceived as a lack of ability, which he has no control over. Continue reading

The first few years: social and emotional development

We’re born social animals – from the start, babies love being held, touched, talked to, and smiled at. And it’s no wonder they crave a connection with adults – babies are completely dependent on others throughout their childhood for survival. However, in order to thrive, not just survive, a baby needs more than just food and shelter. Not surprisingly, a baby needs engagement and attention from Mom, Dad, or his or her caregiver. What is surprising, however, is that a baby needs a specific type of engagement – a serve and return relationship. Continue reading