Category Archives: Social & Emotional

One of the many benefits of early childhood education: Being fair as an adult

Researchers have found that, more than 40 years later, the children from low-income families that participated in the Abecedarian Project study grew up to become adults that treat others with high levels of fairness. This is true even when being fair comes at a high personal cost.

The 78 children, now adults, that participated in the 1970s study have been followed as part of one of the longest running randomized-controlled studies of the effects that early education has in low-income families. The Abecedarian Project was a randomized control study of the potential benefits of early-childhood education in children from low-income families. Four groups of children, born between 1972 and 1977 were randomly assigned as infants to either an intervention group or a control group. The intervention group received full-time, high-quality education in a childcare setting from infancy through age five. The educational activities were designed in the form of games that they incorporated into the child’s day, and worked on the social, emotional and cognitive areas of development –with a particular emphasis on language. Follow-up studies were conducted when the subjects reached 12, 15, 21, 30, and now 40 years after the study, showing long-lasting benefits associated with the early childhood program.  Continue reading

Tips for a stress-free holiday season

The winter festivities with a baby or toddler are like no other. And yet, while for many the holidays are the most wonderful time of the year, it goes without saying that this magical season also comes with an important amount of overload for many moms and dads. Some of us can even end up taking on too many tasks and then end up feeling depleted. Here we have some tips and hacks for making this winter holidays magical and stress-free.

  • Don’t over-schedule. When it comes to tasks, set reasonable expectations for yourself and have fun doing lees, rather than stressing about doing everything. Think about what you want for your little one and make it into an archivable target. You don’t need to overstretch; the festivities will be magical just by having people you love together.
  • Work together. For example, if you have a mountain of gifts to wrap, or heaps of cupcakes and goodies to bake, why don’t you invite a good friend or family member over to your place, so you can wrap and bake while an older cousin helps babysit in the other room?
  • Try to keep a routine. During the winter holidays, it is easy to let our routines relax too much, but babies need the stability and security of their daily routines signaling when it’s time for bed, for example. Remember that the activities, parties and schedules of the season can leave even the most social baby or active toddler feeling a bit tired or grumpy.
  • Prioritize connecting with your loved ones! If your children are too young to help around, you may need to limit the tasks you undertake. Your little ones value the time with you far more than having perfect decorations. The memories you will cherish forever are the ones that create tradition and bring a sense of belonging and wonder into everyday life.
  • Try to let go of perfection and find ways to nurture yourself.

Emotional development – The basics

When we think about child development we tend to imagine babies learning to walk, talk and count. We do our best to make sure that our child is on track on all these abilities and that he or she doesn’t have difficulties in the future. But what about learning to identify and express emotions? Aren’t these skills important for the future of our kids too? They sure are! Actually, the social skills that children learn during the first five years are related to their emotional well-being and their ability to adapt in school. Plus, they are critical to form successful and lasting relationships all throughout life. Thus, as important as physical, linguistic and cognitive development are, emotional and social development is just as relevant.

But what does emotional development involve? Learning the skills to…

  • Identify our own feelings
  • Identify other people’s emotions
  • Understand our own and other people’s feelings
  • Handle strong emotions
  • Express strong emotions with a constructive approach
  • Regulate our own behavior
  • Have empathy for others
  • Establish and maintain relationships

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Express yourself

Whether your baby is one month old, one year or 3 years you’ve probably noticed how he or she takes any chance to communicate with you and have a say on what’s going on around him or her. Recent studies have been placing more and more weight on children’s right to be heard about matters that affect them. It is through their participation on daily matters that their self-esteem is enhanced, overall capacities are promoted, their sense of autonomy and independence is heightened, and they work on their social competence and resilience.

These studies suggest that sometimes we underestimate children’s capacity for participation; kids aren’t passive recipients for care and protection. Every day there is more and more evidence suggesting that from a very early age they are (1) experts in their own lives and are capable of communicating their unique point of view on any given experience, (2) they’re skillful communicators with a wide range of “languages” to articulate their views, (3) they’re active agents with the power to influence and manipulate the world around them, and (4) they’re meaning makers capable of constructing/interpreting meaning in their lives.

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The ABC’s for helping your child develop self-esteem

Children build their self-esteem through experiences. When you play with your little one and allow her the space to be herself, you are nurturing her confidence. Keep reading to find a step-by-step guide to helping your bundle of joy develop her self-worth.

A is for Appreciation

When your baby is born you are the most fascinating thing in the world for her! That’s why she looks at you in such a miraculous and admiring way. Since she is born, your baby starts appreciating what you give her. She appreciates the warmth of your touch, the light in the hallway because she knows mommy is on her way, etc. Your baby is born into the world feeling appreciative.

So, to make her feel appreciated, you must first pay close attention to her. Turn your expectations into appreciations and acknowledge the reality of who she is. What does she enjoy? How is she like? Allowing your little one to find what truly interests her, rather than what everyone else likes, is part of building her own identity. If your child is playing in the sandbox alone it doesn’t mean she is lonely or has low self-esteem; find out what she is doing that intrigues her so much.

Pay attention to her feelings and try to understand what your little one means —positioning yourself in her little shoes. Observe and ask yourself what she might be feeling when you say or do something. Appreciate her feelings, recognize the legitimacy of what she wants and let her know you know that. When your little one feels understood she feels accepted and loved.

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What science says about child development

Throughout time, there has been an incredible amount of research done about early childhood and brain development. The behavioral and social sciences have created a remarkable amount of new knowledge and there have been recent discoveries in neuroscience. But, what do we actually know about child development? The Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University summarizes decades of research and discoveries in these next concepts. The next list gives us an insight into what a healthy development looks like, what can cause it to go off track and what can we do to prevent it.

  1. Significant stresses in the family or environment doesn’t only affect adults, but infants and young children too. Adversity can disturb the bases of learning, behavior and health. In fact, experiencing adverse early childhood experiences can have physical and chemical implications in the brain, damaging the child’s future learning capacity and behavior, and putting him or her at greater risk for poor physical and mental health. This is why learning to cope with stress is essential for healthy child development. We have to keep in mind that short periods of stress can help build adaptive responses while having supportive relationships. However, toxic effects on the developing brain might take place if there is no caring adult available to offer safeguarding and the stress is extreme and prolonged.

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Recognizing patterns: The key to stop unwanted behaviors

You may occasionally find yourself wondering why your toddler repeats a certain unwanted behavior. Why does he always bite his sister? Why does she throw her food on the floor during mealtime? Why does she push other kids on the playground?

The key is to understand what your child is trying to communicate through those behaviors. To do that, you need to learn to observe and analyze his or her behavior regularly. What is your little one trying to tell you?

Patterns in behavior

Behaviors that occur repeatedly are happening for a reason. If you take note of the behavior and what was going on before, during and after it, you might find the pattern and realize why it’s happening and how to stop it. It’s a good idea to write down those notes, so that you can go back to them when the behavior happens again.

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The importance of parental confidence, and tips for boosting it!

Although there are at least 4 identified and deeply studied parenting styles (according to Dr. Diana Baumrind they are the authoritarian, permissive, uninvolved and authoritative, about which you can read on other articles of this blog), your personal style of adapting to parenting is as unique as any child-parent relationship can be. You make hold some values as more important than others, or you might implement them in different ways. For example, while most parents will agree that cleanliness is important, one might focus on leaving dirty shoes at the door; other might emphasize table manners while another one might focus on first exploring and then following a bath routine.

Furthermore, most of early childhood researchers and psychologists agree that successful parenting doesn’t look like the success we experience in other areas of life, like work, where you might measure your self-efficacy and accomplishment by considering speed and goal-checking. Parenting is a complex relational process that often involves quite the opposite: slowing down and taking time. According to experts, how confident you are of your guidance, learning and decisions as a parent can be a good gauge of how you are doing. Developmental science has shown that parents who are more confident and perceive themselves as having good self-efficacy, even when they might struggle, usually have higher ratings of wellness, better communication, and are more efficient at teaching limits and positively reinforcing good behavior with their children.

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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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