Category Archives: Social & Emotional

Laugh out loud: Encouraging your little one’s sense of humor

Laughter is the best medicine. – proverb

Laughter and smiles are one of the most basic human behaviors. Babies smile within hours of being born in response to a warm sensation or a sweet smell, but laughter takes a bit more time to develop as it’s mechanisms are more complex.

As you probably already discovered, babies and toddlers learn a lot through imitation, and the development of a sense of humor is no different. Research has shown that a sense of humor is nurtured at home and each silly event helps foster this wonderful trait.

The benefits of having a sense of humor include the development of a healthy self-esteem, empathy, and friendships; and it helps people laugh at themselves and become accepting of imperfections. Not only that, but research has shown that people with a sense of humor are happier and more optimistic, can handle differences and adversities well, experience less stress, and are at a lower risk for depression. What’s more, experts have identified that a robust sense of humor is a natural immune system booster.

So what can you do to develop your little one’s sense of humor? Continue reading

10 secrets to raising happier children!

What do you want in life for your children? Success? Intelligence, achievements, and prestige? What about internal values? We can’t build a life based on external achievements without giving ourselves a chance to explore our deepest parts. Happiness is not mentioned as often as it should. So, what about it? How do we define happiness and how can we instill happiness in our children? It turns out happiness is not a thing to be found, nor something that can be created, but it can be synthesized instead. We have the capacity to create the very commodity we are constantly seeking.  The latest research on happiness tells us that happiness turns out to be less a result of luck and external circumstance, than a product of our mental, emotional, and physical habits. So, how can we radiate our children’s inner light?

Here are 10 scientifically proven secrets to having happier kids!

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Separation anxiety: How can I help my baby?

At some point during your baby’s development he will experience separation anxiety. This is completely normal, and the good news is that for the vast majority of babies, separation anxiety happens in phases and doesn’t last that long. Here are some tips that may help you and your baby!

Why does my baby have separation anxiety?

It all starts when your baby realizes that objects and people still exist even if he can’t see them -the concept that we call object permanence. Your baby realizes that the person that protects and cares for him has gone away and is currently existing somewhere else. Since he doesn’t know when, or if, you will return, anxiety kicks in!

Separation anxiety is a normal emotional stage of development, however we know it can be difficult for parents to cope with a baby who gets panicky and upset when they’re not around. So here are some ideas and tips you can try at home. Continue reading

New mom: What I’d like my legacy to be

I recently found out that I’m going to be a mom this fall. Maybe it’s the hormones, or maybe it’s the big life changes headed my way, but I’ve definitely been more reflective lately.

One of the bigger concerns that I’ve been going over -and one I’m sure I share with many moms-to-be and new moms- is what I want to teach my children. More than just academics, I really want to pin down a set of tenets for living our lives that I can pass on to them. Hopefully, I’ve gathered some good tools from my psychology background and by working in early childhood. The list is not definitive by any means, but I’ll try to keep honing down what I really value and what I want my kids live and learn.

Here is my current set of ‘rules’ –with many changes, additions, and improvements to be made in the coming months (and after that, I’m sure).

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What we inherit before we are born

Gene expression makes us who we are and it varies depending on how we live. We interact and are in a constant conversation with our environment. Our feelings, how lonely or happy we feel: these feelings go deeper than our skin, they control our cells. So when do these cells start learning? When does learning begin? The nine months we spend in the womb are crucial. We learn about the world around us without being in it yet. These heritable changes in gene expression, that do not involve changes in the underlying DNA sequence, are otherwise known as Epigenetics.

What does a baby learn in the womb?

A baby can start hearing his mother’s voice at four months of gestation. The sounds of the outside world travel through the mother’s abdominal tissues and through the amniotic fluid surrounding the fetus. The fetus is constantly hearing his mother’s voice and once he is born, he quickly recognizes it. The baby prefers this voice over anyone else’s. Babies become so used to hearing their mother’s voice that it can even be said they are born crying in their mother’s native language. A study was conducted where they found that French babies were born crying on a rising note, while German babies ended on a falling note, much like the patterns of those languages. Babies are born imitating the melodic contours of their future language. This learning has a purpose: babies prefer their mother’s voice because that person will protect them and they cry like their mother to create a stronger bond with her. Not to mention, gaining a head start on language development. Continue reading

How to define and use technological tools with my baby

It’s the 21stcentury and technology is all around us! In fact, technology is what is allowing me to write this and you to read it. So yes! Technology is great, it allows us to communicate and better organize our daily life. But because technology is so ubiquitous in our modern life, children are exposed to it every day. So, what are the facts, guidelines, and suggestions regarding children’s exposure to screen time? Keep reading to learn more…

Let’s start with the guidelines

For children younger than 18 months the AAP recommends to avoid the use of any screen-media other than video-chatting. Parents who want to introduce digital media to children between 18 and 24 months of age should choose high-quality programming and watch it with their children to help them understand what they’re seeing. For 2- to 5-year-olds the recommendation is to limit screen use to 1 hour of high-quality programs per day. Also co-viewing media with them is very important since it helps them understand what they are seeing, and understand how to apply it to the world around them.

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Your brain on motherhood

Sarah Walker once said that becoming a mother is like discovering the existence of a new room in the house you have always lived in. This description seems precise; after all, motherhood unveils neural pathways in your brain that you haven’t yet discovered.

So, what are these brain changes and why haven’t you discovered them?

These changes mold a mom’s brain in unexpected ways, and shift the ways she thinks and her outlook on the world around her. Scientists are now pointing to changes occurring in the brain, especially in areas involved in emotional regulation, empathy, and social interaction. These are largely neurological changes that mothers experience during pregnancy and postpartum, accompanied by a flood of hormones that help strengthen the bond between a new mother and her baby, creating a powerful attraction. Overwhelming love, strong protectiveness, and constant concern all begin with biochemical reactions in the brain. Continue reading

How to: Teach good manners at home

Who doesn’t want well-mannered kids? After all, your child’s behavior reflects on you, right? As much as we would like our child to say “please” and “thank you” as soon as she starts talking, that’s probably not going to happen… but we can certainty start teaching toddlers how to be polite at a young age.

Teach your child how to be sensitive

At the root of good manners is respect for one another and it derives from our sensitivity. So teaching your child how to be sensitive will be the beginning. A sensitive kid will naturally care for others, which will lead her to become a well-mannered person. Essentially, a sensitive kid will be more prone to be more polite in a creative way and more heartfelt than anything she could have learned from a book of etiquette.

Be a good role model

Modeling behaviors is the best way to teach your child good manners. Essentiality, if you want a polite daughter you need to show her how to be polite through your own actions. Remember that your child learns through observation and imitation! So you need to be careful with your actions and words.

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How to find age appropriate toys for your little one

Kids develop in different stages, so it’s good to have toys that will enhance their experiences in each of those periods. So, in addition to finding safe toys for your child, it’s recommended to find ones that match his level of development and budding skills.

Most of the time you’ll find that a lot of safe and suitable play materials can be found right at home and can be used in more than one way for children of different ages –you just have to get creative! Below you’ll find a list of appropriate toys for different ages, based on the recommendations by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC).

0 – 6 months:

Young babies like to look at faces and bright colors, and follow them with their eyes. They can reach for objects and explore them with their hands, feet, and mouth. When they hear a peculiar sound, babies will turn and look towards it. Good toys for this age include:

  • Rattles
  • Large rings
  • Teething toys
  • Squeeze toys
  • Board books with nursery rhymes
  • Unbreakable mirrors

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Conscious parenting: Connecting with your child’s abundance!

Let’s turn the mirror inward and ask ourselves, why are these reactions being triggered? Children will wake up an emotional baggage that is buried deep in our unconscious. However, we need to set them free from the burden of fixing our unresolved issues.
How do we normally define ourselves? Is it our experiences that shape who we are today and, if so, what kind of experiences? Who gives the meaning to the way we perceive love and affection? What emotions are the ones that paralyze us and how can we recover from these associations we have mentally constructed? These stories tend to go back to our childhood and our experiences. We hold on to our childhood long into adulthood and we carry this blueprint with us every day. This first blueprint runs wild inside us and becomes the way we define ourselves and, in turn, how we perceive life and others.

What if we, as parents, could transform this role into a new one, with curiosity, awareness, and a renewed commitment? Nothing can potentially transmit global consciousness as much as parenthood can. Everything we teach our children —like how to take care of themselves and others, and how they handle their emotions and think, create, innovate— all comes down to parenting. We cannot expect our children to embody this consciousness without having modeled it ourselves. Of course, parenting is not the only variable. There are many cofounding variables involved in this early influence. There is neurobiology, temperament, social pressures, poverty, education, and even culture. However, we build a nurturing relationship with them every single day. When do we hold this influencing power? Every day our kids seek comfort, every morning they wake up and come rushing looking for us —these are the moments that we have actual power over. These moments and how we react towards them end up impacting their neurobiology and psychology, transforming their emotional brain.

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