Category Archives: Social & Emotional

Separation Anxiety: Get through it in a fun and insightful way

Just around their first birthday, most kids develop separation anxiety. It’s different for every kid, but, in general, it means that children get upset when a parent wants to leave them with someone else. This is a completely natural part of early childhood, but it doesn’t make it any less troubling!

If their needs are being met, most babies younger than six months have no problem being around other people. But between four and seven months, babies develop the notion of object permanence. Therefore, they begin to understand that things and people exist even when they are out of sight. That’s when your baby begins to realize that when he can’t see you, it means you have decided to go away. Since babies don’t understand the concept of time, they don’t know if or when you’ll return and it makes them rather uneasy.

Understanding what your child is going through and having a strategy to deal with it can help you both. Here are some tips to help you and your baby get through separation anxiety. Continue reading

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 that 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, and even on a genetic level. Continue reading

Teach self-control through books!

Reading to your child for a few minutes everyday is extremely beneficial for her brain development, language skills, and social skills! Even the American Academy of Pediatrics has urged pediatricians to constantly remind 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, she will have trouble effectively controlling emotions, thoughts, and actions –and that’s completely normal! That’s why you need to establish limits according to her developmental stage.

Books can be a great way to talk to your little one about self-control! She will learn through the different characters and situations in the stories, and talking about it afterwards can help 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 means that when your child lives a good and proper life full of moral meaning, then he 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?

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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 he 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 are combine with each other and with experiences to form more complex ones. At times, babies and toddlers have trouble expressing more difficult feelings and, as they grow, they have to cope with anger and fears. Those feelings can stem from challenging experiences, like moving to a new home, losing a loved one, or having a new sibling join the family. These changes often cause confusion.

As a parent, it’s tough to not be able to understand how your child is feeling –after all, he is not able to put into words what he 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 their 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!

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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!

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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!

At what age does pretend play start to emerge in children?

According to research, imaginative play emerges when your child is around 12 to 18 months of age. In fact, by the time your little one turns 18 months old, you will begin noticing behaviors such as trying to feed a doll with a spoon, or picking a block and bringing it to her ears as if it were a phone. Although early forms of pretend play are mostly solitary, by the time your kid turns 2, you will notice that she enjoys the company of her peers. Play allows children to develop their imagination, physical agility, cognitive prowess, and emotional strength. It is through play that children at a very early age learn to interact with people and understand the world around them.

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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 her mistakes as failures. This happens because she is used to seeing her previous successes as a static ability, that is, natural talents she was born with rather than a product of her effort. Failure is thus perceived as a lack of ability, which she has no control over. In comparison, when children are praised for effort, they tend to develop. Something that Dweck calls a “growth mindset”. This type of mindset allows children to have an uplifting attitude towards failure. In other words, they will tend to believe that when faced with hardships, having persistence will lead to success.

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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 caregiver. What is surprising, however, is that a baby needs a specific type of engagement -a serve and return relationship.

Serve and return interactions with caregivers are necessary for a baby’s brain to wire properly, and to set the right architecture for future learning. They follow the pattern in which a baby ‘serves’ though babbling, facial expressions, or gestures; and adults ‘return’ the serve with a meaningful response –say, another gesture or vocalizing back. These simple interactions allow for the right connections to take place in the baby’s brain, and also create the safe and nurturing environment that they need to develop socially and emotionally.

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