Category Archives: Social & Emotional

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, 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 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, head banging, back arching, falling to the floor, or even breath holding. People making a tantrum are 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. Continue reading

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 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 secure attachment to others, resilience, self-esteem, building of relationships, and overall development.

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Building my toddler’s social skills when going to the movies or to a show

Your toddler has been insisting on seeing the latest movie that just came out, and even though you know how much your kid loves those characters, you wonder if he or she is old enough to sit through an entire movie at the cinema. Maybe you’re wondering if attending a theatrical play or a live show will be simply too much and too soon. Our in-house experts share some insight about this decision.

Most child psychologists and parents agree that somewhere between 2 and 4 years old is a good time to introduce your little one to the cinema or the theater, accorded that the film or show in question is age-appropriate for your child. Nonetheless, how cinema-ready a kid might be will ultimately depend on his or her individual characteristics at the time. So as always, it’s important to neither rush, nor pressure your kid into it just because you’ve heard of other 2-years old that actually look forward to staying put in a seat for 120 minutes. It might hold true for some kids, and not so much for others.

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Sharing is caring!

Having difficulties for sharing is part of every kid’s developmental process. In fact, the word “mine” is one of the first words to come out of a toddler’s mouth. During your kid’s second and third year, he will experience going from oneness to separateness, so you’ll start noticing comments like “This is mine!”, “I can do it myself”, etc. This is due to his growing self-awareness. So, don’t worry, there are a lot of ways you can help your child understand the concept of sharing. Keep reading to learn more!

Sharing is caring?

Sharing is a fundamental skill; it is how we keep our friendships, play, and work well with others. This action teaches about compromise, fairness, and, most importantly, gratitude. “Thank you for sharing your truck with me. Do you want to play with my teddy bear?”. Sharing teaches children that gratitude reciprocates. If we give to others, we will receive in return. Gratitude is the best policy. Sharing also teaches us about negotiation and coping with disappointment, two vital skills in life.

A little background

After your baby is born, he starts experiencing the foundation of compassion. Hearing another baby cry or feel the stress of the people that surround him causes your little one to become distressed. Even though he can’t say it, he feels what the other baby is feeling. So, your baby perceives and experiments compassion and precursors of empathy since he is very little. Until, at 18 months old, he becomes aware that other people have feelings that are different from his own. Sharing implies empathy and, even though your child won’t experience true empathy until he is 6 years old, he will start developing and showing signs of it very early in life.

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Oops, I Reinforced it Again

We all do it on a daily basis –we accidentally reinforce behaviors that we don’t like. The good news is that it is not too late to do something about it! With our little ones, especially those under 5 years of age, actions really do speak louder than words. Your child will respond to what you do 1000 times more than what you say (*see graphic above). So yes, you may say “we don’t throw”, but those words mean nothing if your actions don’t correspond. If your child’s unwanted behavior was effective in getting her needs met, then it will continue. So, in the example above, instead of throwing the bowl to get more food, she should pass you the bowl, say “more” or point to the wanted food, for example. We should not refill the bowl, until the child imitates the new, positive behavior that we model.

Let’s take a look at some real-life examples. Continue reading

Using my child’s tantrums as a learning experience

Because your preschooler’s brain is still developing, it’s normal for your daughter to get very excited, frustrated, sad or angry about something and react accordingly. Since she has limited verbal skills, when she has a tantrum, she is actually communicating that she is struggling with an intense feeling and can’t solve a problem that seems unsurmountable. Yet, although tantrums are normal between 2 and 4 years of age, many of them are avoidable. Since, more than one are bound to happen anyway, use them as a way to better understand your child and let her know that you understand and are trying to help.

  • Be a calm and reassuring model of how to handle emotions.
  • Think ahead. Most kids are tantrum-prone if they become very tired or hungry. Having clear feeding schedules, rests and quiet times, you can avoid the feared release of the Hangry-Child.
  • Give your child some minutes of warning before you end or change an activity since many children are prone to tantrums when play-time is over.
  • Acknowledge emotions as they appear, and put them into words to avoid them escalating into actions.
  • Psychologists from the extension Department of Human Development and Family Studies from Iowa State University recommend to “distract, remove, ignore, and hold”.
  • Try to understand the reason behind the meltdown: when, what, where, who…
  • Let your daughter assert her selfhood when it doesn’t compromise anyone’s safety or health.
  • Hold your ground but stay calm and reassuring. Create a safe space where your child can explore relationships and emotions while resting assured you still love her.
  • When she has calmed down, tell the story of what happened during the tantrum. Emphasize on the emotion that arose and why, and remind her of the fact that you stayed there. When she’s ready give her a big hug and ask her if she feels better.

You can read more practical tips by family therapists from Iowa State University by following this link: http://www.extension.iastate.edu/Publications/PM1529J.pdf

Gaining independence at bedtime: transitioning from the crib to a bed

With your child’s newfound emotional, verbal and motor control skills, you’re probably thinking about transitioning from the crib and into a bed.

Here are some useful recommendations from the book What to expect: the toddler years. The authors recommend making the transition after 36 months of age, not earlier, because at this age your son is just starting to understand the more abstract concepts of rules and limits. A indicator for making the change is when your child starts suggesting it.

  • When your little one is ready, celebrate the transition.
  • Try to position the bed in the same place where the crib used to be.
  • Pediatricians recommend that bedtime should be timed about 12 hours after your child wakes up, or about 5 hours after his nap ended.
  • Make a fun bedtime routine and talk about it with your toddler. Give him a couple of choices, like choosing whether he should put on pajamas or brush his teeth first.
  • Make bedtime a bonding moment in which your son can feel safe and loved.
  • Provide him with his blanket, stuffed animals or other comfort items from his crib.
  • If your child gets out of bed during the night, hold your ground and return him to bed in a silent and yet consistent manner. It might take some time, but he will get the message.
  • Avoid reinforcing last-minutes excuses not to sleep.
  • Show him empathy and patience while adjusting to this change.

Enhancing the relationship with my child during the terrible-twos and beyond

For about a decade, professor in psychology at the University of Queensland, Matthew Sanders, has been researching positive parenting. He has also focused on the effects it has in the relationship between child and parents, how it enhances the caregivers’ skills and confidence, and how it aids children develop good emotional skills from toddlerhood and well into adult life.

We drew some ideas from his 2008 paper “The Triple P: Positive Parenting Program as a public health approach to strengthening parenting” published in the Journal of Family Psychology. Here are some tips on how to foster your child’s emotional development, survive the terrible-twos and actually enjoy this age:

  • Make time every day for talking with your child. Give her our undivided attention.
  • Be interested in your daughter’s likes, interests, quirks and development. This might seem intuitive, but plenty of research has shown that being interested and attuned with your child is far more beneficial for her socio-emotional development than trying to be a perfect parent.
  • Have reasonable expectations according to her development and age.
  • Recognize effort and praise improvements.
  • Be aware that children are very attuned to their parent’s non-verbal communication. Try to model coherence between what you say and what you do.
  • Use incidental teaching. For example, if your daughter is having pieces of string cheese and crackers for lunch, ask about shapes and colors to prompt learning.
  • Hold logical consequences for bad behavior. For example, remove troublesome objects from your child’s view and try to talk with her about what happened.
  • Recognize emotions and help her translate them into words.

Positive parenting encourages toddlers emotional and social skills

Toddlers and preschoolers can be a handful! According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, between 24 and 48 months of age your son is achieving lots of social and emotional milestones. With his newfound physical strength and skills, your little one will start actively exploring his environment, his personality and your limits. This period of time is a crucial for his development, but it can also prove challenging for a parent. At this early age, curiosity is accompanied by impulsivity and risky behaviors, determination comes along stubbornness, and independence can quickly shift into defiance.

Because toddlers can difficult, developmental psychologists have devoted a lot of research into how certain techniques or parenting skills can promote a happy and healthy relationship between moms, dads and their children. In 2005, researchers Liliana Lengua and Erica Kovacs from the University of Washington found that when parents used positive parenting tools with their preschoolers, over the course of one year this was associated with a decrease in irritability, defiance, fearfulness and rejection, and was correlated with an increase in both the child’s positive emotions and the caregiver’s acceptance and consistency.

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