Amidst all the chaos and our frantic day to day, it’s easy to lose sight of one of the most important things in early childhood development: being there. From numerous studies, we understand that in order to have a healthy brain development in babies and toddlers, they need a stable, responsive, and supportive relationship with a parent or caregiver.

As a parent who’s fully devoted to their child’s well-being and development, you’re acting as a buffer for any potential stressful situation at all times. If a child is subjected to massive amounts of stress or unreliable, absent adult relationships, their developing brain architecture may be disrupted, and, with it, the subsequent physical, mental, and emotional health may also be affected. We’ve put together a few of the most important aspects and questions out there about the concept of “being there”.

“Being there” implies having serve and return interactions

“Serve and return” interactions shape brain architecture. Each time your baby babbles or cries and you respond just by looking at them, giving them a hug, or saying a soothing word, your baby’s neural connections related to the development of communication and basic social skills are built and strengthened.

Will occasional lapses in attention to my baby harm their development?

Intermittent diminished attention in a responsive environment is no cause for concern. In fact, some researchers even suggest that these common changes in responsiveness, due to being a modern day parent, help your baby develop their sense of “self” and work towards greater independence and self-care.

Is absolutely all stress harmful for my baby?

Low levels of stress or short-lived stress are not serious when buffered with supportive relationships and environment. The type of stress you should watch out for is the one that is very prolonged. The constant activation of the body’s stress response system can be toxic to the brain and other developing organs. This type of stress is common in chronic or traumatic experiences such as chronic neglect, separation from parents, or even repeated conflict.

How can I foster “serve and return” interactions with my baby?

  1. Notice the “serves” your baby throws at you throughout the day. Pointing at something or making a sound or a face, are all forms of “serves”.
  2. Return their “serves” with kind words, a hug, any sign of acknowledgment.
  3. Give the “serve” a name! Help your baby start to develop important language connections in their brain by naming what they see, do, and feel.
  4. Keep the “serve and return” interaction going back and forth. Each time you return a serve, give your baby a little time to form their response. This exchange will start to teach your baby basic social skills.

There’s plenty of information out there you can consult anytime, after all, we now know it’s all in the little things! Remember to visit Kinedu for plenty of fun ideas you can do with your little one to to promote being there with them and help strengthen the bond between you!