2019 Jun 18
A viral video making the rounds on social media these days, of a father engaged in deep unintelligible conversation with his baby, sends a subtle but effective message to all parents everywhere; a crucial parenting skill of ‘serve and return’. This tactic refers to the act of reciprocating a child’s communication cues, for example through a hug, eye contact, or even engaging in ‘baby-talk’- a vital practice that enhances communication and social skills of young ones. Skills like ‘serve and return’ coupled with an abundance of love, safety and nurturing are crucial factors that determine the brain development and overall wellbeing of infants and young children.
Love and nurturing are the best ways to provide emotional and cognitive support to your child from an early age. In fact, child-care practitioners constantly point out that love and affection are as equally important as physiological needs like food, water, hygiene, and shelter.
Why does love and affection matter so much?
Love is the very foundation of a strong bond between parent and child.
Love enriches a child’s mental well-being.
Interestingly, love can also strengthen your child’s physical wellbeing.
With the right amount of love, affection, and nurturing, your child feels safer and more confident about the world they live in. The feeling of security they receive can help immensely in their capacity to grow mentally and physically.
10 ways to show your child you love them
In practical terms, this list would be endless. But here are a few ways to make your child feel loved and safe.
- Verbal statements of unconditional love like saying “I love you” can go a long way.
- Choose positive reinforcement over scolding, nagging, and punishing. Use words of praise whenever he/she makes a good choice, displays a new skill or shows positive behaviour. (i.e. “Thank you for sharing the toy with your brother”) This will help them understand that positive behaviour garners positive attention and is considered important.
- Cuddle with your child and hug them gently to show physical affection. Be the last to let go of their hug. (Important: refrain from forcing your child to hug strangers or relatives if it makes them uncomfortable.)
- Allocate some quality time to spend with your child despite your possibly busy schedule. Engage in activities that stimulate the learning process. (i.e. choose to read a book or play an educational game instead of exposing them to endless amount of television.) Parents with more than one child should make sure that each of them get one-on-one attention.
- Create a few family traditions. (i.e. movie nights, picnics at the park, a trip to the library or bookstore.) Children are sure to cherish them as they grow older.
- Ask them what they like to do and do it together.
- Surprise them in little ways. Leave a loving note in their lunchbox or bedside table.
- Take their opinions, suggestions and ideas seriously. Show them that their thoughts matter.
- If you make a promise, follow up on them.
- Display their artwork at home. Show them that you’re proud of them.
Children also learn a lot through the way parents or caregivers lead their own lives. Trying your best to maintain a positive attitude and remaining calm during difficult situations is another way to teach by example.
However, it is universally acknowledged that parenting can get quite overwhelming and overpoweringly stressful at times. We all have bad days. As a parent, if you feel depressed, anxious or drained, reach out to your support system. Friends, family, religious group members, mentors or even neighbours are sure to give you the support and encouragement you need. If a parent or caregiver experiences irritability, problems with sleeping or eating, etc. it is always best to seek help from a mental health practitioner.
Overall, the very first years of a child’s life are very complex. Bonding with your baby and providing adequate love and affection can shape their happiness and worldview for life. The long-term benefits of love are closely linked with improved academic performance, stronger parent-child relationships and higher self-esteem.
The love you give your child is built daily and can be shown in different ways as they advance to different stages in life.
As UNICEF reminds all parents, remember the many benefits of #EatPlayLove for optimum early childhood development and make the most of the special relationship your share with your child.
After all, the #EarlyMomentsMatter.
To help parents give the best start to their children, UNICEF has launched www.BetterParenting.lk, a Sinhala, Tamil and English website that brings together comprehensive expert information in four areas; child care, child development, food and nutrition and health, through a mix of articles, video and animation.