Your relationship with your child shapes his or her entire life. In fact, the early patterns of interaction you have with your child become wired into his or her brain and creates expectations about the world around them.
You can see then, how important it is to develop a healthy relationship with your child at a very young age.
So how do you communicate with your baby and build a strong relationship?
Your body language, tone of voice and loving touch are important ways of communicating. But communication is a two-way street and you have to learn how to respond to what your baby is trying to tell you. There are subtle cues a baby provides to teach us about his needs.
Watch, wait and wonder
At Southwest Human Development, we help parents become more aware of their child’s inner experience by helping them slow down, pay attention, and respond thoughtfully to their child. We encourage parents to play on the floor with their child and:
Watch. We encourage parents to pay attention to their child’s nonverbal communications — facial expressions, sounds and body movements. Does he like to be held a certain way? Does he have a soothing blanket or toy that calms him? Be mindful of his response to your voice and your touch.
Wait. Try to play on the floor with your child every day. During play, try following his lead instead of directing the play. Wait to see what your child is interested in; what they are trying to do — and help support their exploration and play.
Wonder. What does he need from you and how you should react to that need? When you wonder about what he is really trying to communicate, you can often respond to the exact need he has; thus building trust.
When you take the time to understand and respond sensitively, you provide your baby with an optimal foundation for life, contributing to an eagerness to learn, a healthy self-awareness, trust and consideration for others.
Terrence Matteo, Ph.D., is a licensed psychologist and director of the Children’s Developmental Center at Phoenix-based Easter Seals Southwest Human Development, which provides programs and support for more than 135,000 children from birth to age 5 and their families.