Bonding from Birth and Beyond
While bonding is especially important with newborns and infants, the process of attachment continues to help people throughout life. Early, secure relationships with caregivers in the first five years lay the foundation for good self-esteem, constructive behavior and healthy relationships in the future. How do you continue to build bonds even during those challenging times when a child is first experiencing intense emotions, like frustration and anger?
Studies show that newborns can recognize their mothers’ voices; simply hearing talking, reading or singing soothes babies from birth. Gazing into your baby’s eyes, while breastfeeding with moms or being held skin-to-skin by dads, creates a bond that helps your baby feel loved and secure. Promptly and calmly responding to your baby’s needs and cries shows that you care and builds trust. Smiling and responding to his or her efforts at communicating — from laughter to gurgles to babbling — helps your baby understand that he or she is important to you. Making funny expressions and sounds, looking in a mirror together, playing peekaboo or sharing games with toys, and reading in an animated way helps build bonds
and develop socialization skills. During the first year, your baby forms bonds with parents and primary caregivers, and at around 9 months may become distrustful of people he or she doesn’t know. When you must leave, reassure him or her that you will return to help her feel loved and secure.
It’s sometimes hard to feel “bonded” when an 18-month-old is saying “No!” to every question, a 2-year-old is having an emotional outburst or your cute preschooler has suddenly turned into a patience-trying “threenager.” It may help to know that negative behaviors and big emotions are typical at this stage of development. While young children begin to develop stronger language skills at this stage, they do not have the emotional maturity to manage frustration or delay gratification. Enhance closeness to your child by taking a deep breath and reminding yourself that this phase, too, shall pass. Share how you express the same emotions your child may be feeling — mad, sad, glad and afraid — to replace wailing with using words. Show empathy for your child’s frustration: “It’s really hard to go to bed when you want to stay up.” Build bonds and your child’s self-esteem by noticing when your little one demonstrates self-control. Offer praise and hugs often.
As preschoolers gain language and social skills, their self-control and cooperation increases. While preschool children become more independent and much more involved with a social life and friends, spending time with parents helps them feel safe and secure. To connect with your child, ask about what they like (and don’t like), their interests and their friends. Help her manage her own behavior by setting clear, consistent boundaries and rules and stating your expectations of behavior. Play make-believe games with your child, allowing her to be the leader. Show that you trust and value her opinion by letting your child make choices about what to eat for a snack, what to wear and other decisions. Take time to answer questions or discover answers in books or online. Let your child know how much you enjoy spending time together.
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