Ways to raise a secure and resilient child

The more responsive you are to your baby, the more independent she’ll become, thanks to her solid relationship with you.

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You know how to handle baby’s physical needsfeeding her regularly, changing her diapers when they are wet or dirty, bathing her, keeping her clean and ensuring she has a comfortable place to sleep.

However, her mental and emotional needs are less obvious.

Your baby’s brain undergoes its most rapid development in the early years. Besides learning from the people who care for her, she is absorbing information from what she sees and hears around her.

Babies and children feel secure when they enjoy loving, close and positive relationships ― their needs are met and they feel a sense of belonging when they have nurturing and responsive experiences.

“Babies need stable, safe environments in which their parents can focus on them.”

Research shows that babies with secure, long-term relationships with their parents are better able to form healthy relationships, manage stress, perform better in school and lead more fulfilling lives.

Having a new baby can take a toll on a couple. A study of American children born in the 1990s found that the quality of the parents’ relationship had an effect on how mothers engaged with their children — how often they played, read or sang to them.

The study also found that the psychological well-being of mothers was linked to early literacy skills. “Babies need stable, safe environments in which their parents can focus on them,” child psychotherapist Tessa Baradon said in a Huffington Post UK article.

So, in trying times, such as those first months of your baby’s life, it is important to keep your composure by enlisting the help of your spouse, family and friends or even hired help.

Sometimes, a change of scenery can help: Take a walk or visit a friend. It’s also important to spend time alone with your spouse, though it doesn’t have to be a full-on date. It could be as simple as sitting down to have supper together while baby sleeps. You also need to nurture the relationship with your significant other.

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Studies show that children with a secure attachment to their primary caregivers have fewer behavioural problems, are less anxious, manage stress better, are better socially, and have greater confidence, self-esteem and more empathy.

They are also more willing to explore independently and take on challenges. In the long term, they’ll also have healthier relationships as adults, lead happier lives, and be great parents.

Your baby forms secure attachments through one-on-one interactions. The process is interactive — from the start, your baby is watching your gestures, listening to your tone of voice and taking in how you respond to her cries. A secure attachment is built on the consistency of your responses to her, when baby turns to you for comfort and reassurance in times of distress.

Some parents worry that responding to their baby’s every need will “spoil” her. You won’t, since you’re responding to your child when she’s distressed or in discomfort.

A secure attachment with bub is good for the parents, too. Your infant relieves stress, which motivates and makes you happy.

Some parents worry that responding to their baby’s every need will “spoil” her. You won’t, since you’re responding to your child when she’s distressed or in discomfort.

Also, if you’re a connected parent, your child will cry less often (once she is past the first six weeks of infancy), and throw fewer tantrums, making parenting an easier experience for you.

Your baby is not the only one requiring attention and care. So do your other children, work, household chores, spouse, other family members and whatever else life throws at you.

A secure attachment doesn’t require you being there 24 hours a day. Studies show that babies’ sense of trust in their mothers is not affected by being in daycare but rather, their mothers’ responsiveness and sensitivity when they are together.

So, even if your baby spends most of her day in someone else’s care, she can still be feel loved if you are 100 per cent there for her, physically and emotionally, when she’s with you.

Here are some tips for boosting your baby’s emotional well-being:

Hold and cuddle your baby to reassure and calm her.
Make eye contact when you’re playing, feeding, bathing her or changing her diapers.
• Observe your baby. Know her body language, like sucking her hands, arching her back, grunting, so that you can quickly meet her needs and avoid a meltdown.
• Turn on some music and dance with her. She will love the feeling of being close to you.
• Smile, wiggle your eyebrows, stick out your tongue, make silly faces and other expressions for your infant to imitate.
• Sing to your baby. It doesn’t matter if you can’t carry a tune — your baby just wants to hear your voice.
• Introduce new sounds and places to your baby from the safety of your arms. Let your baby touch and explore new (and age-appropriate) objects, like plastic cups, big wooden spoons and soft cushions.
• Learn your baby’s unique language and “talk” back to her by copying her.
Read to your baby. When she hears your voice, she feels soothed and comforted. Be self-aware.

Know when you are feeling tired, frustrated, irritated, angry or anxious, so that you can take care of yourself to better meet your baby’s needs.

Photos: iStock

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