What? Infant Social and Emotional Development?
Parents around the world want their children to grow up to be happy, secure individuals able to have healthy relationships throughout their lives. Only 80 years ago, most people believed that infancy was not very important in the development of a child. It was thought infants just needed to be fed and kept clean to grow up healthy. In 1940, those ideas began to change with research in the area of attachment by John Bowlby and Dr. Mary Ainsworth.
Your baby starts learning how to be in a relationship through the growing attachment with you, his caregiver. Attachment is the foundation of social and emotional development which can be described as learning how to be in a relationship and how to self regulate his emotions.
Attachment begins with being sensitive to your baby and doing your best to “read” their cues to meet their needs. Then meeting their needs in a timely manner.
Linda Acredolo, PH.D. and Susan Goodwin, PH.D., in their book Baby Hearts, suggest guidelines taken from The Emotional Life of a Toddler by Alicia Lieberman for responding in a timely manner. They found that data shows “If a parent responds within ninety seconds, then the baby is likely to calm down in five seconds. In contrast, if the parent waits three minutes, then the baby will take fifty seconds to calm down.” So the longer the response time, the longer the baby cries. Responding to the baby quickly does not “spoil” the baby, as was previously thought. Instead the baby will cry less and begin to learn how to calm themselves.
What does typical social and emotional development look like?
During the first 3 months, your baby is learning to build attachments, calm herself down, and recognize emotions.
I’m sure you’ve seen the toddler on the playground heading for the slide while frequently checking back with Mom or Dad. Or he’ll be off playing on his own and cries out “watch me”. That is called the circle of security. And infants are also going out and coming back in from birth.
Raising a Secure Child by Kent Hoffman, Glen Cooper, and Bert Powell, offers help in figuring out how to be a secure base for your baby to keep building a secure attachment.
The Buena Vista and Salida Pregnancy Centers also have many resources to support you in this most challenging and rewarding job of parenting!
By Beth Russell, MA, LPCc https://llcounseling.weebly.com