How many times do you hear of happy contented babies and toddlers, often or not so often? Well in my work as an online counsellor and previously with the NSPCC working with children and families, it seemed to be an exception rather than the rule.
It wasn’t always difficult to see why, families and parenting is a minefield of emotions and feeling, both for parents and for children.
One issue, ‘stress‘ more than any other seems to be responsible for unhappy children and their behaviours, and as you know unhappy children are much more difficult and challenging to parent.
The question is, what to do about it?
I don’t claim to have all the answers to helping you make your children or teens lives stress free, but I give credit for my own child’s, (now a 21 year old young man just finished university and on his way to the states for a working and learning adventure) apparent immunity to the effects of stress to how he was parented and how he was taught to express himself.
I learned how to minimize stress beginning in the early, formative years. I feel the real secret to helping children to develop stress busting techniques and strategies is all about helping them communicate their feelings and to encourage them to express them openly, nurturing their natural ability to cope with stress by teaching them to process their feelings, express them and move on. Too many children carry it around, not having been taught the skills to deal with it. and offload it.
So how can you steer a child to a stress free life and make parenting more of a joy?
- Be responsive and communicate effectively:
Tune in and communicate with your baby from the moment you learn of your pregnancy, children can hear and recognize familiar voices and they probably know more than we currently understand. Observe their behaviours sensitively and learn to interpret their cries and signals. Communicate with your baby and tell them what you are doing with them (like feeding them or changing their nappy) before you do it. Begin this two-way communication with babies at birth, they will learn to communicate much more effectively and the bond will be much more positive. Invite your baby to participate in their care from the very beginning.
- Keep it simple, safe, peaceful, predictable and age appropriate:
Becoming a parent is the best excuse you’ll ever have to slow down and simplify your life. Recognize that infants and toddlers are sensitive, absorbent and easily over-stimulated, unable to screen out stimulation the way their adults can. Less is more, safe and best.
“No matter how simple an environment is, a baby may be overwhelmed by too much stimulation, this can be stressful to them, remember they have only just entered a brand new world.
As adults we can be much less sensitive to stimulation, over-stimulation is not something we easily detect. A babies wide-eyed stare may appear to be surprise or interest, but according to some child development professionals, the child may in fact be saying “back off”.
Children feel calmest, happiest and most confident when they can learn at a slow pace initially, when they know what to expect and understand the things they are exposed to. Before asking your child to participate in lessons and classes, check out if they look calm and relaxed.
- Protect your child’s developing brain:
Now for a little a controversy and a guilt-inducing subject, Many parents have been duped into believing that TV is the best or only way to get a break from caring for their children. The need for TV is not only a lie, it actually creates dependencies which work against getting those much needed breaks. Perhaps it’s too tempting to follow what others are doing, or the influence from friends and relatives who want you to do what they’re doing, is just a little too difficult to ignore, especially for first time parents.
If you want a child who can spend long hours entertaining themselves, then educational toys are much more effective than TV or videos, babies who learn to self stimulate develop better attention spans than children who are plonked in front of a TV.
I’m not saying that you should keep your child away from TV completely, but you need to know, it’s no different than putting them on drugs, it will become an addiction and a learned behaviour, It’s an effective, but not a harmless way to buy yourself a little peace and quiet.
‘Research strongly indicates that [screen-viewing] has the potential to affect both the brain itself and related learning abilities. Abilities to sustain attention independently, stick to problems actively, listen intelligently, read with understanding, and use language effectively may be particularly at risk’.
If I could share just one secret to raising stress-free learners, it would be to avoid TV and video use in the early critical developmental years.
I hope you have found this introduction to stress free babies and children useful, you can see more on the subject tomorrow. If you would like to chat with me about any other parenting issue, please don’t hesitate to contact me using the book a session link from the home page.
As a new mum I was really out of my depth with parenting, everyone was telling me different things and I didn’t know what to do for the best, Paul’s online counselling website was great, his advice and wealth of knowledge a life saver. Also being stuck at home with a baby, online counselling was perfect, accessible and affordable.
Thanks Paul, I will be back when I need professional advice, you really helped thank you.
Mandy I – London
Written by Paul Parkin – online counsellor and life coach.
April 22nd 2013