The development of healthy emotional well-being begins in infancy. How parents and caregivers treat an infant and react to her actions can be critical. There are some important activities which can be implemented to help babies develop into emotionally healthy individuals.
During infancy children develop a sense of trust. When a baby is hungry or needs changing, he cries. If his parent responds quickly and appropriately on a consistent basis, he will feel secure and bond emotionally with his primary caregivers. If he is ignored, he will develop a sense of mistrust. He will not feel safe and may feel that the world is an undependable place. An infant's emotional well-being hinges on the building and maintaining of the trusting, loving relationship with his primary caregivers.
Birth to One Month
With a newborn, the main thing a parent can do is cuddle and hold her while she is awake. This will go a long way toward helping the infant build trust in her environment. Be careful, however, not to overstimulate her. Too many people or too much noise can upset babies. Always talk to or touch the baby before picking her up. Infants need this little cue to help them understand what is about to happen. This also helps them understand that the world can be a safe and dependable place, further helping to develop trust.
One to Four Months
During this period, infants begin to take more notice of themselves and their environments. Parents should imitate facial expressions and vocalizations an infant makes. This validates the baby's attempts at interaction and lets him know that you approve of his interaction. Also, when the baby smiles, say, "You're smiling! What a great smile!" This type of immediate positive feedback lets the infant know that what he does is valued and helps to continue the bonding process.
Four to Eight Months
At this stage, infants begin to differentiate between themselves and others. Parents and caregivers can build on this by using the baby's name often when speaking to her. "This is Lisa's bottle." or "Lisa is smiling so nicely." This helps the child to build a sense of individuality and helps her to recognize her name.
Eight to Twelve Months
This stage is a very critical period for infants. At this point, a baby will begin to explore his environment by crawling and walking. He needs some freedom to develop a sense of autonomy. However, safety is always a parent's first concern. Keep floor areas free of clutter to allow freedom of movement, but keep a close watch as the infant will surely begin to "get into everything."
One to Two Years
When the infant begins her second year of life, the bonding between parent and child is fairly secure. To maintain a healthy relationship, however, parents must allow the older infant to begin to make some choices for herself. These choices should be limited, such as whether she would like to wear a pink or green shirt, or whether she wants peas or carrots for lunch. Important decisions are still the domain of the parents, but some minor decision-making is important for the child to begin developing a sense of independence and self-confidence.
The most important things a parent can give the developing infant are positive feedback, time, and rich experiences. Build on the interests of your child, going to her favorite park or reading books about dinosaurs. Spending quality time in play and enriching activities and validating the emotions and interests of your infant are the keys to building a loving, trusting bond with her.