Giving your child the best – undivided attention

Every parent wants the best for their child. We want our children to be strong and healthy, be smart and learn quickly, and be a kind, respectful person. If you stop and think about it, social and emotional health is at the foundation of all of these thi

Encourage social and emotional skills by building a strong relationship with your child. Photo credit: Pixabay.

Encourage social and emotional skills by building a strong relationship with your child. Photo credit: Pixabay.

Every parent wants the best for their child.  We want our children to be strong and healthy, be smart and learn quickly, and be a kind, respectful person.  If you stop and think about it, social and emotional health is at the foundation of all of these things.  Social and emotional health is important to children because it helps them:

  • Feel good about themselves
  • Have a positive view of the world
  • Get along with other people
  • Have courage to try new things and take on challenges
  • Deal with failure in a positive way
  • See things from others’ point of view

You can’t teach these skills by using a workbook or reading about them. However, Michigan State University Extension recommends parents teaching through the strong relationship they build with their child.  It starts at the moment your child is born and one of the key elements is giving your child your undivided attention.  Here is a detailed list of how to focus on your child in a purposeful manner:

  • Hold or position your child so that you can see each other’s faces.  Remember that newborns need to be about 8-12 inches from your face to see it clearly.  As infants grow, they do not need to be so close, but you still need to maintain relatively close proximity.
  • To give your child your undivided attention, try to put other thoughts out of your mind.  Be present.  While we know that it is not possible to be constantly focused on your child, you will be able to set aside several times each day to try to establish this one-on-one time when you are not engaged in any other activity.  You will want to look for times when your child is awake and alert.
  • Look at your child’s body language and facial expressions.  Listen to the sounds he is making.  Look into his eyes. Match your facial expression and tone of voice to your child’s expression. 
  • Quietly echo your child’s tone of voice.  If your child is making quiet happy noises, you can make quiet happy noises too.
  • Go at your child’s pace.  Time your movements and voice to match the speed of your child’s actions. 

Once you and baby are on the same “wave length,” you are in a position to understand what your baby is trying to tell you.  Is she stressed or uncomfortable?  Is he calm and content?  You will read these messages in the baby’s sounds and body language because they are similar to the signals that all people share. 

You will also be able to give messages to your child with your words, voice tone, body language and expression.  When your voice is gentle and words are soothing, you are letting her know she is safe and someone cares for her.  When you respond immediately to her cries, you tell her she can trust that someone will attend to her needs when she asks for help.  When you smile and touch her playfully, you tell her that it is good to play and explore her world.

When you set up good two-way communication with your child, you can learn a lot about her even before she is able to put her thoughts and feelings into words.  You may learn she is able to ask questions, guess what is going to happen next and show you that she already knows a lot.  And, you will learn even more about what she needs so that you can give her the best.

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