Blog Series: Building a Child’s Emotional Savings Account (Part 3)

In exploring the emotional developmental stages of a newborn we learned that giving love, attention and responding to the little one’s needs (while being attuned to cues about his/her physical wellbeing) were key early on. This week, we continue our journey and look at the stage of Infancy. There are some distinct hallmarks of infancy that can easily be observed and experienced. This is a stage where each infant discovers the world at his/her own pace. The child begins to separate physically as they start to crawl and move away from their parents’ bodies. This physical separation helps infants establish a sense of self by learning to do things for themselves and by touching, tasting, and feeling everything in sight. Again, it is important to remember that because you have spent many weeks and months literally attached to this little baby, when this separation begins, it can be painful and stressful, but is crucial for development. Infants who are able to establish a secure attachment to their parents are more resilient, and better able to manage stressful events later in life.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      

This new-found independence can make a toddler seem a bit bossy, but your sole goal is to create a safe environment.  Letting an infant explore fosters a sense of independence which is crucial for later stages in life. Again because there is still so little non-verbal communication, it is important to rely on sound cues that your child is exhibiting to help foster and support an emerging need for him/her to separate, explore, and investigate a world that becomes larger by the minutes.  While this is exhausting and at times frustrating, it is important to remember to always love and respect – with hugs, smiles, kisses, talking and looking directly into your child’s eyes.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            

Understand that giving attention to a baby is not spoiling; when you respond to your baby’s cries and coos consistently, his learning is stimulated and he develops trust. Talk to your baby even before they seem able to understand what you are saying, your baby will soon talk back to you. Imitate their coos and sounds; diaper changing, feeding, bathing and dressing are good times for you to talk with your young child. Say your child’s name in a cheerful, caring voice and really listen when your child talks to you.  At this stage in life, it is important to remember that singing and listening to music is good for your child’s development.  Provide a safe place for your baby or toddler to roll, crawl, and explore. When possible, “child-proof” the entire home. Play on the floor with your child daily, knowing that children learn through play with simple toys and household items such as pots, pans, bowls, and wooden spoons. Play is now starting to become an essential part of your developing relationship with your child as he/she moves into the stage of early childhood which we will explore next week.

Dr. Philippe Rey is Executive Director of Adolescent Counseling Services (ACS).  Prior to becoming Executive Director in 2004, Philippe first joined the ACS staff in 1998 as Caravan House Program Director.  Born and raised in the French-speaking part of Switzerland, Philippe came to the United States to attend college in 1984. His credentials include a bachelor’s degree in clinical psychology from UC San Diego and a master’s in counseling psychology from National University. In 1997 his doctorate in clinical psychology with a concentration in child and family therapy was conferred by Alliant International University in San Diego. Before pursuing graduate studies and a career in psychology, Philippe graduated from business school in Switzerland. Philippe can be reached at philippe@acs-teens.org or 650.424.0852 ext. 101.

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