Expression and acceptance
Needs and feelings are closely related. “When needs are not met and feelings are not considered, we see a negative emotional reaction,” avers Swati. As the baby grows older, he needs to hear the parent talk about feelings. For example, talking about understanding your baby’s discomfort when he is crying from colic makes him realise that you are sympathising and also tells him that crying is the perfect way to express hurt or pain. This will help him even when he grows up and he will learn not to repress or hide his hurt. Talking helps with babies because in the first few years of our life, we listen a lot, reveals Swati. The child learns to label his emotions with certain expressions and this plays a crucial role in how the child learns to emote in a socially acceptable way. Expressing emotions assures the baby that it is okay to be expressive and open about one’s feelings. It also tells him when it is not okay to throw a tantrum by displaying an extreme emotional reaction. In case there is a tantrum, you shouldn’t isolate the child by leaving him alone, Swati advises. The caregiver must talk more and explain that such behaviour is not acceptable and there are better ways to show one’s feelings. There can be no limits to showing love and affection to your baby, she emphasises. Children of all ages need unconditional love, Swati says, and showing it through hugs and kisses teaches your baby to do the same. But it’s also important for parents to remember that adult expression of love should not hamper the child’s exploration of the world. So, if your baby is engrossed in a toy or activity, it may be better to refrain from distracting him with a sudden hug.
Security and adjustment
To allow your child to bring his feelings forth, you must give him space. Parenting requires the cultivation of certain skills and it’s important to work towards achieving these, she says. We may have been individuals who were used to expressing anger with loud, abusive language but after becoming a parent, one has to realise that this can hamper the emotional development of your baby. You have to bring about changes within and also learn to recognise the child’s changing expressions as he grows. Children often go into a shell when they are hurt, angry or sad. Only communication will help you to recognise the right emotion that is behind a specific expression. According to Swati, the mother has to be the child’s first counsellor as he grows. She expresses concern that more and more children are being sent for counselling and feels that this trend can be reverted if parents helps the child to be emotionally secure and well-adjusted from the infant stage. Swati suggests that parents should read the works of experts like Eric Erikson who have clearly stated the stages of mental and emotional growth in a child. “Just knowing about the right diaper,the right diet or the right doctor is not enough,” she reminds us. The simple knowledge that your baby will develop the most crucial feeling of hope during the first year of his life can tell you the importance of emotional support and expression. Instead of trying out new methods like letting your baby cry when he’s seeking attention, it may help to give a little extra attention and nurture positivity in the baby’s approach towards life. Swati sums up by saying that it’s up to you to help your child to develop emotional intelligence that will help him to cope with feelings, build selfesteem and deal better with the world around. MB