6 Things Every Baby—and Parent—Needs to Thrive
By Christina Katz
From the moment your babies are conceived, you are bombarded with messages about buying their wholeness. But children need your presence more than they need your presents. And babies are not the only ones with needs. Every person on the planet, including you, longs for the following six experiences. By identifying the desires you have in common with your baby, you can become a more mindful parent.
1. Solid Sense of Security Every baby needs to feel wanted. They need to feel that their primary caregivers are taking care of their every need.
You need to make sure you feel grounded, too. The key is to know how to manage tension. Use stress-reduction tools such as taking a walk, meditating, or taking deep breaths. Remember, your goal is not to become a perfect parent; your goal is to have enough support to feel secure, so you can pass on the quality of rootedness to your child.
2. Natural Flow of Emotions Every baby expresses a range of feelings. If only positive feelings are allowable and negative feelings are discouraged, babies lose their natural emotional equilibrium. Children’s future ability to experience pleasure and intimacy, and create healthy relationships, hinges on getting their emotional needs met in infancy and beyond.
No one is asking you to be emotionally perfect. But try to process your emotions so you feel available for your babies’ needs. Find someone to talk to about your feelings. Or express yourself through journaling, doodling, painting, or another artistic practice.
3. Feelings of Worthiness Every baby needs to feel valued. According to therapist Tamara Hill, children develop their identity based on feeling valued, loved, heard, and respected. So go ahead and cheer for your children’s latest, age-appropriate accomplishments. You are not spoiling your babies; you are motivating them to tackle the next challenge.
Of course, parents need encouragement as well. Make an agreement with your partner to encourage each other. Try laughing about how exhausted, overwhelmed, and under-assisted you feel, instead of taking it out on each other. Watching funny sitcoms can be comforting, especially when they reflect where you are in your parenting adventure. Keeping a sense of humor can help you feel worthy of support during challenging times.
4. Giving & Receiving Love To love and be loved makes us human. So don’t ever worry about spoiling an infant because, according to medical professionals, it’s not possible. Infants are not sophisticated enough to purposely manipulate adults. They only express themselves to get their needs met.
If you and your partner love the baby but struggle to love each other, get help from a professional or join a support group.
5. Self-Expression Babies make noise. Before you know it, they chant ma-ma-ma, da-da-da, and imitate the sounds that go with specific objects. If you don’t teach your children the basic building blocks of communication, and repeat words back over and over, they won’t learn as well or as quickly. Get a head start by communicating with your babies as early as when they are in the womb. A 2013 study at the University of Washington showed that babies begin absorbing language as early as 10 weeks before birth.
Baby talk can get tiring, though, so connect frequently with adults. Consider joining mom-baby playgroups, exercise groups, or an online parenting discussion group.
6. Access to Intuition & Imagination Studies suggest that imagination kicks in around 18 months. As developmental psychologist Alison Gopnik points out in her TED Talk “What Do Babies Think?,” parents think more like caterpillars and babies more like butterflies. This is because babies are much more willing to experiment and mentally explore whereas adults think more habitually. Why not let your child’s imaginative play lead you to places you might not otherwise go? As your children grow, they will invite you into worlds where you can remember the power your own imagination once held.
Find Christina Katz at christinakatz.com.