Parenting Infants: How To Meet Your Infant’s Emotional Needs

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Resilience Starts Early: Resilience Tips For New Parents

BY MARGIE MCCASKILL

As well as physical needs, infants (0- 3 years olds) have basic emotional needs. These emotional needs lay the foundation for their adult lives; their future relationships, autonomy, resilience, self-confidence and emotional stability. Infants need to know that when they feel afraid, sad, or angry, there is someone trustworthy there for them, who’ll consistently provide them with safety, security and comfort.

It's never to early to start building resilience

It’s never to early to start building resilience

As children grow older, they’re unlikely to have verbal memories of whether or not their emotional needs were met as an infant. They do however have implicit memories of their caregiver’s gestures, tone of voice, and the bodily sensations they felt as a baby. Significantly, these memories affect their capacity to regulate their own emotions and forge meaningful relationships later in life.

If your baby feels secure in the knowledge that they have loved ones who are there for them, they’ll learn to be resilient in the face of life’s stressors, and develop the courage they need to take emotional risks. Attempts to ‘toughen up’ young children on the other hand usually result in the emotional needs of children being unmet, and a reduced ability to take risks as an adult.

If you’re not sure where to start, here are some tips for meeting your infant’s emotional needs:

Tip #1: Be Sensitive To Your Baby’s Emotions

Try to notice and tune into your baby’s emotions. Observe your baby and watch for facial expressions, actions, and other signs that are clues to how your baby feels.

Tip #2: Encourage Emotional Expression

Allow your infant to freely express their emotions, rather than shutting them down by ignoring, dismissing, coaxing them out of what they are feeling.

Tip #3: Be A Soothing Influence

When your infant is distressed, try to feel what they’re feeling. Help them to manage their emotions by offering physical comfort, soothing gestures and a calming tone of voice. By doing this, they will learn that negative, unpleasant emotions are manageable.

Tip #4: Control Your Own Emotions

To successfully achieve steps 1, 2 and 3, you will need to control your own emotional distress. Infants are highly sensitive to your facial expressions, and will read your emotions to check whether everything is ok. If everything is ok, they can relax. However, if they see frequent anger, fear or sadness, then they will be constantly wary of threats.

Tip #5: Repair Your Relationship

When you make mistakes, as everyone does, it is important for you to initiate the repair of you and your baby’s relationship. Continually repairing your relationship with your infant is crucial for their emotional well-being.

If you’re struggling in your relationship with your baby, don’t be afraid to seek help, especially if you’re experiencing feelings that don’t make sense, like intense negative feelings towards your baby, or a desire to leave or hurt your little one. Talking to your local GP is a good first step for finding the help you need.

Margie is a clinically trained registered psychologist with a Masters of Clinical Psychology degree from Macquarie University. She works with kids teens, and adults to help them overcome challenges through the use of practical and effective evidence-based strategies. Margie is extensively trained in Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) and a range of other evidence-based approaches, such as Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), Schema Therapy, and Interpersonal Therapy as well.


 

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