Families today are very busy
Families sometimes struggle with juggling the demands of work, home and other responsibilities leaves many families feeling like they do not have enough time with their children. But even small acts of kindness, protection and caring—a hug, a kiss or a smile—make a big difference to children. Research shows that babies who receive affection and nurturing from their families have the best chance of developing into happy, healthy and competent children, teens and adults.
Research also shows that a relationship with a consistent, caring adult in the early years is associated in later life with better academic grades, healthier behaviors, more positive peer interactions and an increased ability to cope with stress.
Infant brain development is positively affected when families work to understand and meet their child’s basic needs for love and affection or provide comfort when they are hungry, bored, tired, wet or cold. Conversely, neglectful and abusive parenting can have a negative effect on brain development. Research shows that lack of contact and interaction with a caregiver changes infant body chemistry, resulting in a reduction in the growth hormones essential for brain and heart development. Furthermore, the ability to feel remorse and empathy are built on experience. Children who lack early emotional attachments, or who grow up fearful and expecting to be hurt, will have a difficult time relating to peers.
As children grow, nurturing by families and other caregivers remains important for healthy physical and emotional development. While physical contact becomes less important, listening and talking become more vital to the relationship. Families nurture their older children by being involved and interested in their child’s school and other activities, by awareness of the child or teen’s interests and friends, and by willingness to advocate for the child when necessary.
When families spend time and energy discovering and paying attention to their children’s needs, they are rewarded with positive, open and trusting relationships with their children. Families who develop the ability to respond sensitively to the needs of their child, no matter what age, will find parenting easier and more enjoyable.
Exploring strengths and needs
Regardless of the child’s age, families can take advantage of opportunities in their sometimes hectic lives to listen and respond to their child in a nurturing way. Even a few minutes of quality time in the car, at the store or while cooking dinner mean so much to a child.
- Positive Solutions for Families - PDF download
The Center on the Social and Emotional Foundations for Early Learning, Vanderbilt University. (n.d.).
- ZERO TO THREE - Tips and Tools: Promoting Social Emotional Development
National Center for Infants, Toddlers, and Families. (n.d.)