The first nine months of pregnancy through the first five years of life are considered the critical years for establishing the foundation for learning. A mother’s nutritional health, social, emotional and educational conditions will have a big impact on the future development, educational and social success of the child.
The bonding, social interactions and relationships established between parents and children during the first year of life will affect the child’s self-esteem, language, brain development, world view, values, personality and relationships with others.
The environment during the first three years of a child’s life should be stimulating, nurturing, supportive and loving. If a child is talked to, read to, allowed to explore, experiment and use all five senses he will be more likely to be ready for school.
The importance of these early years cannot be overestimated. Your child needs you to be there to help him learn the essential things he needs to know.
Before your child goes to school, he needs to learn about emotions. He is starting to feel more complex emotions than he did as an infant or toddler. He needs extra help to understand and control his feelings.
Here are a few steps you can take to help him deal with these new emotions:
• Stay close when you can tell he is very emotional. Comfort him in these times and tell him that it is okay to feel that way.
• Name his feeling for him. “You must be very sad about play time ending,” or “You look frustrated with that puzzle,” are good things to say. Learning to identify emotions is his first step toward controlling himself.
• Set clear limits on emotional behavior. Hurting other people or property are not okay ways of dealing with feelings and he should learn that there are consequences for damaging actions.
• Monitor your own emotions and deal with them in a responsible manner. Take a “time-out” if you need to. Your child will learn the most by watching how you deal with your feelings. (“Life with Preschooler: Parenting from 3 to 5 years,” Talaris Institute.)
Beginning at birth, your child is forming beliefs about his self-worth. Give your child a little reassurance that you are there for him. These six simple ideas make a huge difference. These simple things teach him that he is important to you. He needs this level of confidence.
• I will get my child up earlier so we can spend some time together before the day starts
• I will not talk on my cell phone when I am doing an activity with my child
• I will remember to be at eye level with my child when I need his attention
• After work, I will spend five minutes with my child before going through the mail or returning calls
• I will plan at least one outing or special activity with my child each week
• I will remember the importance of praising my child so he will learn to feel good about himself
Don’t forget that all of these ideas are framed by big hugs.
Cynthia Martin is the founder of the First Teacher program and former executive director of Parenting Matters Foundation, which publishes newsletters for parents, caregivers and grandparents. For more information, email to email@example.com or call 360-681-2250.