People doing research on the brains of children who have been physically, sexually, or emotionally mistreated, have learned that this kind of abuse changes a child’s brain forever. This abuse is something a child will not “get over.”
The child who is abused and neglected will probably do poorly in school, be suspended more frequently, have to repeat grades, and may even drop out of school. What you do to your child, and even what you say, significantly impacts your them.
Parents take on a huge responsibility when they raise a child. You need to keep your child safe, encourage him, care for her, be with him, teach her and love him. The responsibility of raising a child may be the most serious one you ever undertake.
Here are few of the loving things to do to make a difference in your child’s life:
• Be consistent
• Be there for him
• Tell her you love her
• Tell him what he does right
• Give up smoking
• Be fair
• Give him hugs regularly
• Know where she is
• Stay away from illegal drugs
• Read with her
• Spend close time together
• Do what you say you will do
Take time, listen
Strong families make time to spend together. Parents need to set aside time to spend with their children, whether it is a family outing, bedtime chat or simply sitting down to have dinner together. Strong families do not just happen. Parent, with effort and commitment, create strong families.
One other ingredient in strong families is families who really listen. When your child wants to talk with you really listen. Put down the newspaper, turn off the telephone and look your child in the eye. Nothing makes a child feel more important than to know someone cares that much to really listen.
When your child is fearful, get down on her level to reassure her. Sometimes we want to scoop up our child to keep her safe. Many times it is better to share the experience at her level. This may help her feel more confident as you kneel beside her or next to her but still where you can protect her.
By responding to your baby when she cries, you are teaching her she can trust you. By feeding her when she is hungry, picking her up when she is distressed, keeping her from harm, and comforting her when she is upset, she learns trust.
It is this very foundation of trust that gives her the strength to go on to the next step. When she sees you holding the scary toy, she knows it is okay because there is trust. When you pet the puppy she feels better about reaching to pet the puppy again because of her trust.
Help her to learn to trust by letting her trust you. It is the foundation of most of what she will learn. You teach her about trusting you every day — what a beautiful thing you teach your child.
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. To reach interim First Teacher Executive Director Patty Waite, email email@example.com or call 360-681-2250.