At your child’s birth, you are handed a tender-hearted infant ready to be shaped by all the experiences to come. She squints up at you in innocent expectancy. And you realize that if she is ever to become a happy, healthy person, it’s up to you.
You need to nurture her.
Nurturing isn’t a one-time event. It’s a lifestyle. It’s a lifestyle you can design around these essential activities:
Giving Intentional Attention
You are the most important person in your child’s life. She naturally looks to you for love. When you pay attention to her, she feels valuable and cherished. A lifestyle of nurturing attention includes:
- Talking together. From mimicking her baby sounds to telling her what you’re cooking, you’re forming a verbal bond with her as well as teaching her developing brain about words.
- Playing together. Your child learns a great deal about the world through play; learning it with you makes the experience feel even more special.
- Reading together. The act of cuddling up with you and a book full of words (especially rhyming, repetitive words) boosts both her mental development and her delight in the physical and emotional closeness you share.
- Looking at one another. Your child studies faces and responds to eye contact; take time to saturate her view with your smiling, responsive face and focused eyes.
Note: Keep screen time to a minimum in your nurturing lifestyle. A screen can’t give her the responsive interaction she craves.
Hugs can do great amounts of good, especially for children.
-Diana, Princess of Wales
Providing Fun, Safe, Kid-Friendly Spaces
Embrace your role as your child’s protector. Learn all you can about child safety. But don’t live in fear of every little bump or bruise. Children need to explore their world to learn how it works. A few tumbles and “boo-boo’s” are inevitable.
- Get smart about developmental stages. Learn what your child can do and enjoy at her age so you can create safe exploration spaces for her. (Our posts on development in months one through three, months four through six, months seven to twelve, and months twelve through twenty-four can be a helpful place to start.)
- Let her play with ordinary things. You don’t have to provide the latest trendy toys when you have real-life things like a ball or pots and pans around!
- Make her world musical. Whether it’s your singing, the radio, or iTunes, music’s rhythms and patterns help her find order and predictability in her world.
- Include time outdoors in your nurturing. Your child will find new opportunities to explore and to be physically active.
Only where children gather is there any real chance of fun.
Giving Your Life Structure
Just as a ship needs an anchor in a tossing sea, so your child needs reliable anchor points in her unfamiliar world. You provide those anchor points through structure.
- Establish routines and rituals. These can be daily routines, like reading a book at bedtime or singing a little song when it’s time to leave the house. Or they can be holiday traditions you create to help her make sense of each season.
- Provide positive discipline. Set healthy boundaries and reinforce them. Affirm her good behavior and re-direct her or correct her when she’s naughty. Use discipline as training, not punishment.
- Aim for reliability. Many things can mess with your schedule. But strive to make wise plans and stick to them, and your child will learn she can count on you.
- Surround her with stable relationships. Maintain relationships with loving, supportive, and trustworthy people to give her the best foundation in learning to love and be loved.
“The greatest gifts you can give your children are the roots of responsibility and the wings of independence.”
Modelling Healthy Behavior
- Handle conflict with self-control. From your example, she will learn that she, too, can learn to keep her behavior under control. Never hit or shake your child.
- Apologize when you’re wrong. By owning and asking forgiveness for your mistakes, you show your child that she, too, can restore relationships after she’s been wrong.
- Don’t expose your child to domestic violence. Studies show that even observing abuse has long-term negative effects. Domestic violence has no place in a nurturing lifestyle.
- Stay clean and sober. Teach your child how to avoid self-destructive behaviors and to aim for being the best she can be.
Children are great imitators. So give them something great to imitate.
Taking Care of Yourself
All of this nurturing requires a lot of energy from you. When you start to feel exhausted, overly irritable, overwhelmed or depressed, seek help.
- Take a break. Find trustworthy caregivers who can care for your child while you do something refreshing–walk outdoors, relax in the tub, or visit a good friend…
- Try to get enough sleep. Naps aren’t just for babies, you know! Parents need rest, so get it when you can.
- Reserve time for your closest relationships. Date your spouse. Make play dates with your mom-friends. Healthy relationships fill you up so you have love to pour out on your child.
- Keep growing. Learn new and interesting things, try new recipes, read parenting articles. Keep being better at being you!
Nurturing a child can feel like a full-time job.
Let the helpful moms at Choices Pregnancy Center walk with you
as you develop your own nurturing lifestyle.
We’re here to answer questions, listen to concerns and coach you as you run your parenting race.