There is a seemingly unlimited amount of information available about raising children and what young children need.
The wealth of information, online and in books, has exponentially expanded in the past few years. The irony is that this abundant advice does not necessarily help. It can do just the opposite by making it harder to know what to read and follow.
How are you to know what your child really needs when tips from one source contradict another one?
Good news is here. In spite of information overload, there are a few key pieces of information that can help you raise your child with a foundation they need. Research guides us with clear findings concerning what children need for optimal development in the early years.
In fact, helping a child thrive is simple, even if it is not always easy.
Challenges abound, but following these few essential steps can make your life with a young child easy... and even fun.
I've pulled together decades of research + newer studies on brain development into 5 steps you can take to help your child thrive.
1. More than anything, your child needs love + loving care.
Stable early relationships with sensitive caregivers matter more for your child's development than anything else.
Every time you respond to your child's needs with love, your child learns that someone is always there to take care of them even when they are having a hard time. They learn to trust others and that they are not alone. Through these warm interactions your child develops a sense of herself as a person who deserves to be loved and cared for and has a role model (you!) for how to care about other people. Isn't that what we all want: a child who feels confident about who she is and shows kindness to others? The base is in their loving relationship with you.
2. Talking to your child is teaching, every day.
When you sing songs with your child or lullabies at night, your child is hearing language surrounded by the comfort of mommy's voice.
When you talk to your child about what you or your child is doing such as, “Now it's time to get dressed, first we'll get your green shirt," or “That truck is zooming so fast when you push it!" she learns new words, the power of language and how to communicate.
And when you read with your child, you are setting up a love of reading and introducing him to early literacy. Naming feelings for your child (“You were so angry!") helps them learn about emotions.
So all that talking, singing, reading is setting a foundation for your child's future abilities to read, understand their feelings and communicate. Keep it up.
3. Keep up routines.
Routines are the basis of stability for your child.
They help your child learn the rhythm of the day and gain a sense of inner stability and calm. Routines help little ones become more independent over time because they know what to expect and what comes next.
Toddlers love rituals, so if you do the bedtime routine nightly the same way, they feel safe. Routines are essential for any activity you do daily, such as meal times, getting dressed, bathing, bedtime and leaving in the morning. Young children lack a sense of time. Routines help them gain a feeling of control and learn to move more readily through the day.
Similarly, the holidays are a great time to start new rituals or traditions in your home. Like routines, these traditions bring comfort and uniquely define your family.
4. Sleep is a must.
A rested child is a happier child.
When children get enough sleep they are better able to handle emotions, interact with others and learn. They are less likely to get overwhelmed and upset, and their behavior is more appropriate. Setting up good nap and nighttime routines is the key to helping your child get the rest they need.
5. Take care of you.
Before you can start to address the many changing needs of your child, you have to take care of yourself.
When you are rested, eating reasonably healthy meals, finding ways to grab a little time for yourself or quality time with your partner, then you are better able to give your child what he needs. Plus, you deserve it. Taking care of yourself means a better relationship with your child and a happier you!
Motherhood is so demanding, but it's so much easier if you keep it simple and focus on things that really matter.