Experience plays a crucial role in “wiring” a young child’s brain.
-Judith Graham, Leslie A. Forstadt
As you do not know the path of the wind, or how the body is formed in a mother’s womb, so you cannot understand the work of God, the Maker of all things.
Infancy is a marvel. While we may try to understand how a young life is formed, we might as well just throw our hands up in the air and say, “My God, your works are astounding! How can I begin to explain them?” Still, take great joy in the experiences you offer the littlest in your life. You are contributing to their worldview whether you admit it or not. Seize the opportunity!
A psychiatrist I spoke to once said that if an infant brain doesn’t get what it needs, when it gets older, it will not be able to develop it. That means if it lacks essential nutrients or attention or emotional support in extreme measures or traumatic situations, the effect on that child will be lifelong.
So I would infer that the converse is also true. What is gained at that young age will be a fixed part of that child’s brain development. What a great privilege and responsibility we have as parents, caregivers, friends and family in the life of an infant!
I’ve long believed that how we start anything, is foundational to how that thing continues. Whether it be a personal project or a race or a quilting pattern or the course we set for a ship, the path these take is heavily influenced by the first step.
So consider very carefully the influences in your infant’s life. You can’t control them all so don’t panic either. Leave your little one in the hands of God. But make positive efforts to provide a solid, foundational start as much as it is in your power.
Building realistic trust is your one focus at this stage. Meaningful connections are the pathway to building trust.
Consider these trust-building connections:
- create safe spaces and be a safe person
- provide different sitting/lying/cuddling positions
- play and smile during tasks such as changing diapers
- make a variety of facial expressions to communicate
- provide basic needs consistently such as feeding, peaceful sleep environment, changing
- hold your baby and allow other trustworthy people to hold as well (such as at church)
- provide familiar items as metaphorical and literal building blocks for learning
- recognize that babies reflect your behaviour, facial expressions and feelings
- share a children’s Bible to hold, look at and listen to
- begin hide and seek type games with objects or the classic peek-a-boo
- show understanding toward emotions and identify with them (ex: “Oh, you’re so sad. I would be sad too.”)
- sing songs repeatedly with enthusiasm!
- be aware of your own anxieties which can transfer easily to your baby
- build trust with others to help ease separation anxiety
- help them form words using repetition
- pray with them and for them out loud
Lord, help me give well to this critical life-phase.