Infancy: Building a Strong Foundation

19 01 2016

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.

-Ecclesiastes 11:5

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.


Touch: Using Physical Affection for Greater Bonds

8 12 2015

…touch is as important to infants and children as eating and sleeping.

-Tiffany Field, Touch Research Institute

Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man.

-Matthew 8:3

When Jesus healed, he often also touched. He gathered children around him and placed his hands on them. He washed his disciples feet. At the most fundamental level, humans need physical affection. Much research has been done demonstrating powerful positive effects of healthy touch, including emotional and social bonding. Next time you’re around a child, share a…

  • side hug
  • high five
  • pat on the back
  • some crazy handshake!

Touch can also be a “touchy” issue especially with children. You’ll need to build some trust. For example, when you first meet a child, you could…

  • Ask them for a fist bump.

(They may be shy and turn you down, but there’s nothing to feel awkward about here.)

  • Smile and comment on something interesting about what they’re wearing.
  • Stay positive and welcoming.
  • If you’re with them for a while, engage them with some form of play.
  • You may want to give them a light tap on the shoulder and say, “It’s super cool to meet you!”
  • Next time you meet them, ask them again.

Even as a parent, you may need permission from your child if they’re feeling hurt or grumpy. Or you might have a child like mine who is constantly wrapping me up whether I want it or not! Parents could also…

  • Stroke a cheek for wake up.
  • Celebrate a success with a high-five.
  • Habitually hug at least once per day.
  • Give a piggy back or shoulder ride to bed.
  • Wrestle.
  • Snuggle and read together for five or ten minutes minutes.

What ideas do you have?

Build trust and share some healthy, life-giving touch this week.

Lord, your “touch” changes me. Use my touch to fill up a child’s love tank.


Separation Anxiety

3 03 2015

Watching your child become anxious when he is left with “strangers” is difficult for both you and your child. Yet doing so (as described below) matters for helping your child navigate the difficult world filled with anxiety at every turn. God doesn’t want us to be anxious and he wants parents to provide opportunities to trust. Trust you, trust trustworthy caregivers, volunteers, coaches, teachers, etc. and trust him above all. Allow worries to disappear as this trusting relationship with God and his people deepens.

Ten Ways to Connect With Kids

31 03 2011
  1. Observe. Notice habits, nuances, personality. Watch how they relate and play. Learn what they think about and their tendencies. Get to know the child.
  2. Culture. Be a student of kid culture. Read Toys R Us, watch their shows (and enjoy them!), play with their toys and games.
  3. Ask. Ask lots of questions! Who, what, where, when, why, how? What’s your favourite…? What would you do if…? How do you feel when…?
  4. Listen. Practice active listening. Engage your eyes and ears. Restate what they say in your own words. Give non-verbal cues like raising your eyebrows, laughing or touch to show that you are interested in them.
  5. Stories. Use the power of story to connect and teach. Read, tell or create fanciful stories. Try the “What If” game. For example, ask, “What would you do if it snowed 100 hundred feet of snow?” Make links to real life decisions and attitudes.
  6. Repetition. With younger children, repeat things often–they love to be ‘in-the-know’! Play the same game for a week or once a week for a month. Tell the same stories over and over with genuine enthusiasm.
  7. Unpredictable. With older children, use the unpredictable. Surprise them, change your approaches. Throw them off by creating a different story ending.
  8. Build trust. Be there for them over and over. Admit your failures. Grow with them. Be a genuine friend.
  9. Play. Play often, play long, laugh loud, get creative, get dirty–whatever your kid enjoys, do it with them. Explore new possibilities to find new things you enjoy doing together.
  10. Pray. Seek God for new ways to connect. He is always seeking to connect with those who want Him. Model that and ask Him to show you how he’s working and how you can also ride that wave.

How do you connect with the kids in your world?

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