Early Experiences Matter
By Susie Lo, LMFT
“How do you give therapy to a baby?” I am a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist with a specialization in working with parents with babies ages 0 to 5years old. With all the special items babies need to be cared for during the first 5 year of their life, therapeutic support for them and their parents is often overlooked but is an integral part towards their healthy development. Referencing developmental milestones that are often discussed when we talk about our little ones: cognitive, physical, language, and social emotional, parents are key in the promotion and development of these areas.
“Parents are their child’s first teachers.” From the ages of 0 to 5 babies brains mature at a rapid rate. There is actually an overabundance of neural pathways when children are at their youngest. Another way of looking at baby brain development is, “What wires together fires together. If you don’t use it, you lose it.” The easiest way to describe this process is the acquisition of language. We have all taken a foreign language in high school. However, how many of us actually speak that language? Those of us who have practiced beyond school have acquired a new language while others, took the language class and then lost it as the practicing ceased. Therefore, with our little ones they need practice to develop the cognitive/thinking part of their brain. The left hemisphere of their brain is the problem solving/logical side of their brain. As parents and providers it is essential we help children with their brain development.
“Parents are their child’s best toy.” The first five years of their life, baby is learning to grasp, turn over, crawl, cruise, and walk, just to name a few of many complicated fine/gross motor skills. You, as a parent can support their physical development in many ways.
“Bathe children in language.” Literally the best way to increase your baby’s language development is to talk to them. With a combination of baby signs and verbal language, you can encourage and increase their language skillset a rapid rate.
“You are your child’s best teacher.” For babies their ability to calm down or “self-regulate,” is something that is not innate to them. Baby’s right brain is the emotion side of their brain. Their right brain matures at a much faster rate than their left brain. This is one of the many reasons why babies cry, toddlers tantrum, and 5 years old’s/older children, “are just out of control,” as parents often report to me. They have not fully developed the logical problem solving skills that are essential for them to calm down. Instead, this is a lifelong process they learn from you and how you model yourself regulation skills as a parent
Going back to my question above, “How do you give therapy to a baby?” The answer is you don’t. By helping the parents to understand and promote the healthy development of their baby results in a relationship full of love and respect for years to come.
Now that I have highlighted the importance of how YOU/parents make a true impact on a child’s early experiences the next step is how do you do this. Below is a hand out for babies 0-2 months that highlight simple ways you can interact with your baby to make the first 2 months of their life, the best. Later, I will feature development handouts for other ages. Can’t wait? Want more now? Contact me, Susie Lo, M.S., LMFT and Certified Infant Preschool Mental Health Specialist at 619-600-0683x.6. I look forward to meeting with you and your child.