Crying and fussing are just some of the ways that babies and children communicate. With their emotions still developing, their understanding of the world growing and expanding and having new experiences that are challenging and overwhelming, being able to self regulate is hard. Let’s face it a lot of adults have the same challenges but with the benefit of maturity, education and experience!
The simplest and most effective way to soothe, calm and connect with a child?
Be physically present with him.
Now I know you may already know this but are you aware just how powerful a cuddle, a rock or a hold really is? Touch helps to regulate stress hormones which cause anxiety, fear and tension. A study carried out in Japan showed that the babies calmed more quicker when being rocked and held. Another study in Iran showed that babies with colic that were massaged cried less than those who were rocked. Physical contact, skin to skin and human connection enables babies and children to “reset” and balance their emotions through the release of hormones. Put simply, your touch soothes and relaxes and helps to reduce stress. When language skills and emotions are still developing, physical contact is the most effective way to communicate security and love to a child. Leaving a baby or child to cry does not enable him to regulate his own emotional state and teaches that the world is not empathetic to his feelings. Eventually studies show that infants that do not receive positive responses to crying learn to withdraw and not display emotions freely. In extreme cases, the ability to self regulate can be limited completely. To cry and not be heard is one of the saddest, loneliest experiences you could have.
The best way to help a baby and child regulate their emotional state?
Show empathy and demonstrate how to behave, act and feel through your interactions with him.
You are your child’s first teacher. Your child watches you, learns from you and discovers the world through you (particularly between 0-18 months). Be mindful of how you would want to be treated and how you treat others. You are your child’s compass through new experiences.Hold him, listen and don’t pass judgement. Allow him to express himself and communicate and then offer your physical presence to enable him to feel grounded and connected. All emotions and experiences pass and children are learning about developing resilience and autonomy all the time (in their own time). As a parent you are your child’s anchor in a time of turbulent seas. You offer the base from which your child can explore their emotions and feelings without overwhelm.
So the good news is;
- Everyone who can physically connect, hug, cuddle and touch can soothe and calm a crying child.
- It’s immediate, simple to do and costs nothing.
- It communicates compassion, kindness and empathy which children then understand, mirror and put into action in their experiences with their peers.
- Creating a close connection or a bond with your child from the beginning endures throughout your relationship and makes communication between you easier at any age (I can vouch for this as I have open, expressive and confident teenagers).
The challenge can be;
- You don’t feel comfortable with hugs or nurturing touch yourself so find it hard to express this to your child-Maybe think about exploring where these feelings come from, how they affect you and if you want to pass them on.
- You feel impatient and frustrated about crying and fussiness-Children are here to teach as patience, understanding and compassion. It’s very hard to force a child to emotionally regulate in a positive way. Think of how your time and presence is an investment in your child’s emotional and mental health and your long term relationship.
- Crying happens alot-Some children are more expressive but that can be a good thing. They want to connect and share with you. All emotions pass quickly. Make experiencing them as positive and open as you can.
There is no substitute for physical connection, nurturing touch, love and cuddles for children. Allow yourself to embrace all experiences and enjoy how your body can provide such a sense of security for another.
To find out more about nurturing touch and massage, visit www.blossomandberry.com