Caring relationships help children to gain a sense of self. Loving relationships also help children learn to develop a sense of trust in the world and others around them. Below are 6 ways to support your growing child in developing his/her caring, understanding and compassion for others as well as for themselves.

Ages 0-12 Months (Begin and continue to:)

1. Be Affectionate

 Babies need to be touched and held.  Physical touch gives our children their earliest experiences of being loved and cared for.  When our babies become fussy or colicky it is important to remain physically and lovingly connected to them so that they can begin to internalize acceptance throughout challenging moments. If you can stay connected to your baby during hard times then she/he will learn how to eventually comfort her/him-self, as you’ve already set a loving example for her/him. 

2.  Help your Child to Feel Secure

Having a routine for your child offers him/her a sense of security. When a young child knows what to expect then he/she will more easily grow to feel safe and confident in the world. A way to establish a sense of routine includes the following as an example: going on a morning walk with your baby, followed by a diaper change, breastfeed or bottle feed, music time, and repeat the following day.

Ages 12-24 Months

1.  Support Growing Skills

Offer your child just enough help so that they won’t get frustrated in order to help them to become increasingly independent and confident. For example, give your child some time to build his building with blocks before rushing in and solving the challenge for him. Intervene if only after some time he or she starts becoming frustrated with the task.

2.  Help your Child to Resolve Conflict and Exercise Patience in a Healthy Way

You may have observed that your child has a hard time waiting. Since they are just developing self-control it is important to model for your toddlers some appropriate ways of sharing and having patience.  If your child has a hard time waiting try modeling for them in a group the act of using a timer to establish turn-taking skills as well as offering them a visual and fun representation of time. At ECDA we often use sand timers for this.

Link to sand timers

24-36 Months

1. Help your Child Resolve Conflict

At this stage your child will begin to interact with their peers a lot more and it it is important to help demonstrate to them how to resolve conflicts with others. As you witness conflicts with your child, simply narrate to them what is happening. After an explanation have your child  repeat or reiterate to you the conflict in order to make sure they understand what went on. After this step, suggest to them some of the potential consequences of their actions followed by brainstorming with them better choices they could make in the future. This process helps your child begin the process of mastering self-control and resolving conflict.

2. Help your Child Understand their Feelings

Your child now experiences more complex feelings. Help your children name their feelings in an attempt to give them a feeling vocabulary. Also give your child an outlet to express big mad feelings in acceptable ways like stomping feet when he or she is angry or taking deep breaths to let the mad feelings out. We also recommend Daniel Tiger episodes for your child to watch and there is a Daniel Tiger app for parents. “When you feel mad and you want to roar, take a deep breath and count to 4! 1-2-3-4!”

And Always…

Incorporate a sense of home culture into your child’s life as a means to help shape his or her identity. You can do this by establishing honored family traditions with your child or having family routines before bedtime. 

Marilee Hartling RN, MFT | Infant & Child Development Specialist | Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist.