We have been looking at caregiving principles for children for dealing with stage-related and temperament issues. I originally talked about six different principles and discussed principle one in my last post. This post will continue with principle two.
Principle two: a healthy environment for caring for children
Principle two sets up the environment and the child’s schedule to accommodate the child’s development and temperament characteristics. Complex things are occurring in your child’s development at this time of life, so much that it would require lengthy description. However, I will summarize these developing capacities briefly in regard to what it means for caregivers.
We need to help a child self-regulate, to help him develop the ability to calm down. This means that a caregiver should strive to provide a predictably calm and consistent environment, one which helps the infant learn how to calm when in disequilibrium.
We need to understand the child’s interest in and responsiveness to his world. How does the caregiver respond sensitively and interactively to the infant when he is awake? Very simply, the caregiver typically will hold the baby upright, look the infant in the eyes and talk to the baby in a more high-pitched voice, using longer sounds.
We need to recognize the infant’s increasing attention to interpersonal interaction and communication. Caregivers will expand communication and gestures to the child in response to child’s need for more interaction.
We need to recognize that from about six months of age forward, a child will better differentiate and understand emotions. It is extremely helpful for caregivers to identify and name these emotions for the child so the child feels acknowledged, but also because the child will gain clarity about the emotions.
We need to also understand that children are establishing a secure attachment. They become more sociable. Consequently, it will be important for the caregiver to comfort the child when he is upset and show interest and positivity to the child. This is also a good time for the child to experience other healthy adult and children relationships.
We need to understand that they are in a stage of exploration. Children will be curious and caregivers should attend to safety-proofing the child’s environment while providing objects and ways for the child to explore new things.
We recognize that they are attempting to gain a sense of autonomous self. This simply means that caregivers will encourage increasing independence in a child and help the child make good choices that will give them success.
Children will expand their sense of intersubjectivity and sociability. This simply means that children realize people have different thoughts and feelings than theirs and that those thoughts and feelings can be shared. It is helpful for caregivers to allow children to play cooperatively with peers.
Children will strengthen symbolic representations. They love to pretend-play and their language expands to include new vocabulary, grammatical structure and pragmatic and interactional speech. This is a great time for caregivers to read to and play with children in artistic ways.
This is also a time in which children establish a positive self-concept and a sense of competency. Particularly between ages four and six, children will compare themselves with others in physical appearance and things they can do. This is a time to help a child learn to be successful in his efforts to achieve and to point out unique and special talents.
Finally, children begin to develop a conscience. It is important for caregivers to help children internalize a sense of right and wrong. Children need clear rules, structure, explanations, and a basic understanding on the impact of hurtful behavior on others. This is how caregivers can be good teachers and role models.
Phew! That was a quick overview to set up an environment and structure for healthy child development. When so much is going at so many levels, raising caregivers’ awareness of new capacities in a child’s development is essential to understanding your role in their lives, and key to an environment that promotes healthy future growth and development.
Gerry Vassar, President/CEO, Lakeside Educational Network
Research taken from Pathways to Competence, Encouraging Healthy Social and Emotional Development in Young Children, Second Edition, by Sarah Landy. (pp. 42-45).