Affection, love and friendship are important emotions for a person and the foundation for these are set from the day we are born as babies. These are also skills which help us develop loving, caring relationships that are so important for a happy successful life. So how do babies develop these emotions and how can we help them strengthen these.
Yes, it is natural that as humans all of us want to receive and give love, affection and friendship. Babies are also born with the innate ability to generate these emotions. However, like many other abilities and skills, these emotions also need nurturing. This nurturing starts with parents.
When the baby is in the womb, he or she has already become accustomed to their mother's sounds. So they feel a sense of comfort and safety whenever they hear her voice. They come out with the knowledge that there is atleast one person they are very close to. As soon as they are out, they learn about her through their other senses - smell, and sight. The bond becomes strengthened the most when the baby realizes that their mother fulfills one of their basic needs - food. One of the first significant ways in which a baby learns about loving relationships is through feeding by the mother. Whether it is breastfeeding or any other way, the baby immediately knows that there is a loving relationship because there is nothing expected in return from the baby. This physical and emotional bond is the first step to learning about love, affection and friendships.
When you change a diaper or wave a rattle or walk with your baby lying on your shoulder, the baby learns that you are doing so because you love him and care about him. It makes them happy. As they get a few months old, they start to realize that if they smile back or if they coo at you, you are happy to and they realize that both of you are happy at the sight and actions of each other. They start to realize what love and affection are. Your baby will also start showing signs of her love and affection. The first sign is usually when she becomes very happy at seeing you when you come back from the office or from a long break from her. Everyday care and play makes the baby feel protected and feeling safe is a very important requirement for building a bond.
Does your baby cry when she goes to someone else? Did he suddenly stop going to other people and wants to come back to you all the time (also termed stranger anxiety). These are good signs that he trusts you. He is coming back or wants to be with you because he is certain that your love and affection and friendship are always there for him. So when he goes through this crying to get back to you, don't push him towards the other person. Respond affectionately. Making him feel safe is much more important to his emotions in the long run than his refusal to go to someone he does not trust.
Feeling safe and secure is required if your baby has to understand love, affection and friendship. For example, if he is around the corner at home, exploring something, continuing to hear your voice will give him the confidence to explore. If he calls out to you and you come running, he knows that you will be there in the time of need. All of these actions you take to make him feel secure - whether by constantly talking to him even if he is out of sight, or responding to him or holding him protectively when you are outside, or carrying him around in a baby sling - show him that you care for him and love him.
When babies or toddlers see each other or play with each other, it does not seem like they are playing with each other at all. Sometimes, they are not even sitting together and are in different places. At other times, they are trying to grab at the same things or crying if they cannot get something. The time they spend with another baby or toddler, teaches them that there are ways to spend time with their own peers even if they do not play together or cooperate. It can be very interesting for babies to watch another baby. Sometimes, they even try to imitate the other one, if they see something that is new to them. This is the beginning of friendships as your baby learns that they "had a good time" when the other baby was around. And it nurtures in them the feeling that friendships are good.
Many Indian children grow up with grandpa and grandma around them. If it works out, they can be a great help in helping nurture love, affection and friendship in your baby also.
All of these actions while they seem like everyday things are teaching our babies important skills - love, affection and friendship. When they are able to realize these in their relationships with parents, they grow in confidence and start to build such relationships with others around them and thus lay the foundation for a successful social network.
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