Many parents worry about when their baby will walk, talk, learn his colors and count to ten, but it’s also important that you are concerned with his emotional adjustment.
Babies communicate at birth – they cry and they hear. They also are sensitive to the emotions of others. They like to study our faces, and we show many different emotions on our face. In addition, they tune into the sound of our voices. I bet you can say “I love you” in a loving, sarcastic, hateful, questioning and silly manner. Try it! Your baby can hear that also.
So, when you think your baby isn’t listening to your fighting, screaming, crying and unloving mannerisms…think again. A family will determine a child’s emotional well being, especially the mother’s attitude. That baby will imitate what he sees repetitively. You are the most important person in your baby’s life. Yes, you! How special is that? He or she loves you no matter what you look like, how rich you are or what level of education you have.
Indeed, Autistic children likely suffer from limbic deficits that don’t allow them to have the sensory input to match a person’s emotional state. These children seem to have difficulty with imitating and understanding facial expressions and emotional content. That is another topic I will discuss at a later time.
Babies are resilient. They are not capable of conscious, long-term memory ability, in other words, if a situation happens once or twice…they are not likely to remember it. That baby needs a lot of repetition. If he is picked up most of the time when he cries, he will know that his needs will be met and he will feel secure. If on the other hand, his care is inconsistent so that the baby can’t predict what will happen, he may not develop the confidence and emotional security that are so important to a healthy psyche. In the worse case, if he is abused, the link between emotion and memory can be very devastating. He may not remember the specific event but he can associate pain or fear and the person that was responsible.
Babies are capable of recognizing familiar faces, learning that they will get attention if they cry and forming emotional associations with particular people or places when these actions are repeated frequently. In the long run, your baby can be very smart or gifted but if he or she doesn’t have the emotional skills and maturity to carry it out, brain power alone won’t guarantee success. Emotion and memory are related. We seem to remember events that had a strong emotional impact on us, whether happy or sad. It is important that you too try and keep a positive outlook even if times are tough. Count your blessings and your baby will count them with you.
- Kathryn Thorson Gruhn, MA CCC-SLP, author of My Baby Compass series