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All We Need Is A Little Love (Mostly)

Too Small to Fail
By Too Small to Fail

Father kissing son

A cuddle. A warm smile. Softly spoken words. All of these things help babies feel comfortable and secure, and help them learn that they can trust the adults around them. The more safe and secure babies and young children feel, the more easily they form healthy relationships with others, and can turn their attention to learning.

Early brain development researchers have found that the emotional and social development of children is as important—if not more important—than their cognitive development. This is because when children form secure attachments (close emotional bonds built on love and trust) with parents and caregivers, they more easily explore the world around them, regulate their own emotions, and can comfort themselves when needed. If a young child has formed insecure attachments (emotional bonds characterized by unpredictability and fear), they may not know how to safely and appropriately interact with other people and their environment.

The bottom line? Secure attachments help a child build the skills they will need to succeed in school and in their adult lives.

Parents and caregivers can help build their child’s social and emotional development in a few simple ways. Even if the reason for crying is unclear, it is important that a parent or caregiver respond calmly and affectionately to reassure the child. Established routines are also important in helping babies feel secure, even if the routines are adapted from time to time to accommodate a child’s needs. And small actions—like looking into a baby’s eyes when talking, or gently stroking their forehead at bedtime—can help increase the sense of bonding for both parents and child.

Resources for Sharing:

  • PBS’s special feature “This Emotional Life” explains why emotional bonding is so important for children’s health and well-being.
  • Our blog post on the special role of parents in young children’s lives offers ideas for ways to improve bonding.
  • Bonding with fathers is the focus of this article from Kids Health, which offers ways that fathers can build strong emotional bonds with young children, too.

We're honoring all of the teachers who have made a difference in our lives—parents and caregivers, too—for World Teacher’s Day on October 5th. Starting Monday, September 29, use #MyFirstTeacher on Twitter to share your best early teacher and what they taught you. We’ll retweet our favorites, so include a photo if you can!

VIDEO: Parents from the land “Down Under” explain how they bonded—or didn’t—with their young children (including thoughts from actor Russell Crowe!). >>

Posted In: Newsletter