Just as a vitamin or a mineral deficiency can lead to problems later in life, if we want to raise happy, confident children, parents need to focus on fulfilling the basic needs every baby has from birth onward. And babies are not the only ones with needs. Every person longs to experience these seven feelings from the day we are born until the day we leave this world. By identifying the desires you have in common with your baby, you can become a more mindful parent.
1. A solid sense of security. Every baby needs to feel wanted. A child’s future ability to manage tension will be affected by how secure they feel during the first years of life. Parents also need to make sure they feel grounded after having a baby. I have heard that having a baby is like having a bomb go off in your living room, and it can certainly feel that way sometimes. Financial insecurity, a lack of access to healthy food, and excessive stress can undermine your sense of rootedness. A baby needs to feel that their primary caregiver is taking care of their every need. If childcare is needed, a secondary caregiver needs to give as much quality attention to the child as the parent. And then a parent may wish to invest extra affection after childcare to re-bond.
Of course, every parent feels insecure sometimes. The key to staying grounded when parenthood throws you for a loop is to know how to manage tension when it happens. Have tools on hand that help you lower stress quickly and effectively, like taking a walk outdoors. Sometimes the simplest habits are the most grounding. And remember, your goal is not to become a perfect parent; your goal is to have enough support to feel secure, so you can pass this quality on to your child.
2. A natural flow of emotions. Allowing your child to feel the way they feel begins at birth. Every baby expresses a range of feelings. If only positive feelings are allowed and negative feelings are discouraged, your baby will lose their natural emotional equilibrium. When we are older, so much of our ability to experience joy depends on our ability to process our grief. If this process is disrupted during the first years of life, a child may struggle when they experience future losses.
Your child’s future ability to experience pleasure, intimacy, and create relationships hinges on their ability to get their emotional needs met in infancy. No one is asking you to be emotionally perfect. But try to process your emotions appropriately, so you can feel emotionally available for your baby’s ongoing needs. Find someone to talk to about the feelings you are having while parenting. Other outlets might include journaling, doodling, painting, or any other type of artistic practice that allows you to channel your emotions. If you are expressing yourself regularly, you will have an easier time going with the flow of your child’s emotions.
3. Feelings of worthiness. Even though infants don’t do much more than eat, sleep, and get their diapers changed, every baby needs to feel valued. From birth onward, your child needs help developing the foundation for their future abilities. This is why parents spend so much time encouraging little ones to do things like roll over, crawl, and walk. Your child may not appreciate their own progress as much without you positively mirroring it back. So go ahead and cheer for your child’s latest age-appropriate accomplishment. You are not spoiling your baby; you are motivating them to tackle the next developmental challenge.
Of course, parents need to feel worthy of encouragement, as well. You will have your fair share of exhausted moments while parenting, so make an agreement with your partner and help one another cope. If you focus on your relationship as a partnership and your family as a team, all of life’s many challenges will fall into their rightful places. Try laughing about how exhausted, overwhelmed, and under-assisted you feel, instead of taking it out on each other. Watching funny sitcoms reflecting where you are in your parenting adventure can be comforting. We all want to feel confident and in control of our lives, and keeping a sense of humor can help us feel worthy of support, even during challenging times.
4. Giving and receiving love. To love and to be loved is what makes us human. Our ability to experience compassion for others, create harmony rather than strife, and cultivate a peaceful life together can only happen when we learn to love and be loved during babyhood. This is why every baby needs to feel loved, and will happily love you back when their needs are met. Of course, parents need to be mindful that they do not use love as a weapon, withholding it in an effort to manipulate behavior or granting it to one child and withholding it from another out of favoritism. Love is not a tool and should not be used as one. Love is a condition of mutual openness, trust, and appreciation. If you act lovingly to your child but constantly bicker with your spouse, your baby is getting mixed messages about love.
When you are a parent, the tone of your relationship matters, so try to set as moral, empathetic, and peaceful a tone as possible. If you and your partner struggle, get help from a professional or join a support group. Don’t ignore communication gaps and hope they will go away. If you face your relationship frustrations, they can grow smaller until they are bridgeable. Do your best to make quality time for you and your spouse. Plan around your baby’s schedule; try an earlier bedtime or make the most of your time together during baby’s naptime. Most couples experience some turbulence while adjusting to parenthood. Try to remember, couples that make time to connect with each other have more harmonious marriages than couples that don’t.
5. Ability to self-express. Babies make noise. They cry, squawk, gurgle - and this is only the beginning. Before you know it, they will be chanting “mama” and “dada,” and imitating the sounds that go with specific objects. If you don’t teach your child the basic building blocks of communication and repeat words back to them over and over, your child won’t learn as well or as quickly. Get a head start by communicating with your baby as early as in the womb. Parents are a child’s first teachers, so it may be helpful to think of communication with your baby as the beginning of a lifelong conversation.
Sometimes, however, baby talk can get annoying. Parents may feel impatient from repeating rote information over and over without enough access to adult conversations throughout the day. So make sure you are allying yourself with adults who have either been in your shoes or who are in the same stage now, so you can regularly converse with people who get you. Consider joining parent-baby networking groups, playgroups, or exercise groups to meet up with like- minded parents. You can also try writing letters or sending daily email updates if you prefer writing out your thoughts instead of always talking. If you can express your thoughts, you’ll be that much more available to converse in an age-appropriate manner with your developing baby.
6. Access to intuition and imagination. Babies are not clay for us to shape and mould according to our will. They are born whole with personalities already intact. As parents, our job is to nurture our children so they can blossom into the people they wish to be. Parents who validate their child’s intuition and imagination can take comfort knowing that their future grown child will be able to rely on their inner compass to steer them through life.
Of course, parents need to access their intuition and imagination, too. If you feel like you spend too much time in the real world dealing with adult responsibilities, why not let your child’s imaginative play lead you places you might not otherwise go? As your child grows, they will invite you into imaginary worlds where you can remember the power your own imagination once held. Even if you are not the fun parent in your partnership, you can likely still find playful areas of interest with your children if you let them lead the way.
7. Personal spiritual connection. Children don’t come with guarantees of religious affiliation, and some parents may struggle with this fact. If we want to honor our children as empowered individuals, we have to let them make their choices about spirituality themselves. We should not imagine, as we introduce them to ideas as a child, that we are cinching their future choices. Until they can think like adults, we’d better prepare ourselves to turn over the reins little by little as our children grow up. Your children get to choose their gender, their sexual preference, and the ways they connect with a higher power. And parents today need to be prepared for this without judgment.
The saying goes, ‘There are many paths up the same mountain.’ As parents, we need to prepare for the inevitable day when children climb that mountain by themselves. Or, if they choose not to climb any mountains at all right now, we may as well accept it. When we can look at the parenting process as a process of doing our best and then letting go, everything goes so much more smoothly. If we want to inspire our children to follow in our spiritual footsteps, we cannot force them; we can only inspire them with our example.
Baby Bill of Rights
Every baby deserves to feel:
• Responded to
Behaviors that undermine wholeness:
• Angry outbursts
• Instilling taboos
• Harsh punishment
• Expecting secrets to be kept
• Violating personal boundaries
When author, journalist, and writing coach Christina harkens back to what it was like to be a new parent, she wishes that more parenting advice could have been simple.
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