How Children Learn to Love

Mom and BabyEvery first and third Tuesday at 10:30 am, we meet in PlaySpace with some light snacks and a short story time for your little ones. Grownups can also receive a handout and discuss various topics on children’s health and wellness.

February’s topic is “Love.” Being loved and loving others back is essential for children’s healthy social/emotional development. Let’s take a moment and think about how you and your child understand, respect and care for each other, which all stems from loving family relationships.

1.  When do babies start to understand love and affection?

Babies, including newborns, are very sensitive to love and affection.  Holding them, smiling at them, singing a song, feeding them, and changing diapers – these sometimes feel like part of the routine for grownups. However, every nurturing care is a sign of love for babies who are new to this world.

2.  How do babies show their love and affection? 

Babies under 8 months old show their love in a more subtle way. They might stare at you and smile, even just for a split second, or they might cry when you hand them over to your friends’ arms.

Does your baby sometimes try to touch your face (especially nose) or even other baby-friends’ faces? Babies are trying to figure out other people and their emotions, which are often shown in facial expressions. This curiosity about others is also a stage of love and affection.

3.  Love is learned from getting “just enough.”

Even if you love your child unconditionally, there are always some difficult moments. Maybe your child has been inconsolably crying for more than an hour; maybe your child throws a temper tantrum that drives you crazy. Child rearing is filled with smiles, but also with tears and frustration that you probably would not describe as “loving.” Will these moments make your child unloving? The answer is no. These moments are important for your child to learn boundaries, and boundaries teach children to care about others. So, don’t aim for perfection. You job is to meet your child’s needs “just enough.” 

4.  Give words to feelings.

Understanding emotions helps children understand others. When your child pushes another child, you can ask your child, “Let’s check if she is okay,” instead of asking your child to say sorry.  Even though you want your child to be able to apologize, it is more important to learn how others feel because of what your child does. You can also state your feelings and make a connection to an event by saying, “You just made mommy really happy because you put away your toys in the box!”

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