Questions about the quality of our interactions with children vs. the quantity of those interactions have weighed on parents’ minds for decades. With our current economic situation where both parents often feel the need to work, this issue takes on even more importance as parents try to make decisions about how to balance work with raising a child.
[callout title=What does neuroscience say?]Babies and young children need quality interactions and they need a lot of them![/callout]
Parents want to do a good job and provide the best they can for their children. So the question is: What can we do to show our children that they are truly valued? How can we give them the best chance to grow up to become capable and compassionate adults? How can parents best meet their child’s needs and encourage good development with whatever time limitations they have? How can we as a society help parents accomplish this?
Let’s start at the beginning. Young children, especially babies, are needy. Their needs are biological needs vital to the proper development of the young brain. Because this is a biological imperative, babies cannot be expected to adjust to their parents needs, schedules or plans. They require large amounts of attention, stimulation, physical connection, hugs, kisses and playtime because that is what their brains need at that time.
Babies and young children need quality interactions and they need a lot of them! Neuroscience research demonstrates that development in the prefrontal cortex is dependent on the number and quality of one on one interactions during the first year of life. These interactions develop the human quality of empathy, a sense of security, healthy emotions and social skills to handle what lies ahead.
Which is to say that in the early years both quality and quantity are really important. At this stage parents should be focusing on their children’s needs and how they can best accommodate them. For parents who must work full time, one suggestion is to enlist grandparents, friends and neighbors that you trust to help you provide the best environment for your child. We need to once again become a society that takes care of each other so our children learn to do the same!
So it isn’t simply a matter of stay-at-home parents vs. working parents. A parent who stays home but spends the bulk of the day focused on their own projects while their child is sitting in front of the TV or computer screen is technically spending more time with their child. But it isn’t quality time. Quality time requires engagement, conversation, creativity and purpose.
As children grow up this dynamic slowly changes! With neurological maturity, as children become more independent, they no longer need as many interactions with mom and dad. Indeed, parents who are still catering to their older children’s needs instead of encouraging or allowing them to grow and solve their own problems are not doing their children any favors.
The key to surviving this balancing act is knowledge. The more parents understand about how their child’s brain develops, the more effective they become with the time they have available to them. If that time is limited, it is even more important to make sure that it is used wisely.
As a way of meeting this great need for parent education, REACH offers its “BrainFit Kids™ Workshop Series” for parents of well children and its “How to Unleash your Child’s Hidden Potential” workshop for parents of children with developmental difficulties. These workshops are designed as a more in-depth solution for parents who want to learn how to provide the very best for their children. Please feel free to write us at [email protected] for more information.