by Cynthia M. Braden, MFT
"The world revolves around me, make me feel safe!"
To develop optimally, an infant needs to live in an atmosphere of trust. This means a feeling of physical comfort and a minimal amount of fear about getting needs met. In other words, we don't want the baby to be wondering, "If I cry out for Mom, will she come and be mad or anxious?" "Or not come at all?"
It is important for the infant to learn that if he cries because he is hungry or wet, or maybe has a tummy ache or fever, or is just lonely and bored, a responsive and sensitive caregiver comes along quickly with a pleasant attitude to help. This promotes trust.
If I am a baby, I'm thinking, "Everything is okay here, I'm safe and there's someone to hold me when I feel like it. Hey, and definitely help me out if I'm wet or cold or hot or hungry or overstimulated!" "Oh, and do something to keep me entertained… but not too much, okay?"
Doing the physical things to make a baby feel safe is pretty self-explanatory. However, if you are in a stressed-out world of your own, with work, other kids maybe, in-laws, money issues, fighting with your spouse, it may be hard to be emotionally present and responsive the way you would like.
Needless to say, if parents are fighting in the next room, this does not lead to a baby developing a sense of trust and solid attachment. This is not to make you feel guilty, but to suggest adjusting your behavior if you're doing this. Fighting within earshot of infants should be avoided even if you think they can't understand. Their physiology is affected and it causes stress. Exposure to this type of stimulus has been shown to cause changes in the brain. Need I say more?
Don't forget your vibe. Infants are expert at picking up a tone of voice or body posture or facial expression and having emotional responses. Learn to compartmentalize and focus on enjoying what you are doing in the moment. I like to do a symbolic gesture of locking my 'troubles' in the car. Why not set whatever crisis of the moment aside before coming into the house to interact with your family?
Try not to be overcommitted with activities at this time, you and your partner are going through a developmental phase of your own. Becoming parents and raising a family is a huge adjustment in and of itself, and the relationship needs time and attention.
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