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Nurturing Consistent Relationships

Dear Debi,
My daughter is one month old. I want to ensure that I build a meaningful relationship with her. Can I start to do that now, even though she is so young?
Autumn Wright
Debi's Tips
Debi Gutierrez
Debi Gutierrez
  • Give your child one-on-one attention & talk with him consistently
  • Spend lots of time playing together
  • Pay attention to your child's cues & respond accordingly
Expert Advice
Ann Corwin, Ph.D.
Ann Corwin, Ph.D.
Parenting consultant
One month is definitely not too young to start to build a meaningful relationship. In fact, I recommend that parents begin to do this before babies are even born. It's never too early and kids are never too young to begin to build consistent relationships. You can actually start to do this while a baby is in utero. Kids can actually identify the touch, smell and voice of their parents when they're born. I tell expectant moms to do things like massaging their bellies and laying their wrists on their bellies as much as possible so that the baby can feel the touch and pulse. If you have music that you love and that tells a lot about your personality, then you should play that consistently throughout your pregnancy. If children are listening to the same music over and over again, kids learn what your preferences are, what's comforting to you, what you like. Kids are learning about you, and you want to teach your kids as much about you in utero as much as possible.

The reason the one-on-one relationship is so important is because that's really how you begin to build basic trust. It's how kids learn how they can begin to trust you. One-on-one situations help kids learn who you are and how you react in situation after situation. Kids can't learn how to socialize with other children until they learn and know what a relationship is.

There are three primary ways to keep relationships going: eye contact, touching and talking. Since infants are pre-verbal, you could use the other two ways: eye contact and touch.

Eye contact: With infants you can follow their gaze. It's such an engaging thing, and it makes them feel like someone really wants to understand and have a relationship with them.

Touching: When your baby is born, their hands are always in a fist. If you take an infant's hand and massage it, it will naturally open up. As the baby's hand opens up, you can fit your thumb in the palm of the hand and when it closes again, you're experiencing the first hand-holding. Massage is a wonderful way for you to begin to discover your baby and for your baby to begin to recognize your touch.
Child Care Provider Comments
David Cooley
David Cooley
Father of one daughter
I spend a lot of time with my daughter. I get to spend at least half of my time with her. I'm very lucky because of my flexible job schedule. I take her to the park all the time to play on the slides and the swings. We try to play outside as much as possible. She likes to go "on the roof" - which is what she calls it when she wants to ride on my shoulders. We wrestle together. She uses me as a jungle gym and we play chase. We draw, paint and color together.
Fred Hodge
Fred Hodge
Grandfather of five
As a parent you tend to have the responsibility of keeping everything in order. Everyone has his or her own job and everything has its place. It's almost like tunnel vision. It's harder to have a wide perspective on what's going on. But as a grandparent, you see the fuller view of how your grandkids are feeling and you can see why they do what they do. I can look at a situation with calmness and peace and help them with quality information.
Consuelo Ducoing
Consuelo Ducoing
Child care provider for 14 years
A child needs to trust their caregiver. I make sure that his basic needs are covered from changing diapers to feeding. I make sure that we keep and follow a daily routine. My consistent care gives him security. When he asks when his mommy is coming home, I always assure him that mommy will be home when the moon comes out.

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Topic: Social & Emotional Development
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