The first year in a baby’s life is full of rapid changes as the child grows from a very dependent newborn to a free spirited toddler. The child experiences several stages of physical, emotional and social development. Very often it is difficult for a new parent to deal with these stages of development and the child learns through trial and error as the child grows.
- The first priority for a parent is to raise a happy child, and for that the baby has to grow in a cheerful environment. A baby observes his surroundings and tries to communicate with little gurgles and coos. The child may cry or flail his/her hands and kick his/her legs. A parent can communicate with the child with soothing noises and a pleasant smile. The parent should avoid situations which would scare the baby like sudden loud noises or being left alone in total darkness. Gentle music can create a positive atmosphere in the baby’s room.
- There should be a lot of physical contact with a baby in the earlier months to build a sense of security. The parent should make eye to eye contact with the infant. A crying baby should be attended to immediately. Gentle motions can soothe the baby. A parent should desist from rough handling of the child when it is upset.
- A baby is social by nature and his/her first experiences interacting with people will have a lasting impression on the child’s life. Some babies are friendlier than others and a parent should study the traits of his/her child. A timid or shy child should not be forced into the arms of a person he/she is not familiar with even if it’s a close relative. Children should be allowed to get to know the other person while feeling safe in the arms of a parent.
- If a parent is friendly the baby learns by example. A cheerful greeting to people who visit or family who return home will help the child’s social development.
- A parent should spend quality time with the baby each day. The child can either play with the child with toys or sing to the baby. Reading a picture book to a slightly older baby and making him learn a few words will all go towards a healthy social development. Even if a parent is busy with a career or with chores the child should spend some child-centered time with his/her baby.
- As the child grows older the child should be encouraged to interact with his/her peers. Parents can meet at a park with their children and let them interact or visit each other’s homes so that the children can play together. Helping a child to build friendships goes a long way in the baby’s social development.
- It is important that parents should not argue in front of their babies as this creates a sense of insecurity.
- A parent should praise the child when deserved and avoid undue criticism. Unacceptable behaviour should be dealt with in a positive manner. This builds a child’s self-esteem.
- A child from early infancy should be not be protected from failure. He should be taught to handle failure and learn from his mistakes. A parent should desist from punishing a child for his failures as this could be detrimental for his social development.
An infant needs constant supervision but an adult should desist from being a “helicopter” parent who hovers around his child all the time. A child should be allowed to interact with others, spend time with grandparents, siblings and cousins for a healthy social development.