Communication is a series of beautifully choreographed interactions between the child and parent. Romantic as it sounds, it is the core of your love life with your little one. As a new parent, it’s natural to be lost in the whirlwind of emotional and physical needs of your new born: feeding, diaper change, sleeping, feeding again and the list goes on. We have all been there, so please stop, look at your cherub and enjoy him/her.
When I came home with my daughter, I did everything humanely possible to keep her safe, happy and well fed. Then, one day as I was feeding her she looked at me, I made a silly face and she immediately made a face that said ‘Now, you have my attention’. The sillier I got, the more she looked and stopped sucking for a brief moment. That time, I realized that I was more involved in attending to her physical needs than finding time to have fun with her. Fun for me is fundamental to Communication!
Babies are hardwired to listen and learn from day one, unless they have an underlying difficulty at birth. By underlying difficulties , I mean if he/she has failed a hearing loss screening at the time of birth, presence of syndromes (a group of symptoms that characterize a disease or an undesirable condition), premature or other disabilities confirmed by the Pediatrician.
Firstly, babies participate in the interaction with the parent, but do not expect them to know how to interact. It’s because of their immature and developing body systems. Therefore, as parents it is our responsibility to attune and adapt to their behaviors. Do not feel that your new born is trying to be difficult or ‘naughty’.
Secondly, Enjoy them! Enjoy the silly faces, funny noises, goo-goo gaga and swinging your baby. A bit of watchfulness there! All these actions promote a healthy emotional environment for the baby.
Thirdly, to make communication enjoyable and enhancing, we as parents should be enriching and responsive ( said the researchers Clarke-Stewart , 1973; Poehlmann and Fiesse, 2001). Making an enriching and responsive environment is to sing, talk, make happy faces, show the baby how loved he/she is (I think we all know how to cuddle and kiss our children), quick to respond to their needs and bids for interaction. For e.g. If the baby is looking at the lights, we can say ‘ Oh! Look at that light! I see you, light!.
So, I encourage all parents out there to get silly with your new born and most importantly have fun! We need to do this because ,we want to do it, not because we have to do it. I know you might think, but what can I possibly achieve by talking, singing or being funny with my new born? They are too little to understand or respond. Trust me, you are laying a strong foundation for their communication in the early years of life.
Nevertheless, we should be looking for signs of when to engage and when to disengage with your baby. The following should be kept in mind:
When to engage: baby is breathing in a regular pattern, eyes appear wide and bright, looking at the environment, bodily is moving slightly, bright face gazing at you
When to disengage: averting gaze (looking away from you), turning the head away from you, spreading fingers, making grunting sounds (short deep sound), arching the back
Ways to optimize Parent-child Communication
T: Take Turns- Build the back-and-forth interaction with your baby by playing peek-a-boo, sing songs or use toys. Then you wait, you wait for your baby to do anything! Move, look at you, make a sound or even flash that cute smile. Then, you rejoice and make a big deal of it. Now it’s your turn.
I: Imitate your child’s action ‘Monkey see, monkey do’. It can be a sound, a movement or a way your child looks at you. Be a copy cat!
P: Point things out- Bring toys or sound makers to the child’s view, see if your baby is watching it, then when you have his/her attention move it or operate it. Later when your child is 6 months or older, you can point to things near by and far away.
S: Set the stage- Establish anticipation (expectation) for your child by repeating similar songs and games your child likes. For e.g. My daughter loves the ‘Ants go marching’ song. The part of the song that says’ And they all go marching down to the ground to get out of the rain!’ I make a hand gesture of diving down whenever this part of the song comes up. She used to shake and move her hands whilst listening to it. She was anticipating and requesting for it. So, make your singing animated and exaggerated.
So there you are, simple and easy to follow TIPS to maximize communication with your baby. This may look like a lot of work, but hey every relationship in this world requires time and effort. As you get good at it, it becomes natural and spontaneous.
And I believe the best thing you can give your child is your time and unconditional love. So, Let’s Tango!
Source: Pre- Language Skills and Management, Rhea Paul