Infants and toddlers thrive when their world feels loving, safe, and predictable. When you express your love and respond to their needs, you teach them that they can count on you. Over time, showing love and responding to your child helps them learn to manage their feelings and behavior. As they grow, feeling secure in their relationships gives them the confidence they need to explore, learn, and take on life’s challenges.
Young children are affected by your emotions, whether you are happy or upset. So, it is important to find practical strategies that help you cope with stress. Caring for yourself helps you care for your child.
TIPS ON HOW TO MAXIMIZE LOVE & MANAGE STRESS
INFANTS (0-12 MONTHS OLD)
HOLD, KISS, AND CUDDLE Provide your baby with lots of loving attention and touch. Babies don’t get spoiled, so there is no need to hold back on showing love.
RESPOND TO THEM Your infant depends on you to meet their needs. Watch and listen for clues about how they feel and what they need. For example, a cry or whimper may mean that they are hungry or hot. Over time, you will learn to read your infant’s signals. Respond to what you notice. This helps them learn that you care. It also teaches them about cause and effect.
COMFORT THEM When upset, infants have a hard time calming down on their own. They depend on you to help manage their emotions, so comfort them when they get fussy or cry. Bit by bit, they will learn ways to help soothe themselves (like sucking their thumb). Some babies cry more than others. If your baby cries a lot, raise the issue with your doctor.
PLAY WITH THEM Your baby loves to look at your face! Hold them close, smile, make silly faces, and talk in a playful voice. Around 6 or 8 weeks, they will start to smile back. This means they are happy and learning the basics of communication! Have little “conversations” where you respond to each others’ sounds and facial expressions. Take breaks if your baby seems tired or overwhelmed. They might show this by looking away from you.
HAVE A ROUTINE Settle into a consistent routine schedule for daily activities like feeding, naps, bathing, reading, and bedtime. Routines help babies and young children feel safe and know what to expect (adults too!). Every baby is a little different, so it may take some time to figure out a rhythm that works for your family. Keep in mind that routines change as your baby gets older. For example, bedtime or nap time may change over time.
TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF Stress is normal, but too much stress is bad for a baby’s brain. Things that cause stress for an infant are loud noises, adults who seem upset or angry, or when adults do not respond to their needs. It is important to have strategies for coping when your life gets stressful. Talk to friends, family, or your doctor about ways to deal with stress.
TODDLERS (12-36 MONTHS OLD)
SNUGGLE UP Regularly hug and cuddle your toddler to help them feel safe and loved. And, remember that boys need just as much love as girls do.
RESPOND TO THEM Watch and respond to your toddler’s words, feelings, and behaviors when they are upset as well as when they are happy.
ENCOURAGE THEM Toddlers get a lot of satisfaction and confidence as they master new tasks. Help your child try new things. Follow their lead when they seem interested in something. Be supportive and encouraging as they take chances. Reassure them as they try to figure things out.
INVOLVE THEM Find simple ways to involve your toddler in chores and other activities around the house. For example, they could help you stir while you are cooking. This makes them feel helpful and provides opportunities for learning.
TALK ABOUT FEELINGS Teach your toddler to name their feelings. This will help them understand and express emotions. Let them know that all feelings are OK, and that you are there for them when they are happy or upset.
OFFER CHOICES Offer choices like what to wear or eat, but give a limited number of options. For example, “It’s time for a snack. Do you want an apple or grapes?”
SET BASIC LIMITS Focus on safety-related rules like not hitting people. Put "No" in front of the thing you don't want your child to do, then distract them with another activity. Use the same rules consistently so your child learns them. Do your best to stay calm.
HAVE A ROUTINE Have consistent times and ways of doing activities like feeding, bathing, reading, and bedtime. Your child will have an easier time with activity transitions when they know what to expect. Another part of a routine is having rules that you use consistently.
MANAGE HOUSEHOLD STRESS Stress is normal, but too much stress is bad for a brain that is still developing. Adults’ stress can trickle down to children, so it is important to have strategies for coping when your life gets stressful. Talk to friends, family, or your doctor about ways to deal with stress.