I am not sure if my academic background and work experience have helped me as a parent or have got in the way. I have studied psychology and social work and spent the past 15 years working with young people who become involved in offending behaviour and their families. This is why I had a tape (oh yes, not a CD!) of classical music and played it to my tummy every night during my first pregnancy in the belief it would boost my children's cognitive development! It is also why Eoghan and Aine, as male and female twins were both given toys that would have been perceived as more appropriate for one sex (despite my father's serious disapproval!). And it is why my teenagers moan all the time about not being able to do things their friends are allowed to do!
When I started working with young people involved in offending and their families I began to really question the role the early years has on adult behaviour and family dynamics. Family therapy training made me explore my own family history and the how my parenting has impacted on my children.
I love watching how the babies we see in Sign2Music classes grow and develop into confident, loving and bright children. I love the amazing stories I hear about how signing has helped communication, bonding and development. I spend a lot of time discussing the benefits of signing for supporting communication and development. There is also a lot of information on the internet about these benefits.
The benefits of signing in supporting bonding has not been featured and researched to the same extent. I have a video on our You Tube channel showing how signing supports bonding with siblings Signing Supports Sibling Bonding
However, I cannot emphasise enough how important it is to nurture the bond between children and their caregivers!
A child's first relationship will have a significant impact on subsequent relationships throughout their lives. Current early years research reinforces this, even indicating that the first 18 months of life are the most critical in developing or preventing the propensity to violent /criminal behaviour in later life.
Much of a humans brain development takes place in the first 3 years of life. During this period of accelerated learning the number of synapses (brain connections) multiply 20 fold. Modern research indicates that early experiences can override genetics. A baby's potential is therefore based on the experiences in their early years. Early learned behaviour can be resistant to change and can be the foundation to adult behaviour. Stressful experiences wire a child's brain for stress and trauma. Loving experiences can wire their brain for loving relationships and experiences.
Connectness between a child and caregiver is the basis for the development of empathy. This means the nature of the child's first relationship, most often with the mother impacts on later emotional relationships:
‘The child’s first relationship, the one with the mother, acts as a template…[that] permanently moulds the individual’s capacity to enter into all later emotional relationships’ (Schore, 2000, via Wave Trust)
This is a beautiful video featuring the The Still Face Experiment which demonstrates how important our interactions with our little ones are. Can you imagine the impact on a child if they experience the 'still face' during most of their interactions?
Reading all the research available to us in relation to child development can be mind blowing. Being a parent is hard enough without trying to ensure you are doing everything right. I have no doubt that signing with babies and children, music and other activities can help support your connection with your child. However, it is clear from all the research that the secret to well adjusted children is actually quite simple - LOVE them! Everything else is a bonus. Wow, I don't feel guilty any more!