How do I ‘tune in’ to my child?

The Parents Plus Early Years parenting programme puts a lot of emphasis on ‘tuning in’ to your child. And indeed it’s not just in the early years that this is necessary. Right through our children’s lives it is important that we tune in to them, understand how they see the world and so get a better understanding of the way our children are behaving.

This is what John Sharry, Grainne Hampson and Mary Fanning, the writers of the Early Years programme have to say.

‘Tuning in’ to your children

Responsive parents are ‘tuned in’ and connected to their children. They are able to step into their children’s shoes and see the world as they see it. This is the best way for parents to enjoy their children and feel close to them. It also helps children learn, build confidence and is the best way to start solving problems.

‘Tune in’ to your child’s stage of development

Children develop at different rates depending on their age, their strengths and any special needs they may have. To be a responsive parent, take time to understand your child’s stage of development. For example:

  • What level of language does your child understand? (gestures, one or two word phrases, full sentences)
  • How is your child developing socially?
  • What tasks can your child do well?
  • What tasks are difficult for your child?

How to ‘tune in’ to your child

Set aside a regular playtime 

For children aged up to six years, 10 – 15 minute play with them every day can make a real difference. Build a daily routine around playtime, for example, just after dinner or before bedtime.

Watch your child at play

Notice how your child likes to play. What interests them? How do they play and how do they feel?

Get down to their level

Get down on the floor with your child to join them in play. Find a comfortable position where you face each other. This helps you make good eye contact and lets you see how your child responds.

Follow your child’s ideas and interests

Let your child choose the game and how to play it. Notice what interests your child and respond to this.

‘Tune in’ during everyday activities

Notice and listen to your child at other times during the day, for example, while eating breakfast, getting dressed, travelling on the bus together, and walking to preschool.

Your child is an individual

Every child is an individual and different from every other. Each unique child has their own particular things they find easy and difficult. They have their own likes and dislikes and their own personality. Watching your child at play is a good way to notice their individuality.

Some questions to help you ‘tune in’ to your child. Maybe make some time to tune in to your child every day for a week and then think about these:
  1. What does your child like to play with? What are their favourite toys and games?
  2. When do you play with your child? What games and toys do you both enjoy together?
  3. What level of language does your child understand (pre-verbal gestures, one-word or two-word sentences, full sentences)?
  4. How does your child communicate with you?
  5. What tasks can your child do well?
  6. What tasks are more difficult for them?
  7. How does your child like to be comforted when they are upset?
  8. What does your child do when they are really happy?

 

You can find out more about the Parents Plus parenting programmes plus tips and resources here https://www.parentsplus.ie/parents/

 

 

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Infant Mental Health Awareness Week runs from June 13th-19th.           

This week provides an opportunity to focus attention on the wellbeing, social and emotional development of our babies and young children. It highlights the importance of early relationships and a relationship based approach to interventions with infants and families. As our understanding of IMH and its evidence base develops, so also does our knowledge of how to apply this knowledge and an ‘IMH lens’ to interactions with infants, parents and caregivers in health and social services. 

What is infant mental health?

Infant Mental health (IMH) refers to the healthy social and emotional development of Infants starting at conception up to three years of age.

The first 1000 days of life are recognised as a critical period of opportunity to support infant mental health. Decades of research have shown that it is the quality of the early caregiver relationship that is a significant determinant of the infant’s healthy social and emotional development and in turn physical health, right up to adulthood.

 

The National Healthy Childhood Programme has embedded IMH as the foundation of the development of its resources and in the approach of the delivery of the universal child health service. This embedding of key messages can be seen in the My Child suite of books (www.mychild.ie/books) and also on www.MyChild.ie  where key messages around bonding and relationship building have been embedded for the parent/caregiver.

 

In clinical practice the topic of IMH has been included for the first time in the National Standardised Child Health Record. To build on this, the National Healthy Childhood Programme have just completed a suite of three eLearning units which are now available on HSEland for healthcare practitioners / caregivers who are working with children and families.  

 

Throughout the week you will see videos and key IMH messaging being promoted on the HSE MyChild social media pages ( Facebook / Instagram ). Keep an eye out in the National Newspapers for articles from our experts also. (IrishTimes article)  

 

In addition The National Healthy Childhood Programme have developed a series of ten practical videos with HSE expert advice which are now available on YouTube and on the relevant pages on the www.mychild.ie website.

These videos (2-3 minutes each) are aimed at parents/guardians of children (0 – 3 years).

These new video resources are available here while lots more expert advice for every step of pregnancy, baby and toddler health can also be found at www.mychild.ie

There are a suite of posters available focusing on the promotion of IMH messaging to order from healthy.childhood@hse.ie

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