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the Message Continues i/61   -   Newsletterfor  September 2006

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THE CRITICAL IMPORTANCE OF A CHILD'S FIRST YEARS: A BABY SPEAKS

By Jan Hunt, M.Sc

 

Statistics tell us that something has gone wrong in our world. A steadily rising rate of social ills, and the proliferation of self-help books and therapy techniques for "reprinting the inner child" attest to the sad fact that we have lost our way in raising our children. It is up to us as parents - despite our personal limitations - to give our children the right start in life: to help them become fulfilled, emotionally healthy adults, capable of loving and trusting others. Philosopher Blaise Pascal wrote that "the entire ocean is affected by a pebble." Our children should be like pebbles bringing forth waves of joy, not more sorrow and suffering. 

Current thinking about our failure to fulfill our children's needs points to the importance of the earliest years of childhood, making it clear that the first three years are especially critical. What should we be doing during those years to ensure that our children have the best chance of becoming healthy and happy - as they deserve to be? Consider what a member of that age group might recommend to us - if only they could speak:

I am eleven months old. I can't talk yet, so when I am hungry, tired, wet, lonely, ill, or in pain, I cry. It is the only means I have to let my parents know that something is wrong. 

If my crying is ignored, all that happens is that my needs become greater - I get even more miserable. On top of that, I have to face the fact that apparently no one cares about me. I'm sure Mommy would feel the same way if she were crying and Daddy ignored her. Believing that no one cares about you is a very devastating thought.

When my tears are ignored, I begin to believe that no matter how hard I cry, and no matter what is wrong, no one will ever come. If no one ever comes, I worry that I will die, because I cannot meet my own needs yet.

You see, I have no concept of time, and two minutes is forever to me.

 Sometimes I stop crying - but I am not learning patience - I am learning despair. When I stop crying, it means that I have lost all hope of ever being loved again, and all I feel is helplessness and despondency. I worry that I will never learn to communicate with words if I am not allowed to communicate with cries. And I worry that if I feel this frustration too many times, I will withdraw and stop feeling anything.

It sure can be frightening to think that no one cares enough about me to meet my needs. In fact, when my cries are ignored, I begin to think the world is a really bad place, and I worry that this will give me a negative and selfish outlook on life. But when my needs are met, I feel loved and secure enough to return that love to others, and eventually to my own children. I do so want to become a loving, caring person, but how will I learn to be like that if I don't see examples of it?

 

 

 

 

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