Raising Children with Social-Emotional Well-being: Beware of Tech, Socials and Media

NEWTOWN, Conn. - Hartok -- Of the 140 million babies born each year in the world, some will grow up to save their neighbors and the world, while, unfortunately, others will as adults torment their neighbors and the rest of the world.

Among other things, good social-emotional health gives children the skills to have human connections, play with others, take turns while playing with others, express feelings, and show empathy. A child who can express both their positive feelings, (happiness, joy, smile, hugs, kisses, empathy) as well as their negative feelings (sadness, crying, upset, anger, outrage, refusal to engage, disappointment) in a regulated and consolable manner has excellent social emotional capacity.

Children's social-emotional health is tied to the quality of the relationship they have with their parents and the extent they get along with their parents or their primary caregivers. In other words, caregivers hold the key to children's social and emotional well-being.

Beginning from the day they are born, children record and internalize the nature of their physical, social, and emotional exchanges with their parents and caregivers. They can tell whether parents are singing lullabies or screaming at them to stop crying. They can differentiate a warm motherly hug to keep them well-soothed and calm from a rough embrace to contain them. Daily parenting activities of these kinds form the basis of the nature (healthy versus poor) of the relationship that is developing between the child and the caregiver, the child's happiness, and their social and emotional health.

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Beyond childhood, the quality of our social and emotional health continues to evolve but it is still underpinned by the quality of the relationship we had with our parents. As adults, we continue to draw strength from the relationship we had with our parents long after they transitioned.

Things that shape our mind are limitless, and capturing all the things that affect a child's psyche is not possible, however, over several decades researchers have identified some (see below) key parenting practices that enable children and parents or caregivers to form optimum relationships.
  • Being a Sensitive Caregiver, who promptly identifies infant needs and provides support and relief.
  • Providing a Calm and Soothing environment for infants to rest, learn and thrive.
  • Familiarization with how, and ways infants communicate and respond appropriately when they do.
  • Getting into the mind of the baby, imagining what it feels to be a baby, dependent and vulnerable, and acting as if you know how your baby feels at any time.
  • Making time to engage, play, socialize, and exchange, and model emotions with infants.

These parenting practices also help enrich the infant's growing brain in a way that would support learning words, language acquisition, and cognitive development. Starting these practices early, the day the baby is born is very essential, as infants' brains depend on them for growth and nourishment. Preemptively putting these lists into practice is a way of actively raising the baby instead of waiting until the infant shows signs of behavioral problems, outbursts, anger, biting, hitting others, or speech and language problems.

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Raising children with optimal social and emotional health is difficult when technology replaces parents and caregivers.

When I look into the future, I see a world where technology gadgets and social media apps take over all or most of the practices that parents and caregivers render. For example, apps now sing babies to sleep, and carriers swing babies in times of distress.  Instead of direct engagement, parents rely on technological gadgets, social media, apps and television.

Potentially, the technology-oriented way of raising children might rewire the infant brain in a new manner, into an architecture different from what we know. This upbringing method may not fully support elaborate human-oriented social-emotional development.

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Source: Anselm Anyoha, MD, PhD

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