Consciously parenting children begins with understanding that they are born totally aware. Rather than being lumps of unmolded clay as once believed, they are acutely sensitive to the world around them. Their highly tuned sensory systems respond energetically to everything they encounter, including experiences involving unconditional love and conflict. [Read more…]
Developmental Trauma can be prevented by providing infants and young children with comforting and nurturing support when they become emotionally upset. Comforting should include softly-spoken and reassuring words, eye-to-eye contact and holding and/or rocking. Appropriate comforting also involves meeting children’s needs as quickly as possible, which helps children quickly regulate their emotions and restores the resonance between the adult caregiver and the child. This rapid response to children’s needs also helps them learn cause-and-effect thinking–that their verbal and non-verbal communication can provoke adult caregivers into action.
Rapid relational interventions by adult caregivers determine whether an emotionally upsetting event will be filed in children’s nervous systems as traumatic or as a psychological owie that is quickly forgotten. Comforting and nurturing also help to deactivate the Adrenal Stress Response and all of the autonomic nervous system responses that accompany it. The more rapidly that adults can help children quiet their nervous systems, the greater the possibility of preventing developmental trauma.
Developmental trauma, like other kinds of traumatic experiences, not only leaves a residue in the central nervous system but also creates distorted beliefs, emotional sensitivity and distortions in relationship patterns. Common relationship distortions anchored in early developmental trauma are anti-social, co-dependent and counter-dependent behaviors. We’ve written extensively about this in two of our other books: Breaking Free of the Co-dependency Trap and The Flight From Intimacy.
We’ve also written about unhealed developmental trauma as a major cause of intractable relationship conflict in Conflict Resolution: The Partnership Way.
Most of the trauma reduction tools such as EMDR and EFT are highly effective in clearing trauma from the body/mind, but do not address the distorted relational issues and the delayed development caused by developmental trauma.
A group of professional people posed this question to a group of 4 to 8 year-olds, “What does love mean” The answers they got were broader and deeper than anyone could have imagined. See what you think:
“When my grandmother got arthritis, she couldn’t bend over and paint her toenails anymore. So my grandfather does it for her all the time, even when his hands got arthritis too. That’s love.” Rebecca- age 8
“When someone loves you, the way they say your name is different. You just know that your name is safe in their mouth.” Billy – age 4 (I love this one)
“Love is when a girl puts on perfume and a boy puts on shaving cologne and they go out and smell each other.” Karl – age 5
“Love is when you go out to eat and give somebody most of your French fries without making them give you any of theirs.” Chrissy – age 6
“Love is what makes you smile when you’re tired.” Terri – age 4
“Love is when my mommy makes coffee for my daddy and she takes a sip before giving it to him, to make sure the taste is OK.” Danny – age 7
“Love is when you kiss all the time. Then when you get tired of kissing, you still want to be together and you talk more. My Mommy and Daddy are like that. They look gross when they kiss” Emily – age 8
“Love is what’s in the room with you at Christmas if you stop opening presents and listen.” Bobby – age 7 (Wow!)
“If you want to learn to love better, you should start with a friend who you hate,” Nikka – age 6 (we need a few million more Nikka’s on this planet)
“Love is when you tell a guy you like his shirt, then he wears it everyday.” Noelle – age 7
“Love is like a little old woman and a little old man who are still friends even after they know each other so well.” Tommy – age 6
“During my piano recital, I was on a stage and I was scared. I looked at all the people watching me and saw my daddy waving and smiling. He was the only one doing that. I wasn’t scared anymore.” Cindy – age 8
“My mommy loves me more than anybody. You don’t see anyone else kissing me to sleep at night.” Clare – age 6
“Love is when Mommy gives Daddy the best piece of chicken.” Elaine-age 5
“Love is when Mommy sees Daddy smelly and sweaty and still says he is handsomer than Robert Redford.” Chris – age 7
“Love is when your puppy licks your face even after you left him alone all day.” Mary Ann – age 4
“I know my older sister loves me because she gives me all her old clothes and has to go out and buy new ones.” Lauren – age 4
“When you love somebody, your eyelashes go up and down and little stars come out of you.” (what an image) Karen – age 7
“Love is when Mommy sees Daddy on the toilet and she doesn’t think it’s gross.” Mark – age 6
“You really shouldn’t say ‘I love you’ unless you mean it. But if you mean it, you should say it a lot. People forget.” Jessica – age 8
And the final one — Author and lecturer Leo Buscaglia once talked about a contest he was asked to judge. The purpose of the contest was to find the most caring child. The winner was a four-year old child whose next-door neighbor was an elderly gentleman who had recently lost his wife. Upon seeing the man cry, the little boy went into the old gentleman’s yard, climbed onto his lap, and just sat there. When his Mother asked what he had said to the neighbor, the little boy said, “Nothing, I just helped him cry.”
We are going to collect and publish Kindness Stories sent to us by you the viewer of this web site. If you have a story to submit, email us at barryK@weinholds.org. We look forward to hearing your story.
Janae B. Weinhold, Ph.D.
When children show signs of emotional upset, they really need the help of caring adults to calm and quiet themselves. Common symptoms of emotional upset in young children include hitting, crying, throwing, withdrawing, bullying and oppositional behaviors. The most important thing to remember in these situations is that emotionally upset children have some problem that they are not able to resolve within themselves. They need adults to both help them identify the problem and to help them fix it. In this context, the idea of discipline is not a useful or helpful place from which to begin. A more effective approach begins with an attitude of what does this child need and how can I help meet this need.
The first step in helping a young child return to calm, harmonious behavior is supporting them both emotionally and energetically. Adults who are bonded to a child are the most effective in doing this, as children will attune only to adult caregivers who they trust will meet their needs. The most effective tool for reestablishing this connection is known as time-in. This involves placing children physically on or near to an adult for a period of time and providing calming words and sounds, empathetic facial signals, touch and firm but loving limits.
To download a four-page PDF file describing age-appropriate Time-In techniques to use with children, click here.
Janae B. Weinhold
It is clear that the social and emotional needs of young children have become increasingly buried under the economic challenges, work commitments and lifestyle demands of adults. Parents, grandparents, teachers and corporate policymakers really do not understand the impact of unmet emotional needs during the first three years of life and how they relate to aggressive, violent and anti-social behaviors in preschool and school age children. While the knowledge base about children’s emotional needs for adult contact has grown tremendously in the last ten to fifteen years, very little of this information has penetrated the academic training of educators, physicians and mental health professionals. Parents and those who advise them are basically uninformed about how breaks in the bonding between children and their primary caregivers causes trauma.
The effects of this early trauma only becomes visible as children get older and begin reenacting it through violence, hyperactivity, defiance and other kinds of disturbing behavior problems.
The first three years of life are critical in a number of ways. The two most critical developmental tasks of bonding and emotional separation take place in this period, forming the matrix for all subsequent human relationships. Disturbances in either of these two tasks appear later in life first as misbehavior, then as difficulties with intimacy and/or autonomy in adolescent and adult relationships that are characteristic of co-dependency and counter-dependency.
During the first three years, the brain also goes through its most rapid developmental phenomenon that will never be repeated. By age three, children’s brains are hardwired according to the experiences they have had. If these experiences are mostly loving, safe and supportive, the brain is wired to expect positive things. If these experiences are abusive, hurtful, dangerous and unsupportive, the brain gets wired to expect negative things.
During the first three years of life, children do best with a minimum number of caregivers with whom they are emotionally connected. During this critical period, children form the foundation for building all subsequent relationships. Building a child is like building a house. If the foundation is weak, not square or sitting on poor soil, it is likely that the house will have structural damage and become dangerous to inhabit. Building a child is as much a science as building a house. The field of developmental psychology has expanded exponentially during the last ten years, bringing a wealth of scientifically supported information about the needs of children during the first three years. It is time this information reach into all parts of our society.
Only when our social, economic, political, educational and health care systems grasp the significance of the emotional needs of infants and young children and the potential risks involved in not meeting them, will things begin to change. This kind of systemic change requires a paradigm shift bigger perspective that requires changing the rules about how our society works and a reordering of values that places the emotional needs of children at the forefront. With meeting children’s needs as a baseline for decision-making, there is the potential for stopping the flood of traumatized children who reenact their pain in violent, anti-social ways. There is also the promise of hope of a peaceful future that allows humans to cooperate with each other and to fulfill their potential.
Janae B. Weinhold
People who work with children, particularly those of preschool age, are the first point of interventions that should involve both education and early identification of children with problems. This group includes parents, grandparents, child care providers, preschool and kindergarten teachers, public and private school officials, obstetricians and pediatricians. These early caregivers need up-to-date information concerning the psychological stages of children’s development and the social, emotional, mental, physical and spiritual needs for each stage. Children’s environments and activities need be structured around these needs and the optimal care of children must become a national priority.
Children’s caregivers must have practical training in identifying children’s earliest symptoms of bonding breaks and other kinds of emotional trauma that are typically displayed through misbehavior. Distressed children exhibiting problems must be identified and provided with appropriate interventions to minimize the effects of bonding-related trauma in their lives.
Prevention must become a national value. The growing costs of building facilities to incarcerate children and youth for long periods of time are rapidly making this a major budget item for states. The costs of prevention are minimal when compared to incarceration.
Janae B. Weinhold, Ph.D.
Securely bonded children act self-confident, have strong self-esteem and function at high levels socially, emotionally, mentally and physically. They are able to engage in reciprocal relationships, able to both give and receive love.
They are compassionate, express concern about the feelings and needs of others, have well-developed creativity and cooperate with both other children and adults. Securely bonded children are often seen as ‘successful without people recognizing that their success is the result of a strong foundation of bondedness with adult caregivers.
Secure Bonding Forms the Foundation for the Separation Stage of Development
Bonding with parents and others, which usually starts at birth, allows children to develop a sense of basic trust and safety. Securely bonded children have experienced a deep attunement with their parents that includes lots of physical contact, holding and nurturing touch and many pleasant reassuring messages to the child.
Securely bonded children know their parents want them, and that they are loved for who they are. Secure bonding provides children with a solid social and emotional foundation so that they can begin to separate physically and emotionally between 9 and 36 months.
During this period, they learn to walk, feed themselves and become toilet trained. These acts of independence help them feel strong and secure enough togradually move away from the dependency on their mothers. By age three, are ready to spend more time with father. His role is to help the child safely explore his or her world, and move towards becoming emotionally autonomous human beings.
The stronger the bond between children and their parents, the easier it is for the children to separate. Insecurely bonded children struggle with emotional separateness. They often get caught in an internal conflict between wanting and needing more “baby time” and feeling pulled to explore the world.
Ideally, children should complete emotional separateness from their parents by about age three. Unfortunately, few children achieve this ideal, and they struggle with being independent, accountable and self-directed. This is the foundation for codependent behaviors in adulthood.
Healing Developmental Tauma. Janae Weinhold & Barry Weinhold, 2010
The Flight From Intimacy. Janae Weinhold & Barry Weinhold, 2008
Birth Without Violence. Frederick Leboyer, 1975
Everyday Blessings: The Inner Work of Mindful Parenting. Myla and Jon Kabat-Zinn
Ghosts from the Nursery: Tracing the Roots of Violence. Robin Karr-Morse, Meredith Wiley, T. Berry Brazelton, 1998
Becoming Attached: First Relationships and How They Shape Our Capacity to Love. Robert Karen, 1994
Attachment Parenting: Instinctive Care for Your Baby and Young Child. Katie Allison Graner & Betsy Kennedy, 1999
Real Boys: Rescuing Our Sons from the Myths of Boyhood. William Pollock, 1998
Soul Trek: Meeting our Children on the Way to Birth. Elizabeth Hallett
The Indigo Children: The New Kids Have Arrived. Lee Carroll & Jan Tober, 1999
An Indigo Celebration. Lee Carroll & Jan Tober, 2001
The Care & Feeding of Indigo Children. Doreen Virtue, 2001
The Crystal Children. Doreen Virtue, 2003
The Family Nutrition Book: Everything You Need to Know About Feeding Your Children from Birth Through Adolescence. William Sears & Martha Sears, 1999
The New Children and Near-Death Experiences. P.M.H. Atwater, Bear & Company, 1999
Through the Eyes of a Child. Robert Tinker & Sandra Wilson, 1999
Handbook for Treatment of Attachment-Trauma in Children. Beverly James, 1994
The Tibetan Art of Parenting. Anne Hubbell Maiden & Edie Farwell, 1997
Janae B. Weinhold Time-in techniques support children’s social and emotional needs when they become upset or are misbehaving. Children really need support from caring adults in order to become calm and quiet. Children who are hitting, crying, withdrawing, bullying, and being oppositional or defiant are really crying out for help from adults. [Read more…]
Janae B. Weinhold
Teachings from the ageless wisdom traditions prophesied more than a hundred years that a new race of humans would soon embody on the planet. Their arrival is being heralded by the authors of several books (see below) who have discovered the presence of these incredible children around the world. [Read more…]