- Published on Thursday, 13 January 2011 11:12
One of the most fundamental needs, for life-long success, is the ability to give and receive love. Healthy love is given and received when trust has been established. Many books have been written on trust from simple tips to detailed insights on how the human mind develops.
When I was in school (elementary education with a focus on literacy) one of my teachers talked often about Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs. She wanted future teachers to understand the needs of children and how we can help them grow into healthy community members; especially the children whose needs were not being covered at home. She was hoping we'd take the chance to counter some of that negativity if/when possible.
Where does it all begin, then?
Here are a few thoughts to ponder, based on the chart above, in Early Childhood terms:
When pregnant, trust can begin to take shape. Eating healthy foods and refraining from harmful toxins that enter your child's bloodstream like alcohol, drugs and nicotine, are all ways you can begin to establish trust for your child. Although your son/daughter doesn't know it yet, you are already saying: "I love you enough to take good care of you. You can count on me."
While pregnant, and certainly after the baby arrives, bonding is a key element in shaping trust. Some easy ways to bond include singing songs (when pregnant and afterwards: even if you do not have a wonderful voice - your child will not care), breastfeeding (or snuggling closely, if bottle feeding), cuddling, hugging, kissing your baby's nose or forehead, infant massage, going for walks, etc. Spending time with your child(ren) is a key proponant in building trust.
Is your baby or child crying? Hungry? Tired? Cold? Hot? Lonely? Hurt? Sick? Tune in to their needs. Showing attention to your child's needs and responding accordingly is one of the best ways to establish trust and emotional intelligence. When a child's needs are ignored (hunger, diaper changes, lonliness, pain, etc) they learn: "My world cannot be trusted. No one will care for me." Ignoring a child's health or emotional needs is a fast way to destroy their ability to trust their surroundings and the world you brought them into. Addressing their needs, on the other hand, sends a positive message of love and hope.
Reading and Games
Reading (even while in the womb) can build trust. When we read to a child our tone often softens, we make silly/fun voices or we relax. Demonstrating such things says: "I know how to calm down, relax and spend quality time with you." That builds trust. Playing with puzzles, board games or early childhood hands-on products is another way to send those same messages. Taking time away from work or the daily routine and getting on the floor to play are simple, easy ways to instill trust.
This is a big one. Have you ever tried to have a conversation with someone who never looked at you? Did you want to yell: "Look up! Look at me! I'm right here! Pay attention to ME!" That's how children feel when our eyes never meet theirs. Get down at their level, if needed. Look your baby or child in the eyes and show them, "I am listening to everything you say. You matter to me."
Free from violence / Seeking help
Hitting, beating, raping, molesting or hurting a child plays a key role in the brain chemistry of a socially mal-adjusted human. Offering your child a safe and loving home, free from violence, is a sure way to help them trust the world - and you. Many parents who were hurt as children repeat that behavior with their own offspring. Seeking help, where needed, is a must in this case. Find someone who can help you work through your past and overcome it. The memories may not go away but the behavior does not have to be repeated. Coutnless parents have chosen to rise above their own hurtful childhood in order to better the future of their children. Showing your child (or partner/spouse) that you are willing to seek help for harmful behavior patterns is a clear message: "I love you so much that I refuse to hurt you. I'll do what it takes to be sure you are safe and cared for, even if that means humbling myself and accepting help."
Laughing is a great way to give trust. Be silly, goofy, happy and cheerful. Put on music or a DVD that makes everyone laugh. Tell a funny joke or dance around like a jellyfish. Who cares if it's silly, right? Your child will think you're tops; I guarantee it. Kids were born to laugh and they want it - need it - thrive on it. If you offer them that outlet you'll be giving them a mental stress-relieving tool which of course, builds trust.
If your baby was left to crawl through the city, would he/she love it? Or would he/she most likely cry, shake, worry and freeze? The latter is far more likely. Kids need and want boundaries. There's no need to tie a rope around their waist, keeping them from leaving home. However, children need to explore in a safe and non-threatening environment. Taking safety precautions with your children at each age and stage builds trust for you, the caregiver. Keeping your baby from getting stuck inside crib slats is important, just as keeping your toddler from playing with knives is wise. Our children learn to self regulate by having boundary behaviours modeled for them. Giving your children the ability to think critically and self regulate is a life-long gift of trust.
More tips could be offered but these 8 cover some of the most effective trust-building strategies I've witnessed over the years. The children who grow up in homes where love is offered, boundaries are given, eye contact is made, games are played, laughter is free flowing, violence is non-existent and time is spent together...are likely to grow up to be healthy, happy, loving, emotionally intelligent grown-ups.
ABOUT the Author:
Shara Lawrence-Weiss is the owner of Mommy Perks, Personal Child Stories, Early Childhood News and Resources and Kids Perks. She and her husband co-own Pine Media. Shara has a background in education, early childhood, nanny work, published freelance, marketing and special needs.