Supporting Healthy Relationships with Your Little Ones!

Expert Advice from Gwendolyn E. Creary, ParentGuide LLC

“Infants make meaning from their interactions with their adults. They begin to understand who they are by how we respond to them from birth.”

During the first few years of her counselling career Gwendolyn worked abroad, providing services for adult patients who had chronic mental illnesses and developmental challenges.  She was then recruited to work with clients at the opposite end of the mental health continuum in a fascinating new field, Infant Mental Health. When she returned to Bermuda infant mental health was an unfamiliar discipline and hence not a focus for early intervention.  She continued her career providing 25 years of parent guidance and support within the government’s early intervention programme as the behavior management specialist. Gwendolyn taught discipline strategies to families with children from birth to 5 years and consulted with both parents and childcare providers.  Since the developmental screening usually occurred at 24 – 36 months, most behavioral concerns were identified then, but a good portion could have been prevented with earlier screening and intervention. Early intervention can go a long way in preventing or supporting optimal development and mental health. 

Research has validated that what happens in the first 1000 days of a baby’s life can determine their wellbeing into adulthood and over the lifespan. During the first 1000 days, from conception to age 2 years, brain development is rapid and foundational to the child’s understanding and making sense of the world around them.  The quality of the relationships developed with parents, other caregivers, extended family, and community members helps to inform the little one’s sense of their place in their world.

Development is influenced by the young child’s family and community culture. Infants and young children learn to value themselves to the extent that they feel valued by those that care for them.

Adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) impact one’s risk for chronic illnesses such as diabetes, heart disease, Alzheimer’s, and some mental health challenges. The more ACEs one experienced increases the risk for negative health and wellbeing impacts. Research has categorized these adverse experiences into three main categories neglect, abuse, and family dysfunction. Protective childhood experiences help to mitigate these negative impacts.

Oppositional behaviours by toddlers, such as saying “no”, are often labelled as “rude”.  But they are exercising their newly discovered autonomy and independence.  Children are not trying to annoy their adults but are simply thinking for themselves.  The assertion of autonomy occurs at regular developmental intervals during the lifespan such as the onset of adolescence, early adulthood, or mid-life.

Contrary to some cultural beliefs, young children not only have short attention spans, but they also have short memories. Repetition facilitates the learning of rules and acceptable or appropriate behaviours.

Children learn self-regulation by experiencing co-regulation from their caregiving adults over time.

The ability to self-regulate is first learned in infancy from coregulation with the infant’s adults.  When an infant is responded to quickly and empathetically when crying and in distress, they learn to trust the adults that care for them and over time can develop the ability to regulate themselves in times of novelty or distress.  They have learned that those that care for them understand their experiences and can be trusted to support them when needed.

All parents can benefit from support and someone walking alongside of them when unsure or overwhelmed.  ParentGuide exists to be that support.

ParentGuide supports parents, childcare providers, and other caregiving adults to develop healthy relationships with their little ones.  Sometimes by being an understanding ear if the adult’s early influences are impacting their transition to parenthood. Or by offering developmental information and guidance regarding parenting strategies.  By providing professional development training to childcare providers ParentGuide supports best practice strategies and curriculum for social-emotional, cognitive and literacy and language development.  Through offering counselling, using play as a vehicle, parents and young children have an opportunity to talk about and process difficult experiences and memories.

Compare listings