Make time for love and affection (suitable from birth)
It is important to give your child love and affection.
Love and affection are essential to a child’s healthy brain development. A child’s feelings about themselves, how confident they are and how well they cope with stress, are all affected by the way their parents respond to them.
If you have a warm, loving and affectionate relationship with your child it will help them feel safe and secure. This sense of security is known as bonding or attachment. When children feel secure they are more likely to be happy and confident, and be able to handle conflicts and anger. If your child feels secure they are more likely to be curious and start exploring, which will help them develop well.
Make time for cuddles and cwtches
Giving your baby or child lots of love and attention will help you become close. Making time to give them lots of cuddles every day will:
make them feel calm and safe
help them relax
make them feel more secure and confident
help them manage upsets and problems as they grow up
strengthen their relationship with you.
Lots of physical contact like cuddles, being carried, stroking, holding hands and tickles all help your baby or child release natural chemicals in their body. This makes them feel good – and the chemicals also help their brain grow. This won’t spoil them.
Make time to play
Playing together is an important way of showing your baby or child that you care for them and love them. You are giving them attention and making them feel special. Playing together doesn’t have to cost much. Your time and attention is more important than expensive toys.
Make the most of everyday activities
Daily activities like bath time, nappy changing, mealtimes and dressing are opportunities to connect with your child in a meaningful way. You could give your child cuddles, cwtches and tickles during nappy changes or bath time. On your way to the shops or school you could take a few minutes to point out something that might interest them. These interactions with your child don’t have to take up much time but they can make a real difference.
It can be really helpful to set aside some time to have some special time with your child. Ask your child what they would like to do and then join in with them. This could be playing a game, a visit to the park or reading together. By spending special time together your child will learn that you value their company. They will learn that their interests are important and this will help them to be more confident.
Let your child know that you still love them, even when you don’t like what they do.
Make sure your child knows it’s the behaviour – not them – you don’t like. Rather than saying “You are a naughty boy for hitting me”. It is better to say “I don’t like it when you hit me. It hurts and makes me sad”.
It’s OK to ask for help
You’re the most important part of your child’s life. If you’re having difficulty coping or you are worried about your relationship with your child, ask for help. Getting help can make a big difference to both of you.
The Family Information Service will have details of activities and groups in your area. You can call them on 0300 123 7777.
Family Lives (External link) offers a confidential and free (from landlines and most mobiles) helpline (previously known as Parentline). You can call on 0808 800 2222 for information, advice, guidance and support on any aspect of parenting and family life. The (English language) helpline is open 9am – 9pm, Monday to Friday and 10am – 3pm Saturday and Sunday.
From birth to age six is a very important time for the development of your child’s brain. Your loving interactions with your child are critical for your child’s happiness, healthy development and learning.