Thursday, July 29, 2010

Communication is Key

Being a first time parent you have many questions, worries, concerns, and a sense of excitement about this new adventure you’ve just embarked on. You get home from the hospital and think “What now? What do I do with this little infant?” During those early months, I would find myself staring at my newborn while holding her. I would often wonder what she was thinking about. Eventually your baby starts to make cooing sounds and babbling. You get so excited; you might even find yourself babbling back or setting up the video camera to catch every sound and movement for hours (or maybe that was just me).

It’s fun and cute for a while but slowly that begins to change. You can tell that your child’s babbling words mean something to her but you don’t know what. Soon you find your child is getting frustrated at being unable to communicate their wants, needs, and feelings and they often resort to tantrums or tears. You begin asking “what’s wrong?” You go through your mini checklist of possible problems. Peek in the diaper; nope doesn’t need changed. “Are you hungry? Tired? Sick?” You eventually pick one and try that one…Perhaps she’s tired, let’s put her down for a nap…Sometimes you’ve guessed right and other times you don’t. You find yourself getting frustrated and wishing you could know what they want and looking forward to the day when they can finally tell you.

Unfortunately, that day takes quite some time. Most babies can comprehend words at a very early age but are unable to produce them until about 12 months. Even then, it’s very limited to just a few simple words and sometimes they aren’t very clear. The good news is that parents and babies CAN communicate together by using simple signs. Just as crawling bridges the gap between immobility and walking, baby sign language often bridges the gap between word comprehension and word production. For example, my son would say “bah, bah” and it stood for many things. Sometimes it meant ball, bottle, banana, book, etc. Because he knew baby sign language, I was able to understand what it was he was talking about. The tears and frustration was avoided and I didn’t have to bring out my “mini checklist” of possible causes for the outburst.

The Baby Signs® Program has been a huge help for me in raising my babies and toddlers. There’s a lot of excellent research on the benefits of using baby sign language but my favorite benefit is that it strengthens the parent/infant bond. Communication is key in any relationship and if you are able to foster it at such a young age your bond is that much stronger. I love being invited into my baby’s world as they “tell” me what they see, hear, or feel through simple gestures or signs. I am able to share in their delight as they discover new things. I can see the confidence in their eyes when they realize that “mommy understands” me.