As with all aspects of your child’s development, there are ways to help your little one blossom in his social and emotional skills. We’ve compiled some of them here.
Quickly respond to your newborn’s needs.
Research tells us that responding in a timely manner to your baby's needs increases his feelings of security and trust. Over time, this will build a bond and instill confidence that will often help him soothe himself without your help.
Understand and embrace your baby's unique personality.
Through observation, you’ll develop an important understanding of your baby's unique character traits and behavioral style that will enable you to best respond to his specific needs. For instance, an irritable baby might need cuddling or distraction to refocus energy, while a shy infant might need time to watch from a distance before becoming directly involved with others.
Let your baby set the pace.
When your baby turns away or gets fussy, take a short break from the activity you were just doing.
Fear of strangers? Fear not.
Around month 5 or so, your baby will recognize certain people, yet may fear those who are not familiar. To ease his apprehension, plan new introductions only when he’s well rested, healthy, and full. A comfort object, such as a stuffed animal or blanket, can help him feel secure.
Separation anxiety? There’s a game for that.
Separation anxiety is a common fear that typically appears at 6 to 8 months, when your baby realizes you can “disappear” at any time. Help make him feel more secure by turning the concept of your absence into a game.
Start by walking away from your baby for a few seconds and increase the time apart a little at a time. Another tactic is to allow him to crawl into another safe area of the home and then wait a minute or so before following. He’ll start to learn that being alone isn’t a terrible thing. When the time comes to leave your baby with someone else, help soften the transition by not leaving the instant the other person arrives.
Grow self-awareness with mirror games.
When your baby is about 12 months old, stand beside him in front of a mirror and point out different body parts such as your arm or his nose. Then encourage your baby to try it. Move in and out of the reflection for a game of peek-a-boo and lead your baby in an activity of making faces in the mirror that represent various emotions you suggest.
Introduce your baby to short group play dates.
Although there won't be much social interaction yet, the practice of having your baby spend time with other babies will help build a strong social foundation for the years to come.