Why is family important in a child's development?
As a child grows and develops, his or her first human interactions are typically with family members and associated caregivers. These first contacts are vital for the development of a child’s socialization skills as well as teaching children how to have a better understanding of themselves and of people around them.
Because children learn by observing, family members and caregivers are also the main influencers that determine how a child will socialize and learn—contributing to their overall physical, social and intellectual development. Having loving family and caregivers around helps a child build a solid foundation that will affect their future relationships, work, health and sense of self.
Family bonds begin at birth
When a child is born and met with loving family and caregivers, they achieve a crucial development skill through attachment. When a baby is held, cradled and soothed along with being quickly fed or changed, these bonds of affection and nurturing help build healthy parent/caregiver-child relationships. As infants successfully attach to their caregivers and other family members (including siblings, grandparents, etc.) they learn to trust and are more likely to explore and interact with others. These relationships help build a lifetime of trust, intellectual development and learning rules of behavior that are associated with higher self-esteem, better performance in school and less negative outcomes, like depression or drug use, later in life.
As soon as a baby is born, family members and caregivers can play a huge role in a child’s overall development in the following ways:
- Building motor skills: Motor skills involve such learned behavior as how to sit up, walk, run, climb, hold a cup, etc. These skills may seem basic and not something that you teach, but a parent or caregiver is responsible for teaching these skills at a young age. As a child learns motor skills, they help a child feel independent and leads to their overall development.
- Building language skills: Parents and caregivers should always talk to their child—even as infants. Even if a child can’t yet respond, they are most definitely listening and learning when they hear adults speak to them.
- Building emotional skills: It’s very important to help a young child develop emotional skills, and parents and other adult caregivers should be the earliest teachers. By teaching a child about such basic skills as smiling or waving at others, they can learn to be open to the world and other people. Educating a young child on basic emotions and naming them (fear, love, etc. can also help a child learn to describe how they are feeling and be better at expressing themselves. As they begin to get older, teaching emotional skills such as sympathy, compassion and sharing can help a child have an emotionally healthy life—and be more grounded in dealing with the highs and lows of life.
As an infant grows older, they begin to understand the meaning of what’s right or wrong. Parents, family members and other caregivers are the best teachers for these lessons and they can help a child establish their own set of personal values and norms. Again, because children learn from watching others, adults play a crucial role in modeling behavior. When a child sees the adults in their life treat others with respect, kindness and responsibility, they begin to model their behaviors in the same fashion. Parents, family and caregivers should also have open discussions with children and ask them what they think are good values as well as ones that may not serve them well in life. From teaching responsibilities like cleaning their room or showing compassion to someone who is not feeling well, children will take these values and use them as they grow into adults.
Because a child relies on adults to meet their basic needs like clothing, food, shelter, they develop their primary sense of security from their parents, family members and other caregivers. Beyond that, a child also receives their first sense of emotional security from their family members and caregivers. One of the best ways to make a child feel secure is by setting schedules. When a child knows that they will eat, sleep, bathe or wake at a certain time, they become comfortable and secure in knowing their needs will be met.
In a secure home setting, a child will also learn how to be comfortable with who they are and to feel free to express themselves without judgement. When a parent, family members or caregivers provide a safe, open environment, a child will feel secure and develop in a physically and emotionally healthy manner.
By establishing attachment and teaching development skills— in addition to instilling values and a sense of security—a parent or caregiver—along with other family members—can be a child’s most important early teachers and influencers—setting the foundation for a healthy and happy life.
By ABC Quality Team on May 18, 2021