Babies express joyful emotions somewhere in the second or third months by cooing, chortling, and smiling. At about the fourth month, a baby laughs spontaneously, expressing her joyful feelings. At first, babies laugh when being touched gently; they begin to respond to what they see and hear.
Babies not only express their emotions of joy, surprise, and curiosity; they also express emotions of frustration, anxiety, and fear. They are very tuned in to the emotional moods of others around them.
Studies have shown that even as young as three months, babies react to their mothers’ depressed moods. Does that mean you are a bad parent if you get depressed and are not always joyful and smiling? No! But it does mean you have a responsibility to be as emotionally healthy as possible and to not “take out your moods” on your child. We need to give children lots of chances to feel and express their joyfulness.
These studies also showed that when babies were affected by their mother’s negative moods, they showed the babies could cope and learn to soothe themselves. In doing so, those babies cried and fussed, then turned away and comforted themselves. That’s an important task of infancy, to begin to deal with feelings, even difficult ones. Babies also soothe themselves by sucking their hands or fingers, moving themselves into a different position, and by finding something else to look at.
Greatest Source of Comfort
The greatest source of comfort and positive feelings in the world of a baby is people. If you, the most important person in your child’s life, seldom feel joyful, think about how that is affecting your child. Find the roots of your depression or negative feelings and find ways of taking good care of yourself.
There are over 150 verses in Scripture that refer to joy. Galatians identifies joy as one of the fruits of the Spirit. To some degree, we can develop an attitude of joy. For one thing, joy naturally develops in our lives when the Holy Spirit has control. When we are joyful and express our joy, we will also stimulate our children’s positive emotional development.
Children Bring Joy
In reflecting on how her baby brought her joy, one mother recalls, “The main thing was the joy of touch. She was so soft, so melting. I never touched so much as in the first year of infancy.” A dad said, “There is joy in just watching her change. For us, she’s such a very, very good person. She’s so marvelous. She likes the cat, and she likes the stroller; everything is an adventure for her.” In experiencing the joys of parenting a toddler, one dad said, “I have these proud father moments every now and then when I think, ‘That’s my boy.’ Those are wonderful!”
And as our babies and children grow older, we can continue to concentrate on recognizing and celebrating joyful moments. One mother shared that she pauses to concentrate on a recent joyful time with her child when she is having a difficult day with her five-year-old. She said, “It’s a memory of such pure mother-child joy that is always helps me calm down. It grounds me in what’s really important. Then I’m able to look for what’s best about the current day with him.”
Children are touched if we include them in small pleasures that are important to us. Ron Taffel, author and psychologist, suggests, “Make an active effort to incorporate more joy in your parenting; you’ll be sending a very powerful message that will be remembered many years later when they (your own children) become parents themselves. Joy is not just for children—but also for the parents who raise them.”
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Susan E Murray writes from Michigan.© 2002 - 2022, AnswersForMe.org. All rights reserved. Click here for content usage information.