By the time you’re 2 years old, your environment has already influenced your developing brain. The message that both early stress and loving tactile interaction affects a child’s brain is nothing new (DiscoverMagazine.com5/2018). When you feed your precious newborn hold them and look into their eyes – don’t lay them on the couch and prop up the bottle with a baby blanket, it’s important!
Developmental research shows that having one or more caring adults in a child’s life increases the likelihood that they will flourish, and become productive adults themselves. (Scales, P.C., Developmental assets: Amer. J.of Comm. Psy., 20(4),445-461.
Obviously, “That One Person” in a child’s life makes a difference. Having a positive adult influencing a child increases the likelihood that the child will:
- stay calm and controlled when faced with a challenge
- show interest and curiosity in learning new things
- care about doing well in school
- complete assigned homework
- play sports or participate in some type of organized club
- participate in volunteer work or community service (Research Brief 12/2013 Child Trends – #2013-54)
This means that when a child has “That One Person” in their life who believes that they are special, that child has a greater likelihood of positive outcomes and a reduced likelihood of negative outcomes in both their family and social environment. To translate this into everyday terms: the child will volunteer, exercise, stay calm, show interest in learning, be less sad and be less likely to be bullied.
You as a parent, of course, are UNIQUELY “That One Person.” When your newborn is awake during those first few months, spend the time walking or singing to them; research reveals that these interactions wire baby’s brain for language and communication. You don’t even need to stop your daily activities. Put your baby in a sling and kindly narrate your activities. This advice is given to us by Dr. Lee Beers, MD, FAAP, a pediatrician with Children’s National Health Center in Washington, DC.
3.8 million babies were born in the U.S. in 2017 and a new baby is born in the U.S. every 8 seconds. (WebMD.com Jan/Feb2019). If you are attentive to your child’s cues they will naturally fall into step with the positive motivations.
However, even if you aren’t a new parent there are many opportunities to be “That One Person.” One is to become digitally literate. Keep up with the latest technology and guide your children’s use of it – this will reduce the risk of their victimization. Kids who face online cruelty report loneliness, depression, low self-esteem, and anxiety. Nearly 9 in 10 teenagers have seen some sort of cruelty between their peers on social media (WebMD.com Jan/Feb 2019).
Mentors are “That One Person.” If you are a grandparent, a clergy member, a school teacher, a librarian, a social worker, a medical provider, a first responder, a scout leader, a cook at school, a bus driver, a mailperson, a cashier, a bank teller, a school peer-advisor, a caring adult then you are “That One Person” who can make a difference in a child’s life. You are a mentor-like adult. When the big scientific “they” examine the association between having a caring adult and the number of child ‘well-being outcomes’ the “numbers” prove that a greater likelihood of positive outcomes equals a reduced likelihood of negative outcomes. In other words, having a caring adult in your life equals a better life for the child.