Helen, in this age of technology where families are often separated and rely on electronic communication to stay connected, how did you develop such a loving relationship with your grandson, Rohan, who lives in Korea?
We speak as often as we can, usually daily, and this gives me a chance to interact with my grandson, Rohan, who is now 28 months. I was speaking with my son, Benaya who said, “Mom something amazing happened today. We walked through a part of town we hadn’t visited for quite a while and past a hairdressers’ shop that I had had my hair cut in once while Rohan, who was 9 months old at the time waited with his mother.
As we walked by, Rohan said, ‘Here is where daddy had his hair cut—and I cried.’ I asked Rohan, ‘Do you remember why you cried?’ Rohan responded, ‘Because I was scared.’
How interesting! Only 2 years old and able to speak about his feelings from a memory at age 9 months?
Yes, very interesting. So what do we understand this? Here is a very young child able to recall an emotional memory from infancy. Not only did he remember the emotional memory but he was able to express what he did, how he felt, and why he felt that way which I would say is a talent, or a skill, that his parents have developed working with him. Rohan is trilingual and he has been attending our Baby’s Best Start and Toddler’s Best Start early English classes and he has learnt to express himself in 4 languages, English, Hebrew, Korean and baby sign language. Not only did his parents give him the opportunity to develop his language skills, but they created an environment in which he could safely and confidently connect with his feelings and learn to understand them.
I don’t think that most children are able to express these kinds of emotional memories at this early age, but I do believe that all children have these memories, even if they aren’t able to speak about them yet. It begins by simply talking with your baby, communicating with him from the very start. I have met very intelligent parents of young children who say, ‘What do you mean talk to him? He can’t speak yet.’ And my response is, how is he ever going to learn to speak, develop his vocabulary and have a depth of understanding and depth of feeling if you don’t regularly and often talk to him, read to him, communicate emotions to him and do with him activities and speak language that will help him learn?
So a parent can help their child learn to understand and express feelings from the very start?
Children pick up everything from the moment they are born. Every feeling you convey, they absorb. Research has shown that children only one day old are already able to mirror and reflect facial expressions. In fact, they pick up on emotions while they are still in utero.
Congratulations! I hear you have a new granddaughter born 3 weeks ago!
Yes, my daughter Ella had a baby girl, Ria, who is so responsive and responds to and even mimics my facial expressions. There is no question that she is learning to communicate. Babies can only learn what they have experienced. These external experiences stimulate the body and are essential for the baby to be able to express their basic needs.
I have memories of holding a newborn on my lap and the baby mirrored my expressions. There was a surge of energy which conveyed, “Yes I see what you are saying and I am responding!” Newborn babies want to and need to communicate. They not only communicate their need for food and physical comforts but they can show that they want to connect, observe and learn from day one. In Rohan’s case, the constant input, the four languages, the fact that he has so much emotional love and support allowed him to not only connect to his emotions but to identify them and use his words to express himself. Rohan is being trained through all his language development and through his relationships with his parents to have the words to express himself!
There are adults that aren’t even able to find words to connect to their emotions. I know I didn’t grow up with this and I believe that there are many others who, when they don’t have the words to express themselves, release these feelings through so through actions or violence. When you can express an emotion, you can release those pent-up feelings in a healthy and proper way. This is so important for our children.
There is an emotional complexity that parents have a duty to safeguard and to understand. Children have these feelings from day one. Look at your child, whatever the age, and recognize they are a bundle of emotions and they don’t miss a beat. You can’t pull the wool over their eyes. They know your emotions.