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Becoming a Parent is a Hard Thing in Your Life

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Many a times we often hear becoming a parent changes everything. One has to understand that having a baby is not only about welcoming a new member into a family or having to juggle between work life and social life. Time spent with baby are forms of new responsibilities. One has to master or at least to try to understand the concept of infant and the growth of early childhood mental health, sociological development and most importantly emotional expressions. “Infant mental health” refers to how well a child develops socially and emotionally from birth to three. Understanding infant’s mental health is the key to preventing and treating the mental health problems of very young children and their families. In addition to that, it also helps in guiding the development of healthy social and emotional behaviours.

It is a known fact that every parent looks forward to hearing their baby’s first word. Whether it will be “Mama” or “Papa” is often at the centre of this curiosity, not only to the parents but it is safe to say every single member of the family awaits for the moment. These words will mimic words and sounds that they hear. According to the American Academy of Paediatrics by 9 months, babies gain the ability to string together different sounds and most will say their first word by the time they reach 12 months. The big question that arises here is that, before they could iterate their first word, how would they indicate how they feel.

The first “baby talk” is nonverbal and happens soon after birth. A baby’s grimaces, cries, and squirms to express a range of emotions and physical needs, from fear and hunger to frustration and sensory overload. It is essential to constantly learn to listen and interpret a baby’s different cries and laughter. Very quickly, you’ll learn to distinguish between baby’s various cries, for example her hungry cry, tired cry or bored cry.

For the purpose of this assignment, an infant will be chosen to critically analyse his socio-emotional development in different setting and circumstances and discussion will be made about expression through smiling and expression through crying. In addition a comprehensive elaboration will also be made as to the functions of smiling for infants and functions of crying for infants. Lastly a conclusion will be drawn to summarise the findings of this assignment.

Expression through smiling

Smiles are a prototypical facial expression of joy, happiness, excitement and positive emotion. A smile is formed when the zygomatic major muscle contracts and pulls the lip corners laterally upward . In addition to communicating happiness, smiles elicit positive engagement in others. This dynamic process of expressing and perceiving positive emotion contributes to the emergence of social competence in the developing child. Even at this early stage, new-born smiles include the two most recognizable components of this expression: narrowed eyes, widened mouth, with corners raised. These same features consistently appear in the smiles of older infants although later smiles are more intense and may include other components. Grandparents or familiar persons may receive a hesitant smile at first, followed by coos and body talk once they spent some time with a baby awhile. By contrast, strangers may receive no more than a curious stare or a fleeting smile. This selective behaviour conveys that even at this young age, he’s starting to sort out who’s who in his life. Although the signals are subtle, there’s no doubt that he’s becoming very attached to the people closest to him

For the purpose of this assignment, the infant that I have chosen is Samuel. Samuel is 11 months old. He has brown eyes and has fine, short hair. He has almond-shaped eyes and a very light complexion. He usually will sit on the floor in his living room which is sparsely furnished with two sets of comfortable black couches, a small drop-leaf table and a television. The living room is very spacious and comfortable, and it appears it was furnished with his comfort and safety in mind as Samuel has the tendency to crawl around. He particularly enjoys crawling back and forth from the living room to the kitchen which had also became his daily routine. There is always a subtle smile on his face that indicates his freedom of being able to crawl around the house freely.

Samuel was sitting on the floor with his toys around him. I sat on the floor next to him, and he begins to hand his own collection of series of toys to me. His toys varies from clapping hands, toy phones, dolls and doll beds, baby carriages and strollers, puppets, stuffed toys, plastic animals, and plastic and wood “realistic” vehicles and he also has cardboard and wood blocks (2 to 4 inches).

He is interested in my reaction as he hands me his cardboard, one by one. Samuel will usually lean forward, grabs a yellow coloured cardboard, and gives it to me. He watches my face and sort of drops his mouth open as he waits for my reaction. Each of this coloured block has its own respective alphabet on it. I will then proceed to tell him the letter and colour on the block. He smiles knowingly, nods his head forward, reaches his arm out, and proceeds to pick up another block. After picking up four blocks and handing them to me, he then crawls across the floor to a toy car and pushes it for a moment. He looks up at me to see what am I doing and pushes the toy car toward me. He smiles, and when I smile back and say, “Is that your car?” He smiles again and nods his head forward. I also observed that Samuel gets particularly excited and raise his hands upwards every time he sees his mother. He has wide smile on his face every time he sees his mother and will eventually crawl faster to reach his mother.

Based on my observation, the smile in the first situation, a subtle smile, is a smile of indication that he is free and there is no restriction as to his movement throughout the house. This is a close mouthed and simple smile which can be also categorised as grin. In the second situation in which he responded to my smile, I believe he feels good when I smile at him, and he seems to know instinctively that he can smile, too. These movements are indication of genuine signals of pleasure and friendliness. This smile is also known as “Duchenne” smile with cheek raise/eye crinkle. Thirdly, his wide smile every time he sees his mother is what I believed to be categorised under Bared-teeth play or Duplay play raise/eye crinkle. This shows a positive index of the infant’s growing social-cognitive development.

Expression through crying

Babies are born with the ability to cry, which is how they communicate for a period of time. Babies cry generally to indicate that something is wrong, is a form non-verbal cues. They might cry for various reasons namely because they are hungry, having cold feet, is tired or they might even cry as they want to be held and cuddled, etc. It is of utmost important to identify the type of cry for example, the “I’m hungry” cry may be short and low-pitched, while “I’m upset” may sound choppy. In a matter of few weeks one will be able to recognize which need the baby is expressing and respond accordingly.

Since Samuel is 12 months old, he consume solid foods three times a day. Samuel eats variety of different foods and taking an active role at mealtimes by self-feeding and drinking from a sippy cup. Usually he will drink Enfragrow milk approximately (2- 3 times a day), he usually takes honey flavoured nestum for breakfast around 7am, he will eventually fall asleep for one or two hours, and for lunch he will take blended rice porridge with potatoes, anchovies and carrot. Potatoes improve the baby’s gastrointestinal and protect the liver. They heal and also protect the skin. When added with anchovies and carrots, all the nutrients from the ingredients are really useful for the babies who are growing each day. Sometimes a change in menu, Samuel will also be given pasta. However his preference changes sometimes. One thing that is definite is that it is difficult to predict as to when his hunger.

In situations of such, Samuel will usually start crying when he is hungry, I realise this type of cry is usually rhythmic and can sound intense, Samuel will do a strong cry face with open mouth and cheek raising. Samuel usually enjoy playing with his toys, most of the time he loves to play with sea-horse doll and he will play at least 2- 3 hours accompanied by constant crawling and sometimes he even tries to walk. Eventually he will get tired and starts crying, according to my observation this type of crying tends to be accompanied by rubbing of the eyes, usually the cry will start out slowly and low and build in intensity and tone. It is usually difficult to soothe and put him to sleep. Samuel will do a moderate cry face with mouth open.

Samuel is not very fond towards strangers. He is usually afraid of strangers and Samuel is also extremely afraid loud sounds, sometimes he is very engaged in kids program that he will just sit still and watch those programs, however there was once when I unintentionally increase the volume and he started crying. He also appears to be not so comfortable when there is any loud door banging sounds. He will eventually start crying, and I believe it is because of his fear. His cry tends to have a screechy sound and Samuel’s face looks startled. However this type of cry is slightly softer in the sense that he does a moderate cry face with mouth closed.

Functions of smiling and crying for infants

A through discussion was made earlier to discuss various expression of laughing and crying. However, is it to be noted that there are respective functions as to each and every expression that is mentioned. In earlier stages of an infant, smiling becomes increasingly linked to auditory and visual stimulation during non-sleep states which will slowly set the pace towards the stage for the emergence of social smiling. Duchenne and Duplay smile generally functions to create and maintain positively-toned social interactions with parents, family and also their caregivers.

In short infant smile infants is to referentially communicate enjoyment of objects and experiences to their social partners. Smiles begin to occur during coordinated joint attention in which the infant actively shifts attention between a toy and a social partner. When infants begin to initiate joint attention by gazing between a toy and an individual and begin to integrate a smile into a gaze towards a person. One example is anticipatory smiling, in which an infant smiles at a toy and then turns to gaze at an adult, which may serve to communicate that the infant wants to share a humorous experience (“that’s a funny toy”) or he simply wants to indicate that he will happier if there is someone to play with the toys together with him.

On the other hand, babies also can cry when feeling overwhelmed by all of the sights and sounds of the world or for absolutely no clear reason at all. So if your baby cries and you aren’t able to console him or her immediately, remember that crying is one way babies shut out stimuli when they’re overloaded. Crying is the most dominant method and it functions to communicate to us as to their likes and dislikes, in fact they also use other, more subtle forms. One has to learn to recognise the different types of expression of infant crying as it is rewarding and can strengthen your bond with the baby.

It’s common for babies to have a fussy period about the same time every day, generally between early evening and midnight for Samuel. Though all new-borns cry and show some fussiness, when an infant who is otherwise healthy cries for more than 3 hours per day, more than 3 days per week for at least 3 weeks, it is a condition known as colic . This can be upsetting, but the good news is that it’s short-lived most babies outgrow it at around 3 or 4 months of age.

Conclusion

Nonverbal messages add to or detract from our words. In effect, we become the message, with our nonverbal cues announcing our state of mind, expectations, and sense of self. Our entire beings chatter incessantly, revealing what we really feel and think. The same concept applies to babies and infants as they are not able to properly talk until a certain age. This unspoken give-and-take may seem like no more than a game, but these early exchanges play an important part in his social and emotional development.

It is to be taken into consideration that, by responding quickly and enthusiastically to his smiles and engaging him often in these “conversations,” indicates his importance and shows your trust towards him and most importantly you will be able to assure him that you do understand his emotions through his expressions. By recognizing his cues and not interrupting or looking away when he’s “talking,” you’ll also show him that you are interested in him and value him. This contributes to his developing self-esteem.

Throughout the lifespan, smiles are a well-recognized facial signature of positive emotion. The form and timing of smiles changes rapidly early in life as infants become more active participants in positive social exchanges and in regulating their own emotions. In early childhood, smiling becomes an essential feature of developing peer play and relationships. Whereas crying is the only means of communication in new-borns, so it is important for you to respond to him as soon as possible, which will help him to understand that you are there for them.

At these developmental ages, expressions can be particularly informative about the developmental status of an infant. At all ages, individual differences in expressive behaviour can provide clues to infant’s preferences and style of response . Although a number of interesting and important questions remain about expressive development, it seems clear that facial expressions especially laughing and crying provide important information to caregivers and practitioners alike. Expressions, especially when combined with vocal and postural behaviours, provide important clues to the motivational state of infants who cannot otherwise report what they feel.

Before I conclude this assignment, I would also like to list down a few suggestion as to how to handle infants inferring from their body language and expression of emotions. This method was also tested on Samuel and was proven to be effective, firstly create and follow regular routines and constantly offer choices he is comfortable with. For example, ask him “Do you want this cup or that cup? and watch his expression closely. It is vital to make lots of eye contact and smile at him/her. Constantly point to what you’re labelling. As sounds become words, babies’ starts figuring out what they mean. Familiarizing with the typical stages of emotional development is crucial to ensure a healthy and positive socio-development of an infant, different types of cries and laughter leads to different type of indication of message from the infant and being able to understand it makes parenting a lot easier.

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Becoming a parent is a hard thing in your life. (2019, March 27). GradesFixer. Retrieved June 29, 2022, from https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/becoming-a-parent-is-a-hard-thing-in-your-life/
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Becoming a parent is a hard thing in your life. [online]. Available at: <https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/becoming-a-parent-is-a-hard-thing-in-your-life/> [Accessed 29 Jun. 2022].
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