A Gift For Parents From LA's Baby Experts: 'You're Enough'
The future of parenting is good old-fashioned paying attention. This is one key takeaway from a recent KPCC/LAist event where we took your questions about child development and tried to get them answered by L.A.'s baby experts.
Our panel included someone who understands how babies' brains form, someone who knows about building connections, someone whose focus is keeping kids healthy, and another who knows about choosing quality child care and preschool:
- Roma Khetarpal - mindful parenting expert, author of The 'Perfect' Parent
- Bradley Peterson - psychiatrist and director of the Institute for the Developing Mind
- Schellee Rocher - senior director of provider services, Child360
- Adam Schickedanz - professor and pediatrician, UCLA
These experts shared research, practical advice, tangible ideas, and encouragement for parents -- because it's not just children who need soothing and validation. They also reinforced the importance of mindfulness and trusting your instincts as a parent (and as obvious as this may seem, it can not be overstated).
We've pulled out some choice quotes from the event that you can tack up on your fridge if you need a parental pick-me-up during the day.
REPEAT AFTER ME
"If you know that you're enough and you're good enough as a human being, then you'll plant that seed if your child's mind." - Roma Khetarpal
"Keep up the good work. Parenting is tough. It's super important, probably the most important job, so keep at it. We're all working on parenting together nobody has a cornered the market on how to do it. So keep at it, keep it up." - Dr. Adam Schickedanz
"We don't have to be overly anxious and overly prescriptive. We have to be loving and nurturing and caring and that is a good enough environment." - Dr. Bradley Peterson
"Remember that children, they love their parents. They just want to be with you, they want you to engage with them, they want you to read to them. Just really focus on those things, and not to get caught up in social media and what all these other people are saying. That is your child, learn your child." - Schellee Rocher
Now that you've gotten some encouragement, here are some additional takeaways from the event.
The majority of the architecture of the brain is developed in the first few years. Every time you talk, read or sing to your baby, they are learning. How much are they learning? One million neural connections are being made every single second until the age of 3.
Peterson: "It's the experience of the infants and babies that determine which of those circuits survive, and which die off. Once they're gone, they're pretty much gone for good. So it's really a use it or lose it structure -- and very much an interplay between the environment and in the experience that's activating the circuits, and then what survives."
Official guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics say to avoid screen time (other than for video chatting) for children under 18-months-old. After that they suggest limiting it to under two hours.
Schickedanz: "The complexity comes in thinking about what what what screen time might be educational, might be beneficial. The idea is that there's plenty of content that is engaging, that is potentially educational that could be of use to parents and kids. But we have a long way to go before we understand exactly what falls in the safe bucket as opposed to the zone out."
Khetarpal: "What are you modeling? Because you can't say, your two hours are up, and here I am on my phone. That's not going to work. They're going to grab your phone, and you're going to start a tug of war. [Be] intuitive on not just what the child's nature is, and their personality is, but also on what are you modeling for the child in their presence with the use of technology."
Someone asked a question about whether learning multiple languages would slow down speech development. The experts were quick to say no. Children may be learning fewer words in English, but the total number of the words learned in the different languages is likely the same.
Peterson: "That dual language child in preschool can appear to, say a monolingual, English-speaking teacher to be somewhat delayed. But that's a false impression. And in fact, long term language capacity is not impaired. If anything, it may, in fact, be enhanced."
Part of brain development is testing boundaries, and responding in an effective, nurturing way takes discipline -- for the parents.
Khetarpal: "I have a tool called Dealing with the Feeling and three steps to 'spot it, say it, okay it.' So spot the feeling out loud, 'I see that you're feeling frustrated.' And okay it: 'It's okay to be frustrated, it's okay to feel angry.' And then watch, you know, the mood of the child de-escalate. Emotional intelligence and social-emotional learning are all under the umbrella of mindfulness, of being aware, being present, being present to their emotions, and really being conscious, bringing your authentic, true self to the situation with full on patience and attention."
Schickedanz: "When I'm talking with parents in the general pediatrics clinic and this comes up, my go-to message is that pickiness is normal. It's often part of kids developing a repertoire of flavors. And it takes time. And parents shouldn't freak out. There are moments when kids are more interested in shrinking their flavor repertoire before they they expand it later again. And if the kid isn't interested in that, in that that particular time, try again. Don't give up on it the next time, keep presenting."
CHILD CARE CENTER / PRESCHOOL
Word-of-mouth is often one of the biggest factors in finding a place. There are also child care resource and referral agencies (often called R&Rs) that can help connect parents with providers. Then, visit for yourself and see how it feels.
Rocher: "One of the easiest things to look for is how the adults engage. So, for instance, do they get down at the child's level when they speak to them? Are they standing over them looking down at them a lot? Is there appropriate supervision? An idea for parents is to have a journal in the home before your child goes to preschool. Just note little things that you notice about the child. So, for instance, the child loves to be outside. Then you want to make sure you choose a preschool that has a very robust outdoor environment, not one that is small, where the child will be inside all the time ... and that could lead to some behavior challenges."
And the panel dropped so much more knowledge than this. Watch the full video:
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