Without you even realizing it, your brain and your young child’s brain are constantly reading each others’ cues. Our facial expressions and body language–including the pace of our breathing, our muscular tension, our touch, and our movements–are all sending subtle but important messages to one another. Our bodies then naturally respond to what we observe in one another. Most of the time, we are not even aware this is happening.
As the most important person in your child’s life, she will watch for your cues and “absorb” your emotions. DHH children, because they are particularly visual, are relying even more heavily on reading your cues. When you smile, she will sense your joy and smile back. When you become upset, he will likely become upset, as well. When you are angry or stressed, these emotions will trickle onto your little one, and may cause her to feel dysregulated.
Your DHH baby’s brain is working very hard to make sense of all the emotional cues you offer. You have a huge role in modeling healthy emotional expressions for your little one each and every day.
- Pay attention to what’s happening within your body and brain. The calmer you are, the calmer I can remain! Give me your steadiest self.
- Use language–signed or spoken–to communicate with me about your feelings and mine. Then show me–with your choices–healthy ways of expressing hard-to-feel emotions. Self-regulation is learned over time with lots of practice with you.
- Let me know clearly when I have expressed my hard-to-feel emotions in a healthy way. Tell me exactly what I did well! Use role playing, gestures, pictures, and language to ensure that I am understanding.
- As I grow, I will be able to reflect (with your help) on recent moments when I did not show my emotions in healthy ways. Once I am calm and teachable, I need you to model for me better ways of responding. Let’s practice these together for next time!
- If you are experiencing intense emotions that could cause me confusion and distress, find a safe place and a distraction for me so that you can process your emotions. Please calm down before we engage with one another. It is best to protect my developing brain from your intense difficult emotions whenever possible.