Beyond Goo-Goo & Gaa-Gaa: The Power of Talking to Your Little One

September 29, 2020

By Annelise Cunningham, PhD

As we navigate through the world, we encounter so many changes. Often, we are on autopilot and may not even realize all that is changing both inside and outside of our bodies. Take a moment to think about the changes you experience from the time you wake up until the time you go to bed. From external changes like temperature or traffic, to internal changes such as emotions or thoughts, we are constantly adjusting.

Guess what? Our little ones experience those same changes too! As caregivers, we have a lot of practice adjusting to the changes that come our way. For our little ones, these experiences are often brand new and they need our help in organizing their world. Little ones look to their caregivers for signs and cues to inform them on how to respond to what is going on around them. A great tool in assisting these moments is talking to your little one. Providing language to organize what is happening both internally and externally, can aid in emotion regulation.

How do you talk your little one through changes? Consider a narrator in a story or movie; their job is to describe what is going on in the scene and how characters are feeling. Similarly when you talk out loud to your little one, they receive information on what is going on and how you and/or they are feeling. Interacting with your little one in this way serves as a benefit for the caregiver too. By providing language out loud about what is going on and how you are feeling, it can help us as caregivers organize our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors.

Go ahead and try it out! Act as narrator to your little one. What do you notice happens? How does your little one respond? Did providing language also help regulate your own thoughts and feelings? When navigating through a change, did you and your little one have similar or differing emotional reactions?

Lurie Children's Little Ones Program

If your infant, toddler or preschooler is in need of an assessment or intervention strategies, please call 1.800.KIDS.DOC (1.800.543.7362) and ask for an appointment with Lurie Children’s Little Ones. Or, learn more about the program here.

Dr. Cunningham is a post-doctoral fellow in the Pritzker Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Health.