If you are a parent, I’m sure you remember bringing your baby home from the hospital. If you are like my wife and I, we had a mix of emotions ranging from incredible joy to sheer terror. Here is this tiny person, yelling at the top of his lungs and we have no idea why. Is he hungry? Is he thirsty? Is he in pain? Is he uncomfortable? So we pull out the baby books, with their non specific advice and generalities. Questions like should we let him cry? When will he finally go to sleep? How do we keep from doing psychological damage to him? These were all just a couple of questions that we had.
Ages zero through two is the first group we will address, and it is also Erikson’s first stage of development. Erikson calls this stage trust vs. mistrust. Trust as defined by Erikson is “an essential truthfulness of others as well as a fundamental sense of one’s own trustworthiness.” We have all been there, but I doubt if any of us remember much about our lives in this age group. Although we may not remember trauma’s or unmet physical needs, if the conditions are met, we may have developed our first maladaptive schema from an event that we may not remember.
The important things that should be part of the child’s life in this age group are, but are not limited to safety, comfort, food, and affection. Primarily, this usually comes from the mother. Children in this age group have one source to provide them with the essential needs. Touching, holding, breast feeding, diaper changing, and other things that we have to do for our children all add up to the basic needs for healthy development. With these needs provided, the child can trust the world. The views of the world are mostly demonstrated by the parents. At these ages, they are completely dependent upon parents.
Children in this first stage of development are egocentric, the world revolves around them. Every smile brings praise, every baby talking word coming out of the parents mouth is validation that they are good, welcome, and safe. Everything in their world is about them, the good and the bad. So, what bad are you talking about? Well, imagine yourself not being able to be in any position of your choosing. Your transported from loving arms to a crib, to a carriage, to a playpen, to an infant swing and you have no say in the matter. We are forced to trust our caregivers because there is no one else in our world.
Imagine what happens when the loving, sweet voices begin to being loud and angry voices. Since everything is about us (children), the loud angry voices must be about us as well. There you go, you have created a fresh early maladaptive schema. If the child is hearing the loud and angry voices repeatedly, the maladaptive schema gets more powerful, more reinforced. So, here is the first thing to learn; Don’t scream and shout where your baby can hear you.
For a moment, think about what the child is going through and making decisions about at this age group. They wonder if they can trust their parents if they are receiving mixed messages about them. Sometimes my parents are sweet and loving, and sometimes they are mad a yelling. A baby does not need to hear the out of control arguments, keep them to yourselves parents. Remember, this is trust vs. mistrust. How can we trust an inconsistent input into our lives if they change, and for no reason that the child is able to understand. From the baby’s perspective, I’m good sometimes, and sometimes I am bad. I am safe, and I am not safe. It is a terrible roller coaster to be on, and it creates mistrust of the world.