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How the first Palmetto Basics directive can benefit young children

Editor’s note: This is the second installment in our six-part feature defining The Palmetto Basics, which includes tips on easy, practical ways to bring them to life in your home.

Young children thrive on routine, love, touch and the presence of caregivers who respond to their needs. Beth Jamieson, strategic operations director for Greenville First Steps, said one of the factors that promotes healthy brain development and school readiness in children is an environment in which adults maximize love and manage stress.

That notion – Maximize Love, Manage Stress – is the first of the five Palmetto Basics.

The Palmetto Basics is a statewide campaign that gives parents, grandparents and caregivers the basics of early learning for children before birth to age 5, with an emphasis on birth – 3. When the initiative was developed, the first of the basics was Maximize Love, Minimize Stress, but a mom quickly noted that minimizing stress isn’t always possible.

“They went back to the drawing board and learned that it’s not about minimizing stress,” Jamieson said. “It’s about how to deal with it when it pops up.”

Jamieson said when her teenager was a baby, she was a stay-at-home mother with no set schedule. That wasn’t best for her or her baby.

“He cried a lot,” she said. “Everything was flying by the seat of my pants. One day, I decided to try a routine to reduce my stress by creating a timetable for the day. I learned a lot about how routines help children and in turn, help parents. To me, Maximize Love, Manage Stress is a lot for the children, but it also is so much about caregivers and the importance of taking care of yourself. Without it, the rest of the Palmetto Basics aren’t as easy. If you don’t know how you are going to pay the bills, you aren’t going to sit down on the floor and count, group and play. It’s really hard to do the others if you can’t do this one. This is the one we talk about the most. It’s the most broad and the least tangible and it’s the one parents want to make sure they are doing right.”

Want to implement this foundation step at home? Try these tips:

• “For infants, hold them and have a routine,” Jamieson said. “Both of those are the ones people maybe have a reason not to do. There’s no need to hold back on showing love for a baby. You can’t spoil a baby. A baby can’t be held too much.”

• Hold babies, respond to them and comfort them when they are upset. Have a household routine.

• “For toddlers, helping your child be able to name feelings goes a long way in managing stress and helping a child grow,” Jamieson said.

• Respond to toddlers’ words and feelings. Cuddle with them. Involve them around the house. Maintain a schedule and routine as much as possible. Remember that it’s OK for boys to cry. Try not to expect children to act older than they really are.

• Manage household stress and seek help if you need it.

Learn more about how to maximize love and manage stress at http://palm maximize-love-manage-stress.