Love: The Key to a Child's Brain Development

Love: The Key to a Child's Brain Development
Raquel Aldana

Written and verified by the psychologist Raquel Aldana.

Last update: 21 February, 2022

Love is one of the most powerful environmental factors as we grow and develop. For this reason, educating a child with affection forms the fundamental pillar of for emotional health. 

Through love, we offer our children the possibility to control their chemistry and their brain development; that is to say, we will be giving them the ability to control their biology through the influence of their emotional capacities.

Therefore, we have in our hands the opportunity to strengthen their physical and psychological wellbeing for the rest of their lives. Simply by offering them our affection and making sure they feel it, we will help encourage the most wonderful connections in their brains .

Girl Big Green Eyes

Love your children to protect them for their entire life

A studied carried out by the Washington University School of Medicine found evidence for the importance of love, attention, and affection in children’s brain development. It has been found that affection promotes a greater development of the hippocampus, the structure in the brain that is important in learning, memory, and response to stress.

According to the magazine Proceedings, which originally published these findings, the specialists carried out this study by grouping parents who attentively cared for their babies’ complaints on one side and those who tended to ignore these situations on the other side.

Years later, the researchers could see on MRIs that those children who had been treated with affection had better developed hippocampus areas compared to those who had not been treated with as much love.

It should be noted that having a small hippocampus contributes to increased risk for problems like depression, stress, or forms of dementia such as Alzheimer’s. Thus we can get an idea of the advantage that growing up in a loving environment provides to a child.

woman and child on beach paper boat reflection

A smile is like an umbrella for life

To understand this, we have to know that emotions are the translation of biochemical changes that are produced in our brain as well as the psychophysiological behaviors that these create in our body.

For example, serotonin is one of the chemical substances responsible for the production of our emotional reactions. It is known that it plays a large role in the regulation of our mood as well as in moments where we must confront stressful situations. We can help our children maintain adequate levels of serotonin through affectionate interaction, a healthy diet, and a balanced lifestyle. As a result, we they will be better at managing conflict situations, have less tendency toward impulsivity and aggression, and even better regulation of their body temperature, blood pressure, digestion, and sleep.

Knowing this, we are able to understand why a simple smile can act as an umbrella for a child. Specialists indicate that when we smile, the temperature in cerebral cortex is reduced through the contraction of the blood vessels surrounding the facial muscles and, as a result, more serotonin is produced.

This is why it is so important for our children to smile and be happy, for it is in this way that their brains send them a neurochemical message that can help assure them that everything is going to be okay.

Mother and Child by Hills

Key points for educating our children with love

We have already made it clear that by treating our children with love, we will not only contribute to their proper emotional development, but also to their physical, social, and cognitive development.

Keeping this in mind, we have to prioritize certain support, help, or activities that favor the feeling of being loved and deserving of love. Let us look at some of the key points.

1. A child should never feel like love depends on their actions

Children should know that love is not conditional. That is to say, we should avoid messages like, “if you do that I am going to stop loving you, but if you do not do it, I will love you even more.”

Given that mistakes will always form part of our lives, a child cannot grow up thinking that this will make them more or less valuable. In short, our little ones should feel like they are loved for who they are and not for what they do.

2. Help them adapt better

If we help them understand that the world is not a Disney story, they will be able to understand and face the reality of their surroundings, a place where stress and worry prevail just like love and affection.

In this way, we will avoid them growing up naive, unaware of everything they are going to run into as they go on growing. Making them aware that stress and problems exist (always according to their level of understanding) will help them develop neural pathways that will allow them to adapt better to the world.

Mother and Child on Beach

3. Help them keep a grip on their emotions

As with all kinds of education, emotional education requires demonstration through examples. As such, we have to show our children that there are no invalid feelings or emotions. Jealousy, envy, and anger are normal and natural, we only have to control them in such a way that they do not interfere and overflow.

4. Talk to them about their emotions

As we have said in other articles, words only make up around 10% of the true meaning that we get through emotional communication. As such, we should help them understand how they can reveal their emotions through the tone of their voice, their body language, their posture, and their facial expressions.

Educating our children with love, understanding, and respect will contribute to their brain growth while simultaneously shaping their development in all other aspects of their lives.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.