1034106_ripplesI make a difference every day, and so do you.

July is recognized as “Make a Difference Month to Children,” and many organizations and businesses took this opportunity to raise awareness of their causes or to ask for donations to a favorite child-centered charity. And that is wonderful.

But every individual is making a difference to children in the world every single day. We may not be teachers, childcare providers, parent educators or other professionals who work with children. You may not even be a parent, but yet, we all are still making a huge difference to our communities and society—through our relationships with the children we interact with, whether in our homes, in our professions, or in passing.

We as a society may forget the ripple effect that each of our interactions with children has. One drop causes a small ring, rippling out from the center in successively larger rings until the rings meet the shore. That is our impact. We as adults are that drop and the interactions we have with the children we encounter are creating ripples that will reverberate through our society, carried by the interactions and impressions that our children make on their partners, children, and other important relationships, as well as those interactions and impressions that each of those people make on others. Even an action as simple as holding the door open, saying an encouraging word, or another seemingly imperceptible interaction by an otherwise stranger can have huge consequences in how that child grows to perceive the world and the people in it.

Certainly the biggest impact on children in our society is by parents. Technology has advanced in such a way that science can now clearly demonstrate the effect that parenting in a consistently loving way has on a child’s brain development. Technology can now bridge the gap between the research that shows the importance of raising our children in a way that promotes secure attachment and society’s fragmented ability to get this information out to parents who need it.

Our society’s parenting philosophies are gradually adopting research-based information. It’s generally accepted now that breastfeeding is better for babies, that there is merit to reducing Cesarean birth rates and most hospitals allow doulas to assist with their maternity patients. We’re seeing the importance of the family sit-down meal, that holding our babies as much as possible will not spoil them, that there is no basis in the idea that crying helps a baby’s lungs to grow. Society is recognizing that the attachment quality between the parent and the child is important not only for ease of childrearing and influence with the adolescent, but also that it affects relationship quality lifelong for that child. We’re slowing getting to the point of recognizing the vital importance of parents in the early childhood years, that social-emotional development affects cognitive gain, too, that spanking and physical punishments are archaic and unneeded.

We still have a ways to go. Nighttime parenting and non-punitive discipline are still hard to grasp for society at large, as is the crucial need for parents to spend much more time with their children and that it’s possible to find personal balance while doing so.

There are organizations and professionals dedicated to advocating for these research-based parenting strategies. But the biggest influence will come from the grassroots movement of individual choices.

You are making a difference to children simply by focusing on your attachment with any child in your everyday life. You are making a difference to society by playing with a child, by learning about a child’s interests, by listening to a child and responding with sensitivity as you would with a close friend, by being there. You are making a difference by teaching a child what positive, peaceful, empathetic, HEALTHY relationships look like. And when this child goes out in the world, his or her relationships will promote this same secure attachment quality so that each relationship encountered will touch off another ripple in our society, furthering the idea of attachment-based parenting through generations to come.