Over the last 2 years I’ve joined several mommy groups on social media. They’re a great place for moms to share experiences and ask for advice. Recently I’ve noticed similar questions being asked especially by new moms about how to start life with baby. I was inspired by Simone of the Montessori Notebook and decided to create a Link Pack just for new mommies with all the links you may need to start your journey into motherhood. I’ll try to cover some of the basic topics like sleeping, feeding, care, play and positive parenting of course 🙂
Feeding & Sleeping
Development & Milestones
Becoming a Parent & Self Care
There are lots of great resources out there. I personally found these to be very helpful. Make sure to check back as I’ll keep adding more links whenever I come across something relevant.
How do we get our kids to focus more on what they have instead of what they want? There’s so much available in stores, supermarkets and even most homes it can be a challenge at times to help children look beyond their little world of games and toys. Young children tend to be egocentric, which is a normal part of development. They usually start showing outward behavior of thankfulness or appreciation by the age of 3.
There are however a lot of things you can do to help your child start practicing gratitude in the early years. Here are a few of my favorites to get your started.
Make a Giving List
Sit with your little one and talk about the idea of making a giving list. For every item he’d like for Christmas have him think of something he can give. It can be something handmade, bought from his allowance, giving away one of his toys or clothes and even just helping someone out with something. For your young child keep it simple and help by offering choices and suggestions. For older kids give them time to be creative and think of things themselves if they’d like. Kids can surprise you. Talk about who would be happy with these gifts. Someone in the family, neighbors, friends or maybe look further beyond in your community to local shelters. Encourage your child by modeling and having the whole family join in.
Give Experiential Gifts
Both children and adults tend to focus on giving toys and other material gifts on most occasions. These are great and fun of course but kids tend to lose interest in toys pretty quick especially if they have too many options. Consider giving an experiential gift instead. It can be something simple like a Make a Volcano Kit, a nature magazine subscription or a fun outing with friends and family to the zoo. It can also be something more complex like going to camp, horseriding weekend camp or a family trip. According to psychologist Jeffrey Froh, a gratitude researcher, kids get to feel happy and fulfilled with these experiences because they feed their personal growth or their interest. Kids get to feel more appreciation and create more meaningful memories than just receiving a toy.
Visit those Less Fortunate
This may be a cliche but most of us even as adults have a tendency to take any privileges we have for granted will we come across those who are less fortunate. Children are the same, especially if their circle of friends come from similar economic backgrounds. Talk to your children about what they think they can do to help others in the community or even beyond. Maybe choose a few toys or clothes they don’t use anymore to pack for the local shelter. Take a trip to a child friendly shelter (if possible), children’s hospital, animal shelter or any other place of need. Don’t just make this a drop off but try to spend a couple of hours to volunteer. Read stories for children at the hospital or help groom the shelter pups. It’s all about having a real experience helping your child be a giving and empathetic person.
Talk about Receiving
Gratitude isn’t just about empathy or giving. It’s also about being thankful for what others have done. Instead of asking your child to just say “Thank-you” when she gets a gift talk about how nice it was for grandma to remember that she liked soccer and made the trip to the special sports store to get her the ball. Your child will start to realize there’s more to it than a gift she wants appearing magically. This way the Thank-you comes from the heart.
We don’t always get what we want in life and that can be very disappointing and hard to handle for young children. Gratitude is also about being OK when things don’t go as planned. This is a tough one even for grownups but it’s a good habit to model and practice. For young children it can be hard to grasp what they should be happy about when it rains and they don’t get to go play outside or if they get sick and can’t go on the school trip. These are perfect opportunities to help them think about the positive side; “If we hadn’t decided to play inside today we wouldn’t have gotten to spend such a fun time together making this puzzle that we’ve decided to frame”. Model this in situations when you yourself are disappointed that things didn’t go as planned as well. Children learn best when we practice what we preach ourselves.
Make Gratitude a Family Habit
Finally, gratitude isn’t something to focus on just during the holiday season or around birthdays. Although those are yearly hot spots, it’s a habit to practice year round. Simply have a gratitude conversation once a week during dinner where each member of the family talks about something they are thankful for.
For further reading on raising a thankful child. Read my article published in The Daily Crisp
Image courtesy of Claire Bloomfield/Free Digital Photos
Developing young children’s emotional security is a process that starts at birth. Even before we think they can realize their surroundings or have an opinion, babies are already learning about what they can expect from the world from the experiences they have. Babies learn to feel either secure or insecure in the world based on the relationships they have with the people who care for them. Babies who know they have an adult they can rely on for comfort and care are more likely to be secure unlike those who experience inconsistent or unresponsive care.
Why is it important to care about a child’s emotional security? Children’s social emotional state is connected to other important aspects of their lives, such as their ability to explore and learn. It also involves their ability to make friends, play and face difficult situation later in life.
What you can do:
Children who experience a pattern of responsive and consistent care from their parents and caregivers are more likely to develop a positive sense of self, of others and the world around them. They are then more likely to have self-confidence, trust others and explore and learn new situations. On the other hand, children who experience unresponsive treatment from parents and caregivers are likely to have behavior problems, act out and have feelings of mistrust and low self-esteem.
Here are some ways to help your child develop a positive feeling of emotional security.
Contrary to popular belief you can’t spoil a child by being responsive. It’s how you respond that makes a difference. Your baby is sending you signals and cues all the time. Take time to observe your baby and find out what she wants. Let your child know you see her cues for help and attention. Just by giving her attention that you know she needs something is a great first step. Next it’s important to respond appropriately to what she needs. Is she pointing to a toy to play with you? Is she hungry? Does she need to sleep? Does she need a hug?
Remember that no good comes from leaving a baby or young child “cry it out”. All young children have difficulty controlling their emotions your baby needs your help to calm down. Not responding to a cry sends a signal to your baby that she can’t count on the adults and caregivers around her. On the other hand when children feel understood and responded to they learn to develop trusting relationships and good self-esteem.
- Support your child’s development
Almost everything young children experience is new for them. That’s important to keep in mind when your little one is struggling to put on his jacket or spills while pouring his juice. These and many more are skills your little one needs to learn and learning never happens without mistakes. What’s important is that these mistakes are met with encouragement, positivity and a solution. Not criticism and punishment.
- Try to find a balance between giving your child independence and support. Your child needs to know you will be there when she needs help. Give him the space needed to explore new activities and places while letting him know you are there to support if things get too tough.
- Try not to be over intrusive with your child’s initiatives. Avoid taking over your child’s activity and being over involved. This will just push your child away from exploring new things.
- Letting your child do things on his own and learn through trial an error can help him feel more independent, self-reliant and confident in approaching new or tough situations.
- Communicate with your child
Communication is extremely important even with young children who can’t form full sentences of their own yet. While your child might not be able to fully express himself verbally, he can understand you very well. Let your child know what to expect to increase his feeling of security by communicating with your child and explaining things. Tell him why you will leave him at daycare? Mommy has to go to work. Where will you go? Mommy will go to work. When will you return? I’ll pick you up after snack time. Make sure to put your words in terms your child can understand and to stick to what you say! With repetition your child will develop a sense of trust and confidence.
- Mistakes are opportunities to learn
Remember that your child is experiencing things for the first time and has not yet mastered basic skills. How you respond is important to how your child views himself and his abilities. Mastering a skill can only come by practice. Give your child opportunities to do things on his own and be positive when correcting your child’s misbehavior or when offering your child help. This helps give your child a sense of confidence, positive self-esteem and encourages him to try again. The same applies when resolving conflict. Give your child a chance to explain, propose a solution and try it out. If it doesn’t work out then discuss why he thinks things went wrong and what he could do instead. It can be quite surprising the smart answers 3 and 4-year-old come up with once given a chance.
These are just a few ideas to help your child feel confident and emotionally secure. I hope they help you out in making your parenting experience as happy as can be.
Image from onemorephoto/flickr
Having kids is a wonderful experience. It can also be quite exhaustive, especially if you are dealing with twins! Twins usually require much more attention and energy than regular siblings. This is normal since you’re dealing with two children of the same age at the same time. That can be a handful sometimes! When you have toddler twins it’s normal that you have a lot to take care of. Everything is doubled. Parents are often concerned about how to treat their twins, should they treat them differently, equally, dress them the same or different?
How are twins different than singletons?
As toddlers there’s a lot going on with children’s development. They start developing words and sentences. Start playing with other children and by the end of toddlerhood will be starting preschool. Twins tend to develop slightly different than regular siblings. They may be delayed in their language skills. This can be more prevalent in identical twins than fraternal twins. However, this difference disappears by the time children are 5 years old once they start preschool and kindergarten. Although the explicit reasons as to why this happens haven’t been identified, there is speculation that this may be due to the amount of verbal interaction they get with their parents. Research has shown that mother’s verbal interaction with each twin plays an important role in their language development.
There is usually a more dominant twin from the pair who tends to be the one more advanced socially and verbally. Twins also tend to play together more than other siblings. As a result, they may have less social interaction with other children or adults. This may also account for delayed language acquisition. Toddler twins are even known to develop their own “secret language” among themselves made up of simplified sounds and words. This behavior is quite normal for twins. These language distortions disappear as twins begin to spend more time with other children and grownups as they would in preschool. Toddler twins may also have more conduct problems than singletons which could be caused by a need for attention or frustration caused by their language delay.
What you can do:
- Try to give individual attention to each child. Research has shown that parents tend to have less one-on-one interaction and less verbal exchanges with each individual twin than other siblings. Make sure to spend enough time with each child to help foster his/her language and social skills. What is important is how much speech interaction each twin receives individually.
- Remember that each twin is a unique person. While they may have a lot in common, any parent who has twins will tell you how different their personality and interests are. Whether you want them to be alike or different this will predominantly decided by the twins themselves. Make sure you respect their individual differences as well as their similarities.
- Offer enough social interaction with other children. While twins do tend to play together more than with other children don’t panic on forcing them to interact with other children. Studies have shown that the close relationship twins share does not interfere with their relationships with other children at school. Twins have even been reported to be less selfish and friendlier at school. Make sure you provide your twins with the normal range of social experiences for their age.
- Spousal and family support. It can be difficult to divide your attention between two children of the same age at the same time. Try to provide each twin with some undivided exclusive attention with each parent or with close family members like a grandparent. Remember that mothers and fathers play important and unique roles in their child’s development. Fathers’ play time is just as important as mothers’ care and attention.
Separate or Same Classroom?
The daunting question as children start to enter preschool. Should we keep them in the same classroom because they are so close? Or should we separate them so they can be independent? Unfortunately the answer is not clear cut. What we do know is that placing twins in different classes is associated with better form of speech and stopping stuttering. However, like all children each pair of twins are different and within each pair each twin is a unique child. With that in mind, whether to separate or place in the same classroom should be handled on a case-by-case basis depending on the children’s needs and personalities.
Lytton, H. & Gallagher, L. (2002). Parenting twins and the genetics of parenting. Handbook of Parenting: Children and Parenting. M. H. Bornstein (Eds). London: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
This article as features in Arabic on Supermama
Photo from Michaela Spodniakova
As a parent, sex education is a conversation that you’d most likely try to avoid. If you’re a parent of a toddler or preschooler you may think that you can avoid this talk for at least a few years. This is not exactly true. Sex education can start at any age and at the pace your child sets with his curiosity and questions.
Sex education is important for children of all ages. Young children need to learn about their own bodies to help them feel comfortable with themselves, understand their feelings and protect themselves against unwanted touch. How he or she feels about sex and the body can have a lifelong effect into their sexual relationships as grownups. Adults who are confident and knowledgeable about their bodies and their sexual needs tend to lead a healthier sex life and that this infrastructure is placed throughout childhood.
Introduce your child to his body through everyday activities like bath time or diaper changing by teaching your child the proper names for his or her sex organs. Teach your child that no one (or only certain people like mommy or daddy) are allowed to touch the private parts of his or her body and to tell you if someone tries to touch them. Start at a young age and add it to your regular instructions with your child. Don’t emphasize these instructions with an exaggerated sense of urgency or anxiety since that may cause your child to feel guilty or fearful of telling you if he or she does encounter that situation.
Children under 4 are naturally curious about their and other people’s bodies. At around 3 years, children start noticing that boys and girls have different genitals and can often be seen playing “doctor” to examine each other’s bodies. This form of exploration is very different from adults’ sexuality and is harmless when only young children are involved but you can choose to set the limits you see fit. When reminding your child that certain parts of his body are for him alone and not for others to touch, try to remain calm but firm when sending your child the message. If your child feels like he or she has done something really bad it may cause feelings of shame. He or she may start feeling guilty about these natural feelings of curiosity and try to explore without getting caught.
Some examples of common sexual behavior from children under 4:
■ Exploring, touching, rubbing or showing private parts, in public and in private
■ Trying to touch mother’s or other women’s breasts
■ Taking off clothes and being naked or trying to see others while they are naked
■ Asking questions and talking about their own—and others’—bodies and bodily functions to adults and other children their own age
When your child asks questions about his or her body or even your own don’t feel embarrassed, laugh or avoid the question. Take these questions seriously, your child looks to you for honest answers that teach him about the world. Give your child simple and age appropriate answers. There’s no need to go into a lot of detail, if your child wants to know more, he or she will ask.
Here are some examples of questions young children ask and how you could answer them
- Why doesn’t everyone have a penis? you can simply reply by saying that boys and girls have different bodies. Boys have a penis but girls don’t.
- Why is there hair down there? you can say that bodies change as we grow older and this is one of the changes.
- How do girls go “pee-pee”? Girls have a different part in their body than the penis that they can use to go to the toilet.
- Where do babies come from? this can be a tough question but try to give a simple and honest answer. You can start by saying that babies grow in a special place in the mommy’s tummy. If your child is still curious, you can elaborate that when a mommy and daddy love each other they come together and make a baby. Answer your child’s questions as long as she/he is asking them.
- Why do mommies have breasts but daddies don’t? “When boys and girls grow up to be big like daddy and mommy, their bodies change and become different”.You can point out other differences like daddy has a beard or moustache but mommy doesn’t. Let her know that you will answer any other questions or thoughts she has about this so she can come to you.
These conversations may feel awkward at time but remember that your child relies on you for information on how the world works.To make things easier you can try to include books in your regular reading which are designed specifically for teaching young children about their body and private parts. This can make approaching the topic much more natural and relaxed. It’s a good source of information for your child as well as showing you what is age appropriate information. Remember you are setting the stage for open conversation that will last till the critical years in adolescence and early adulthood when sexuality becomes a main topic for most young men and women.
Reading with your Child
My Body Belongs to Me by Jill Starishevsky
“The story is a simple scenario involving a gender neutral child who is inappropriately touched by an uncle’s friend. The powerful message really comes through when the youngster tells on the offender and the parents praise the child’s bravery. The last page shows a proud, smiling child doing a “strong arm” pose. The text assures them that it wasn’t their fault and by speaking out the child will continue to grow big and strong. It is a compelling and uplifting message.“
References and Helpful Resourcs