For some families, especially with those one parent away on military service or working far from home, there is the added stress of a parent being absent for long periods of time. How best can you cope with this added complication?
Although it may be difficult and strange at first, the fact is that you can make it a positive time for the children as well as yourself. How? Here are a few tips.
Keep busy: establish a routine and try to stick to it. Keep yourself busy too and keep in touch with your friends and family during the absence. You may wish to keep a diary and note you experiences, feelings and how you cope... good or bad! It's a private journal, so be honest.
Stress: it's easy to say 'avoid stress', but you can help with regular exercise and a healthy lifestyle. You don't need to go crazy... a good brisk walk around the neighbourhood can do wonders for your stress level and help reduce tension.
Help: ask for help when you feel it is getting too much. Call in some favours and get friends round or ask to drop over for dinner. Organise an occasional night out with your friends... get a babysitter or call on family to mind the children while you have some fun with your own friends.
Phones and letters: communicate as much as you are able with your loved one: email, skype, text, phone, write; do whatever you choose best and keep it regular. It will help them as well as your little ones. Involve the children by sending packages together and letters with their drawings and pictures.
Talk: make sure you speak to the children and share your worries, and experiences with them. They will feel more involved and will be a great comfort.
Remember it's just as difficult for the absent parent, missing seeing their family, as it is for you. Good Luck!
When it feels like we can't cope, we begin to worry and get stressed and exactly the same is true of children. There are certain times when children might not not be calm: at times of great change such as moving house, parents separating or divorcing, when changing class or school, or making new friends.
Signs that your child might be stressed:
- They become aggressive
- They become withdrawn and very quiet
- They burst into tears easily
- They gain a reputation for being 'a worrier'.
Ways to help keep your child stress free:
- Keep a routine: children feel secure when they are in a good routine. They know what's going to happen next and how things work. If there is going to be a change then tell them and explain to them.
- Be organised: Help your child to be organised too by preparing for school the night before. Make sure everything is ready such as their bag, dinner money, PE kit, letters. Try and develop a system together to make sure things are ready. Hang book bags in a special place, keep shoes near the front door.
- Be on time: It's never a good feeling to be late, so try to make yourself on time or early for school or clubs etc. even if it means getting up early or leaving the house before normal!
- Be a role model: Try and be calm and organised yourself and show how to run a calm house and lifestyle.
- Have a chat: Make sure you speak to your children and listen to any worries or concerns. Take their worries seriously and be positive, supportive and encourage calm discussion rather than brush it off as unimportant.
- Try to imagine how they feel: put yourself in their shoes.
- Tell stories: Share stories in which people overcome fears or worries and succeed. Go to the library to find some books and share your own experiences or make up stories to show how to deal with concerns.
- Praise: Give plenty of encouragement and praise.
- Focus on the positive and their self esteem will grow. Congratulate them when they do well and tell them how good they have been etc.
- Bedtime: Make sure you have a calm and happy bed time. Read stories, have a bubbly bath, keep it calm and positive leaving all worries outside the bedroom.
- Be kind: Try to remember they are only little and in order for the children to grown in confidence and learn they need to feel supported and loved.
So many parents - even of toddling or pre-school age children - struggle to get their children to sleep for the whole night without waking up or without them slipping into their parent's bed.
They wake; they demand milk; they need cuddles; they refuse to go back to sleep and they disturb you and everyone else in the house. And, at the sound of the child stirring at night send shock waves through the parents even if the little one is just turning over or breathing a little heavier than normal. So, even when they are not really awake... the parents are!
When sleep is in short supply all sorts of other repercussions occur. You're grumpy, your partner is grumpy, other children in the house are effected; your efficiency slips and everyone has a rotten time! Do you go to a doctor, let them scream it out, get up and give them everything they demand in order to get a easier and quieter life? It is incredibly hard and unless you're in the situation you really don't know how much endless sleepless nights can disrupt all your lives.
Why do they wake? Here are some thoughts:-
- Hunger: they may feel hungry and genuinely need food or some milk.
- Potty training: if they have just started potty training, they may have a more sensitive bladder and be aware when they urinate in the night even with a night time nappy on.
- Disturbed routine: if things have changed at home or school. A new teacher or childminder, things changed at home like Mum working more or Dad not home so often, or starting a new job.
- Outside influences: the neighbours have a new barking dog or a noisy motorbike.
- Bedtime: if you've move bedtime later or earlier this can impact on the sleep patterns.
- Stress or anxiety: are they worried about something at home or nursery?
- New baby: even a pregnancy or thought of a new sibling can effect their sleep.
- Poorly: they may be unwell so keep an eye on them.
- Teething: they may be uncomfortable with teeth emerging or causing pain even if you can't see any evidence.
- Growing pains: see our recent post on Growing Pains to understand this strange symptom.
How to help:
- If they ask for water, leave some by their bed so they can sip and return to sleep alone. Use a sippy cup if you're worried about spillages.
- Favourite toy: make sure any favourite toys are in bed with them for comfort and show them how to cuddle up with their toys at night.
- If you do wake and sit with them, keep it boring: no chat, no lights, nothing except a cuddle and return to bed.
Dealing with a 'moody' child can be very exhausting, especially if you are sensitive to the psychological repercussions that might develop and you are worried about where the moodiness will lead. Be assured that it's very rare to have clinically depressed children under preschool age, unless there is a serious issue. What you are probably dealing with is a child who slips into a bad mood and has trouble getting out of it. It's perfectly normal. How you deal with the mood, however, is important.
Here are a few pointers.
- Time: Take some time out to spend with your child. Children who are a bit bit moody, are easily labeled as moody and left to fend for themselves, when in fact a bit of attention (one to one attentio)- would do them them a great amount of good. Ideally, spend half an hour of 100% quality time together alone with no interruptions from other people.
- Happy thoughts: Focus on the happy experiences during the day and the fun things you've done. Build positive memories which will help them to soothe themselves if anxious. Have a chat before bed and go over all the good things that happened: nice food, play in the park, happy visit to a friend's house etc.
- Childcare: Avoid lots of childcare if you can, or leaving your children with lots of different carers. Try to look after the child yourself if you can.
- Clubs and activities: Keep out of school activities to a sensible level so as to avoid tiredness and over stimulation. Yes, subscribe to some fun activities, but keep it to an acceptable level.
- Angry: Keep your own temper, no matter how annoying a situation might be. Stressed parents can effect and upset children. This includes fighting between parents but also getting angry in other situations (while driving for example).
- Food: Try and keep sweet cereals and lots of sugary spreads and jams to a minimum at breakfast and throughout the day. Opt for protein rich foods and eat lots of fresh fruit and vegetables.
So, keep it in perspective, keep your cool and keep positive. Good luck!
Comforters come in all shapes and sizes: it could be a favourite teddy, a blanket or muslin, a soft toy or even a favourite sock or top! Whatever it is, if it helps your baby to sleep, it's probably worth having. Studies have shown that babies with comforters of some sort do sleep better than those that go to bed with nothing. When children have a favourite item or toy, they are more able to self soothe if they do wake up in the night, and this is essential to getting back to sleep on their own.
Parents who rock, cuddle or feed their baby to sleep find in the most part that when they wake in the night, they have to go through the same rigmarole during the night. This is the only way that the baby will go back to sleep. When they have a comforter of some sort, they manage to get to sleep independent of you being there.
For many children a comforter is an effective way of dealing with anxiety or stressful situations. It soothes them and is a comfort. It helps them deal with the situation.
What to choose as a comforter?
You may find that your baby chooses their own comforter independent of your choice. They may always reach for the muslin or ask for a particular teddy. However, if you are trying to decide on something, try to follow these tips...
How to choose a comforter?
1. Choose something that is easily replaceable (ie teddy that is from a high street store or a muslin that is indistinguishable from others.)
2. Choose something specifically designed for babies to use at night time: i.e. not a wooden train or a hard toy that could hurt them.
3. Choose something that is age appropriate i.e. soft toys designed for babies (with no loose eyes or buttons that could come off during the night and present a choking hazard).
4. Choose something that is soft and warm to touch; something that can be stroked or snuggled into.
5. Chose something pale in colour because bright, highly contrasting colours stimulate babies and do not help them sleep.
6. Make sure it's washable!
When should a baby be given a comforter?
You can place a small soft toy in the cot from a very early age. Try holding it close against your skin for a while before bed so it takes on your smell. This can add to the comfort for babies, as well as being able to see it.
Children between 6 months and 2 years will begin to form a real attachment to objects and will be more keen to use a comforter. They can have it at night or when they are somewhere new or in situations when they feel anxious.
By 3 years, they may only need it at night, but be led by them.
By age 5, most children have favourites, but the need to rely on one comforter tends to have passed. Try not to feel pressure from other children or parents to give up the comforter. If it's doing it's job, keeping your little one sleeping through the night or helping them cope with stressful situations, then keep it!