Parenting our Newborn Children

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In addition to our babies needs to be physically cared for, our babies need to be loved and cherished. To love and to cherish is to value, respect, nurture and support unconditionally the healthy growth and development of our children. This is the very cornerstone of the relationship between parents and children, and its something that we build on throughout our lives together. Our task as parents, even in these very early months, is to begin to learn about the unique needs of our baby


<ul><li><p></p><p>Parenting our Newborn Children From Birth to 18-24 MonthsDr. Karen Davies</p><p>Our babies are born, and from that first moment of life outside the womb, the very firststep has been taken toward the development of a unique, separate human being, withall of his or her unique attributes, needs, wishes, interests, ideas, capabilities, andexperiences. Of course, this is a process that takes many years, and all along the way,we parents have endless opportunities to participate in this quite amazing process. Whata gift it is to be a parent!In truth, we may not feel that it is such a wonderful gift at every single moment! Our newbabies have many needs, and in these early months, it is our job to meet these needs aswell as we can. Our new babies need to be held, fed, bathed, and changed, at veryfrequent intervals it seems, and just as often in the middle of the night as in the middle ofthe day!In addition to our babies needs to be physically cared for, our babies need to be lovedand cherished. To love and to cherish is to value, respect, nurture and supportunconditionally the healthy growth and development of our children. This is the verycornerstone of the relationship between parents and children, and its something that webuild on throughout our lives together.In the first few months, our babies have no ability to discriminate needs from wishes.That is, they simply experience a state of needing some kind of care and comfort, andthey literally cry out for it. Some babies are louder than others, some are more persistentthan others, but they all try in some way to bring a caring adult into their company tomake them feel better.Some babies sleep a lot, some sleep very little. Some babies need lots and lots ofphysical contact, others need less. Many babies need feeding very often in the first fewmonths as their stomachs are so tiny that they can only manage very small quantities offood at each feeding time. Some babies need lots of stimulation in the form of peopleand things to hear, see, and touch, while others need less.Our task as parents, even in these very early months, is to begin to learn about theunique needs of our baby. Who is this tiny little creature, and what makes him or herspecial and unique? As we begin the task of parenting our babies, we become studentsof our childrens development. In our efforts to learn about our children, we convey afundamental respect for them as little human beings in their own right, with a developingset of their own likes and dislikes that are not necessarily the same as ours. The olderour children get, the more aware we will become of the dissimilarities between some oftheir interests and preferences, and our own (just ask any parent of an adolescent!).Over the longer term, the better we come to know and understand the individualuniqueness of each of our children, the better are our chances of supporting andencouraging them to be all of what they might be, and to feel happy and satisfied withmost of the choices they make throughout their lives. Perhaps this is the greatest gift ofall that we as parents can give to our children.</p></li><li><p></p><p>For many of us, it is quite easy to recount at some later point in time certain uniquecharacteristics or behaviours that we noticed in our child almost from the day he or shewas born. Different levels of activity in responding to the environment can be seen rightfrom birth: some babies are more content to quietly watch the world go by around them,while others are constantly trying to actively engage with the world from very early on.Also in these early days, we see different levels of reactivity to change: some babiesconstantly seek out new sights, sound and touch, while others react with varyingdegrees of distress at even the smallest of changes.Somewhere in the first 4-6 months, and every baby is different in some way, together,we and our babies discover that we establish some kind of pattern or routine to theirsleep, eat, and play schedules. While trying to meet the many needs of our new babies,even from the beginning, we have to find a way to fit their needs in with some of ourown. We too must eat, sleep (do brand new parents ever get enough sleep?), work, takecare of our homes and other children, and play (or relax!), although in the very earliestmonths it can seem quite a challenge, if not impossible, to fit everything in.Usually by around 6 months of age, things settle down somewhat, but our babiescontinue to be completely dependent on us to provide for all aspects of their physicaland emotional care. Our babies grow increasingly interactive with us and the worldaround them. They still do not have any understanding of the difference between aneed and a want -- everything is still experienced as a need although clearly we cansee them learning and responding to different behaviours of ours.We also come to learn what our babies like and dont like, and ideally, we are able toplay with them and tend to their needs in ways that mostly bring them comfort andenjoyment. Again, we see individual differences very early: some babies like to sleep ontheir sides, some on their stomachs; some babies like to be carried facing into ourshoulders, others prefer to be held more in a rocking position; some like the motions of ababy swing, others prefer more stationary positions; and I could go on and on.Throughout the first year, we learn vast amounts about who our children are. Inrecognizing and respecting the uniqueness of each of our children, and responding tothis as best we can, we convey to our children that they are important and valued littlepeople. By taking pleasure in each of their accomplishments along the way, we conveyto them that they are capable. By doing our best to respond to their physical andemotional states and needs, we provide them with a sense of security and certaintyabout their lovability and their importance in our lives.In the latter part of the first year and throughout the second year of their lives, we watchwith amazement, the incredibly fast pace of development as our children become moreand more mobile, and more and more vocal. Now, we must be ever watchful to ensurethat they can explore the world safely. We establish rules and boundaries about wherethey may safely go, and what they may safely do. We also begin to teach our childrenthe meaning of yes and no. As developing little people, they dont just automaticallyknow what is OK and what is not OK.Throughout the years of our parenting, we are both students and teachers of ourchildrens development. In these early years, our children rely on us completely toprovide them with a sense of physical and emotional safety. While we encourage our</p></li><li><p></p><p>children to explore and experience their world, and express their own emerging thoughtsand feelings about it, we must also provide them with limits that ensure that they are notoverwhelmed by physical dangers or excessive emotional intensity.We have all seen two year olds completely beside themselves in a fit of rage orapparent desperation. It is, at times, not possible for little children to manage theintensity of their feelings. If they are tired, and/or hungry, it becomes an even moreimpossible task! At these moments, children must depend on their parents or caregiversto provide them with comfort and soothing and emotional control.Quiet words, a gentle touch, reassurance that the adult will take care of things: all ofthese will help to settle an upset child. Sometimes simply removing a child from a difficultsituation is enough to calm things down. Sometimes it is helpful to give a child a littlequiet time to him or herself. Again, as students of our own childrens development, wecan learn through experience what works best for which of our children, as each isdifferent from the other.It is important to understand that little children are not trying to be emotionally out ofcontrol. They truly cannot help it. Managing emotional reactions is something that we alllearn throughout the course of growing up. We have to allow our little children time andexperience to learn about their own feelings and reactions. If we react with emotionalintensity (angry, impatient or critical), it is like throwing a lit match into the gasoline!The situation becomes far more difficult to settle down, and children perceive that thereis something fundamentally wrong about them that has triggered such an intensereaction in their parent.As we teach our children about the world of feelings, and how to experience and expressthem safely, it is also essentially important that we provide validation and confirmationof the feelings that they do have. Learning to recognize and trust our own feelings has itsvery roots in these early childhood experiences with our parents. If we can come torecognize and trust our own feelings, we can listen to them and use them as guidepostsin making important decisions that shape our lives as we grow up.</p></li></ul>