Tip Tuesday: Resources for Emotional Developtment

Yesterday, someone posted an article to the FB timeline of a friend of mine. It’s called “The Benefits of Helping Preschoolers Understand and Discuss Their Emotions” by Deborah Farmer Kris, and it details some strategies and methods for helping your toddler/preschooler start to gain an important skill: emotional literacy. As the mother of a very…opinionated and emotional 2-year-old girl, I appreciated this article very much. In the article, Ms. Kris cites some things that parents and teachers can do to foster a healthy development of emotional literacy.

1. Name emotions

Elizabeth is still quite young but this is definitely something I as her mother can do and what we have been doing in differing forms since she was an infant. Yesterday, however, I tried to mak a conscious effort to do it, noting when she was mad, frustrated, happy, cranky, etc.

2. Normalize emotions

This is something that will need more work and consistency on my part. It is almost instinctive, when Elizabeth is throwing a tantrum in the middle of Target, for me to tell her that she is being naughty.

This past Saturday, Elizabeth threw an absolute fit in the middle of Target. It was decided that I would take her back to the car and my husband would pay for our items and then join us. So I walked her out to the car, got her strapped into her seat, and calmed down. Then, instead of getting into the front seat, I left the side door of the van open and sat on the floor of the van in the open doorway so I could be close to her. I gave her a sippy to have a drink after all that crying and screaming and loaded her arms with her little blankie friends (her best comfort next to Ma or Da). Then I talked to her. “You were very angry in the store. I know you’re usually very good when we are shopping. Now you look very sad. Are you tired? It’s OK, you can take a nap. I’m right here; you aren’t alone.” And I sat there until Ben came out from the store so we could head home. I always try to talk to Elizabeth about her behavior after the event and (if necessary) consequences, ie time out. I know that she is two, but I also know that my daughter understands everything I say, even if she doesn’t have the ability to parse out the particulars yet.

3. Develop Strategies

In this section, Ms. Kris cites one of my favorite things: Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood, a show built on Fred Rogers’ emotional education curriculum begun with Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood. Elizabeth has been watching Daniel Tiger since she was eight months old; he is a favorite in this house, with his lessons about dealing with emotions and life’s little ups and downs. Of the 40 plus episodes that she has enjoyed, Elizabeth has many of them memorized now and recognizes when we use the little strategies/songs with her. It is not unusual to hear “Grownups come back” sung in our house at someone’s leave-taking, accompanied by “It’s OK to feel sad sometimes. Little by little, you’ll feel better again.” Just yesterday, as Elizabeth let out an angry cry at her Kindle, which wasn’t working (because she had turned off the wifi), I sang her the frustration song, “When you’re feeling frustrated, take a step back and ask for help.” Sure enough, she quieted down, picked up her Kindle, and handed it to me to fix. It may or may not have been her recognizing her emotional state and taking action to relieve her frustration, but I believe that little lessons and strategies like this can be of immense help in developing emotional awareness and literacy.

4. “Read” pictures

As a certified bibliophile, I love looking at books with my daughter and reading to her. One of my favorite books to read with Elizabeth is Caroline Church’s I Love You Through and Through (I seriously want to own all the books this woman has written). It details all the different states of a child in which their parents/grandparents/etc. will still love them: “I love your happy side. I love your sad side. Your silly side, and your mad side.” The pictures show the same child with the differing emotions and actions as depicted in the story and I will point to the pictures and talk about how happy/sad/silly/mad the little boy looks. Elizabeth has this book memorized and will sometimes act it out as I read, which is lots of fun for us both.

5. Practice mindfulness

I enjoy my quiet time. I dearly remember Saturday mornings in a silent house, or sitting on my stoop with a cup of coffee, listening to sounds of the neighborhood on a summer morning. Admittedly, that doesn’t happen quite as much with Elizabeth around, as she is a child of almost constant movement, singing, dancing, playing, tumbling, etc. But I do try to convince her to have “quiet time” with Ma. Yesterday, we took a long walk and she looked and listened to the world around her as we walked (rocks were deeply fascinating, as was the new spring grass). I enjoyed that and plan on repeating it as often as we can.

On the whole, Ms. Kris’s article was a delight and encouragement to read and I am so glad to have had the opportunity to find it. As a fellow educator and mother, I found her words very uplifting and the strategies useful and applicable, even to my rambunctious bundle.

I have followed her on Twitter so that I can continue to keep up with her writings, and you can do the same here.

Tip Tuesday: My Challenge

I know it’s been FOREVER since I did once of these and there is a reason behind that. I’m new at this myself and, half the time, old habits don’t work as well anymore. Elizabeth is growing so quickly and is so smart and rather willful. She is climbing on everything, taking some tumbles, practicing her preferences and manual skills, and, yes, throwing fits when things don’t go her way.

I am working on keeping my cool as best I can to deal with her. She scares me, she surprises me, she angers me, but I know that I need to make sure to be calm to deal with her. Me losing it will not help her. So that is my current challenge, doing like the song says in Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood (her favorite cartoon):

“When you feel so mad that you wanna roar, take a deep breath and count to four. 1 – 2 – 3 – 4.”

Tip Tuesday: Baby See, Baby Do

I have begun brushing my teeth after meals in front of Bizzy, giving her her toothbrush to hold/chew/suck on, what have you, after I have already brushed her teeth. I will sit kneel there with her and brush my teeth while she has her toothbrush in her mouth, hopefully giving her an idea of what is to be done with it. Here’s hoping it helps. 🙂

Tip Tuesday: Let Baby Do It Themselves

If you have a toddler, you’re probably noticing more of a desire to “do it myself”, even if they can’t say it yet. Elizabeth is very much in this phase so something we have begun allowing her to do is walk herself to bed. Normally, Daddy would carry her around the house to check the doors and turn out the lights before her bedtime. This past week, we started opening the gate in the living room and allowing her to dictate where they went before bed, and she started heading right for the bedrooms. She is super excited to grab her blanket from the arm of the rocking chair in her room and then walk around for me to pick her up and get her ready for her bottle and bedtime song/rocking.

It’s something that she can do herself and give her a measured sense of independence and being a “big girl”.

Tip Tuesday: Letting Baby Decide

Like all mommies, I worry. I worry about Elizabeth when she loses her balance and takes a tumble in her traversing of the living room or in the course of playing with her toys. Of course, when baby takes a tumble, our motherly instinct is to gather them up, inspect for any boo-boo’s, and cuddle them. I am working hard on letting Elizabeth decide if she is hurt or not. When she falls, 8 times out of 10, she looks to ME for MY reaction so she then knows how to react. She waits for me to gasp so she can cry or smile so she can get up and go about her business. So I do my best, unless she is obviously hurt and start crying immediately, to keep my seat wherever I am, ask her if she’s OK, and let her make her own decision.

I believe that it gives her a sense of power over her own emotions and is an early help to her in her independence, not to always be conditioned in her response by her mother’s reaction. So, as much as you can bear, let your little one make their own decision as they become more mobile and more adventurous. They still know that you’re always there for them; you are watching them, after all, Mom. 🙂

Tip Tuesday: The Distraction

My girl HATES any interruption to playtime if it’s not nap or bottle time. So that means that every diaper or clothing change can the potential to be a power struggle. That’s when you employ the distraction. I always make sure to have something on hand to distract Elizabeth or at least buy me a few minutes. So whether it’s a toy, a lotion bottle, or her powder bottle (closed and wiped off when I’m done with it), putting something in her hands for her to investigate enables me to move quickly without a little body twisting or legs kicking at me. Which is really nice, because this girl is incredibly strong for her size and those kicks hurt.

So if you have a kiddo like mine who doesn’t appreciate diaper or clothes changes, try employing the Distraction. 🙂

Mommy-Tip Tuesday

So I will try to do the following as on as regular a schedule as possible:

Moment Monday

Tip Tuesday

Whiny Wednesday

Thoughtful Thursday

Photography Friday

= = = =

So, my tip for today. If your little one is a chewer, like mine, and likes paper, like mine, and you have your DVD collection out in the open, you may want to remove the paper covers if you can. They make enticing and tasty treats for little biters who want to try out their chompers.

Elizabeth has chewed on index cards, tour guids, DVD covers, her board books, pop up books (I had to pry Hansel’s head out of her mouth), etc., so I have to constantly keep a wary eye out. I keep telling her that, if she keeps it up, she’s going to poop out a book one of these days.

What Should be in Every Pack-and-Play (or Crib)

Pack and Play 2

My pack-and-play, complete with baby. ^_^

As I have developed a routine with my little one, I found that there things that every mom should to keep in the pack-and-play (or crib) that help to make life a little bit easier (or the process a little quicker).

1. Extra pacifier(s). Just in case your angelic little one decided it would be funny to ptooey that nuk onto the floor, it’s always good to have an extra ready to go. I always keep an extra pacifier in a cover in the pack-and-play, as well as a few in a Ziploc bag in the fridge.

2. A lesser-used bathroom hand towel. This is helpful in situations of  diaper bombs. Spread it down in the pack-and-play to lay your little stinker on while you change them. While most pack-and-play mattresses are waterproof, an extra layer of protection never hurt anyone.

3. A change of clothes. Let’s not deny it, there are accidents, sometimes almost as soon as an outfit has been put on. Keeping an extra set of clothing handy can make changes quick and relatively painless.

4. Blanket for nap time. I am a mommy who wants their little one to be warm, especially since my pack and play is near a window. So I always keep an extra blanket or two hanging on the side of the pack and play for when Elizabeth falls asleep. Then I can just drape the blanket over her waist and feet lightly, keeping it away from her face, of course.

5. Burp cloth. For wiping that precious little smiling mouth that can drool and spit up at a moment’s notice.

6. Extra bib. Bibs can get messy very quickly, so having an extra nearby can ensure that feeding time can happen speedily, with as few delays as possible, which, sometimes, can make the difference between opinionated and shrieking.

7. Reusable container for wipes. It’s so much easier to deal with than the use-until-empty-and-throw-away wipes containers. Just refill it and keep it in the pack-and-play, or in the shelving beneath if you have it. It cuts down on waste and is wonderfully economical, especially since you can often get coupons for the large packs of wipes refills.

8. Toys. My Elizabeth tends to favor having her head turned to her left so, in order to facilitate head turning to (and sleeping on) her right more often, I rearranged the toys in her pack and play to be on her right-hand side so she has to turn her head that way to look at and reach for them. Note that the larger stuffed animals are within her sight range but NOT her reach. I keep a close eye on her when she’s in her pack and play, obviously.

Just a few tips that will hopefully help keep things flowing in your routine. ^_^ Speaking of which, diaper bomb alert! And off I go!

How I Am Surviving New Motherhood

Over the past months, since my mother left and I’ve been on my own with Elizabeth during the day, I’ve developed some methods of my own to deal with surviving with an infant, particularly, my infant. I’m not saying that this is the right way to do it, not by a long shot, but it works for me.

1. Washing bottles as I use them. I have begun washing Elizabeth’s bottles right after I feed her or as soon after as possible. Before, they’d accumulate in the sink and on the counter and it would take me 45 minutes to an hour to get them all washed and then I’d boil them to make sure that I had cleaned out all the old formula and whatnot. Now, washing them immediately (as our sink runs water hot enough to blister you), I constantly have two or three clean bottles waiting by her formula canister  ready to go, and I don’t have a huge amount of washing to do. It saves a LOT of time.

2. Mobiles.  I had originally not purchased a mobile for Elizabeth’s crib because I found the one that went with her bedding set to be boring. The one for her pack-and-play also bored me to tears. My mother, however, found the Tiny Love mobiles, a large one for her crib (that will convert into a music box when she gets older) and another, portable one for her pack-and-play. Both of these have brightly colored characters that are visible from below (and not just the side) and they play a wide range of music. Her pack-and-play mobile plays three classical pieces and one world music piece (if you’ve ever heard Jose Jalapeno sing “Aye Yi Yi Yi”, that’s the tune). It will automatically shut itself off after 30 minutes so, when she falls asleep to it, I don’t have to worry about shutting it off and waking her. Her crib mobile plays lullabies, nursery rhymes, classical music, world music, nature sounds, and white noise (water, heartbeats, etc.). Last night, to my husband’s joy, Elizabeth fell asleep to “Claire de Lune”, his favorite classical piece. It was nice to see something so simple make him so happy.

3. Pacifiers. I know some mothers cry out against them but I am happy to use Bizzy’s paci’s. She has enough of them after all. Now, she doesn’t need them all the time nor does she want them all of the time. Sometimes, she will spit them right out and be perfectly content without them. However, they are great for relaxing her and keeping her calm (they are called pacifiers) in her car seat or getting her to slow down when it’s bed or nap time. She has always sucked on her fingers and is in the process of discovering her thumbs but the paci is always a good standby.

4. Blanket on Boppy. I have begun laying a receiving blanket over Elizabeth’s Boppy lounger before I lay her in it. This helps in case her diaper leaks (which it does occasionally). That way I can lift her up to change her, whip the blanket off, and her Boppy is still clean. Then I just lay another blanket down on it for when she’s clean and ready to lie in it again.

Reminders and Tips for New Moms From a New Mom

In the Hospital:

Sleep when you can — If your labor allows you any reprieve, try to catch some sleep. This will be easier if you have an epidural, I won’t lie. The family will understand.

Let the nurses help you — If the nurses offer (or even if they don’t) to take your baby for a while so you can sleep, accept (or ask them to). They are there to help, that is the point.

Brush your teeth every day — Trust me, it will help you feel more human. Even if your SO has to bring you water in a cup to do so, if you’re not up to moving around just yet. It’ll make you feel better. I wish I had.

 

At Home:

Don’t forget to eat — With my c-section, my appetite disappeared after I left the hospital. I had to be reminded, poked, prodded, and forced to eat. Food may send your brain and your stomach into a tailspin but you need to eat, you need the strength to care for your new little one. Take care of yourself so you can take care of them.

Don’t forget to use the bathroom — You will be shocked at how much (and how long) a post-pregnancy bladder can hold. But don’t forget to use the bathroom. It’s kind of important but easy to forget in the rush and madness of this new life that you’re embarking on.

Ask for and accept help when you need it — And you will need it. Don’t be afraid to ask your SO, your family, and any other support people you have in your life for help. Even if you just need someone to watch baby for an hour or two so you can get some sleep. You ARE NOT being lazy. You ARE NOT being a bad mother, even though it may feel like all of these things. You are healing, you are overwhelmed, you are tired, and you are trying to take care of yourself so that you can take care of your little forever. People have been offering you help for months; it’s time to take them up on their offer and allow them to do what is, perhaps, all they can do for you: be there.

Trial and error — I’m constantly being reminded of and learning this. Babies cannot tell us exactly what they need so, sometimes, it’s going to be trial and error. If they’ve had a bottle and their diaper is dry, you’ll have to try different things. Do they want to be swaddled, cuddled, laid down and left alone, leaned up on your shoulder, burped, patted, sung to, rocked, etc.? Keep trying until you find what works. And if you’re worn through, hand them off to your SO or family member so that they may try with a fresh pair of arms and eyes.

 

**I’m sure I have more of these but, right now, this is what was foremost in my mind. I’ll surely be adding to this as life goes on.**