As They Grow

As beautiful and exciting as new babies can be, the job of being a new parent can also be overwhelming and unrelenting. These little humans rely on their parents and caregivers for everything. In talking to many parents over the past year I have been struck by how they push themselves to be the absolute best parent that they can be. Here is the good news……It is okay to be just good enough; loving, responsive, authentic and present, most of the time. Babies and toddlers are resilient and the power of connection with their caregivers will see them through stressful times. Perfection is not required and in fact, not recommended. Infants and toddlers are incredibly in tune with their caregivers’ emotions and need these feelings demonstrated and identified for them in real ways. They need to watch and learn the full range of emotions and they do this by seeing their parents’ cope with daily activities with open, honest feelings and responses.

We are all flawed; stressed, short-tempered, tearful, desperate, especially when sleep deprived. Sleep deprivation is one of the most overlooked contributors to parent mental health. It makes sense that we will have many moments of imperfection when we are up in the night many times with our little ones and desperately trying to meet their needs throughout the day. When we respond to our infants and toddlers with less joy and enthusiasm than we would want, we can be excruciatingly hard on ourselves. But remember, take breaks, breathe, stretch, offer some self-compassion, and return to your child, not only more in control but with a gentleness that they will sense. This connection will build an even stronger attachment between you.

Think about what you would say to a friend who was feeling stressed. “You are doing the best you can.” “You are with her when she needs you.” “You understand his cues.” “This phase will pass.” “I am here for you… You are loved and you matter”. Practicing self-compassion helps us repair our relationships with our babies when stress gets too high. We can model for them what they can do later in life to self-soothe and regulate their emotions. Self-compassion and reconnection help our young children know that they can fail safely and we can always make it better together. It allows us to show our children that we matter, that they matter and that overall, people are loved and valued regardless of their feelings. SO enjoy the highs, lean into the lows, be gentle with yourself and connect with your baby as much as possible. AND when in doubt, connect with others and ask for help. We are here and we are in this together.

Dana Libby, Child and Family Therapist, Early Years Team Vanier Children’s Services For the Middlesex-London Community Early Years Partnership

 

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