Frequently Asked Questions
3rd Principle: Respond with Sensitivity
- I became pregnant shortly after my daughter weaned. She was two years old, and I am afraid that she will want to nurse again. What can I do to help her understand that she won't be able to, as I don't wish to nurse both children?
- What does API think of families using "lovies"?
- Our son frequently hits other children. We have tried to teach him to use "gentle touches" and to share, but he continues to hit. Should we hit him back?
- How can a parent respond sensitively to a teenager?
I became pregnant shortly after my daughter weaned. She was two years old, and I am afraid that she will want to nurse again. What can I do to help her understand that she won't be able to, as I don't wish to nurse both children?
Before the baby is born, make it a priority to give your daughter as much focused attention as possible so your relationship is strengthened and fortified. Help her feel like an active participant in your pregnancy. Remind her of how you felt when she was growing inside of you, how much you loved her, and how excited you were about her birth. Talk about all the sweet memories after her birth while looking at pictures. Encourage your daughter to talk to her soon-to-be-born sibling to help her begin to feel attached to her or him. Talk about the ways that she can help you and her little sister or brother after the baby arrives. This will help strengthen your relationship and will remind her that you enjoyed this special time with her as an infant as well.
After the baby is born, be aware of her feelings and needs. If she asks to nurse, that may simply be her way of communicating that she needs to feel more connected to you or that she is hungry. She may also simply be curious about what the baby is doing or what your breasts offer the baby. If she asks to nurse while you are tending to the baby, ask her to help you in some way. Perhaps she could get you a blanket, diaper, or receiving blanket. Be sure to place these items where she can easily get them for you. If you are nursing, ask her to bring her favorite book and sit with you so that you can read to her. You could also tell her what the baby is doing and explain how the baby receives nourishment through nursing so that she understands why the baby nurses so frequently. Your partner can also bond with her by engaging her in special activities.
Filling your daughter's cup may keep her from focusing on the fact that the baby bonds with you through nursing and will continue to remind her that she enjoys a special relationship with you through other means. As a family, stay responsive, flexible, and creative in your efforts to help her feel included. Your concern and conscious awareness of your daughter's needs and feelings will help her lovingly transition to her new role as a big sister.
Certainly we need to stress that a parent or other attached caregiver would be the best "lovie" a child could have. There is no substitute for the warm, loving arms of a caregiver and the security that they provide for the child. However, we realize that sometimes a lovie (such as a stuffed animal or blanket) can be an appropriate tool, and as long as it is not overused, it can be comforting to some children. Some high-needs children require almost constant contact with a parent or caregiver. Sometimes this level of contact is not possible, especially in a household with multiple children. For instance, if you need to lay the baby down to take a nap, but the baby wants you to lie with him or her and you are not able to, a lovie might be an acceptable fill-in. If the lovie carries the scent of the primary caregiver (usually mom), it can be that much more soothing to the child. Additionally, for a child who is in a daycare, a lovie can be a comfort from home.
Introducing a lovie to a young infant could be as simple as tucking it into the sling with her while you carry her, or tucking it in with her as she sleeps contentedly in bed (with or without you). This should set up the lovie/sleep association. For an older toddler, introducing a lovie could be a bit more challenging since he will be more resistant to the caregiver substitute. Showing interest in it yourself may be enough to spark some curiosity for your child. Some children might enjoy being surprised with one, while others may prefer going to pick one out.
The most important thing to keep in mind is that the lovie should be associated with positivity to the child. Putting a child in a room to cry it out with a lovie sets up a negative association and is unfair to the child. Try to be understanding in the process of introducing a lovie, and realize that it may take time and gentle persistence for your child to accept one.
First, understand that it is completely normal and developmentally appropriate for a two-year-old to hit. Your son isn't old enough to really understand "sharing" and, even though he can talk, he likely doesn't yet have the developmental capability to put his feelings into words.
Of course, this doesn't mean that you let him hit other kids. By remaining close by and engaged in his play, you will often be able to intervene before your son lashes out at another child. In the event that he does hit another child, you can model empathy and issue an apology to set the example for him. You can help your son put his feelings into words and continue to work with him on sharing (or "taking turns," which is sometimes an easier concept to understand). By staying calm and comforting his distress, you help regulate his emotions and model empathetic behavior.
Hitting your son would teach him to fear you rather than trust you and would model that violence is an acceptable way to change someone else's behavior. Hitting will anger and humiliate him, but it won't be effective at teaching him to regulate his emotions or to control his impulses.
It can be very frustrating and even embarrassing when your child hits other children, but by modeling appropriate behavior yourself, other parents will understand and appreciate how you go about it. With your calm help and loving guidance combined with time for his natural cognitive development, your son will eventually learn to share. For now, prevention and compassion are your best tools.
Most teenagers display a lot of "normal" transitioning behavior. Some call it "the process of individuation." The main issue with being a mother of a teenager is to realize that we have moved from a manager's role to a consultant's role. The greatest influence we have is helping our teens trust us, and our judgments, and encouraging them to come to us for advice.
Many parents have found that making time to do things together regularly creates an environment for communication. It's also important to not take things personally. If, during this period of individuation, your children need space, it's fine. If they are angry, down, or any other place in between, it's probably not because of anything you have or have not done and is rather due to their emotional development.
Reminding your teenager that you are there for him if and when he would like to chat with you is sometimes all he needs to hear. He may open up to you immediately, or it may take some time. Remember that when he does come to you, he does so with the hopes that you will be open to hearing what he has to say, that you will reserve your immediate judgments, and that you will simply be a safe person to discuss whatever's on his mind. You have worked hard to raise him with that idea in mind, and he looks to you to continue to maintain that level of empathy and compassion.
There are some wonderful books for parents of teens. One we particularly like is Uncommon Sense for Parents with Teenagers by Michael Riera.