Where has all the time gone? Now you look back you probably feel that the newborn and infant stages went all too quickly. The toddler stage still feels like it went on forever...but suddenly our little babies are children. Now is a good time to look back and reflect on all the time and effort you have put in to raising your little person.
At some point in time over the past few years, it may be difficult to pina juggling act - point exactly when, many Mums may have experienced a shift in responsibilities - spent less time caring for your child and more time caring for your house - which turned you more into a housewife than a mother. Many women are happy to spend their time this way but many others who have experienced that shift become bored and/or restless and/or frustrated and/or depressed. If this is the case for you, now is a good time to think about what you want to do, or to be, as well as being a mother.
As our children get older and more independent, the more we can restore the balance in our lives. Many parents find that their childrens' lives are so full with school or kindergarten activities, sports and/or dancing, birthday parties etc. that there is very little time for anything else. Try to make some time for yourself to exercise, to relax, and to do things that are important to you. Your children would much rather have happy and content parents than a busy social life.
The less guidance and attention your children need, the more you can concentrate on yourself and your partner. Now is a good time to address any issues that have been put aside because you were giving your time and energy to your children. Leaving your children with in-laws or babysitters, you can spend some valuable time just with your partner to re-connect. Also make time to do things you enjoy and make both of these a regular priority.
You have been through a lot of changes together over the last few years, and have probably spent a lot of your time and energy just coping with the challenges of parenthood. Now is a good time to look ahead and make some plans for the next few years. What do you want them to look like? What steps do you have to put in place to get you there? You can get more relationship support in the "Couple Support" section.
The older our children get the more they are exposed to influences outside the home - pre-school friends, teachers at school, neighbourhood peers. Issues that you will probably be confronted with still centre around children's behaviour. Some behaviours may be part of our children's personality, and it doesn't matter how much we try to change them, it is not possible. In fact, we can do damage to our children's self-esteem if we try too hard. The trick is to work out what and how to change the behaviours you can, and how to manage the ones you can't.
The best way to influence our children's behaviour is BY EXAMPLE. Children learn behaviour by modelling their parents. We often don't realise that we have such an influence over our children, or that our parents had such an influence over us until much later in life. Think about how you do things around your house, or the decisions you make - chances are you do things that way simply because that's what your parents did. If we want a considerate, polite child we have to be considerate and polite. We won't necessarily see results the next day - it may take years to realise that we did the right thing - but children are a long-term investment and we need to make deposits every day to get the rewards.
- Make sure your expectations of your children are in line with your child's level of development and your child's personality.
- Try to keep your discipline positive. Focus on what you do want them to do, not on what you don't want them to do. Eg. "I'd like you to pick up your clothes" rather than "don't leave your clothes lying around". Children (and adults) tend to zone out as soon as they hear the words "don't", "you always", "you never" or "you should".
- Be overt in communicating your expectations to your child. You might think your child knows you expect them to keep their rooms tidy, but "tidy" means different things to different people. For example you could say something like: "I want you to make your bed, put the books in the bookcase and put the cars into the yellow box". You could ask your child to repeat your instructions back to you and praise them for remembering what they can, then remind them of any bits they have left out.
- Eradicate criticism from your vocabulary. Not only is criticism NOT an effective disciplinary tool, constant criticism erodes a child's self-esteem. An eroded self-esteem leads to all sorts of problems. If you speak to or treat your child in a way that makes them think you don't value them, they will consider themselves worthless and this can lead to emotional and behavioural problems. For example, saying something like "You're hopeless, you never pick up your clothes. You're such a slob" encourages a child to think of themselves as a hopeless slob, means they will lower their expectations of themselves, and behave accordingly.
- Separate your child's feelings from their behaviour by validating the feeling and disciplining the behaviour. For example, if your older child hits his/her younger sibling say " I can see that you are angry. Its OK to be angry, but it's not OK to hit your sister. Use your words and tell her". You might not get results straight away, but your child's behaviour could be very different in one, two, five, ten or even twenty years from now if they learn very clearly from an early age how to express themselves with words and that VIOLENCE IS NOT OK.
- Your attitude towards your child and your evaluation of them shapes their personality. If you have faith that your child can learn to do things more competently, and communicate this to them, they will develop faith in themselves and a willingness to try. In short, if you love and value your child and communicate this to them they will love and value themselves.
Having a baby is a miracle. Raising a healthy, happy child takes a lot of time and effort. Give yourself and your partner recognition for the parts you have played in this journey that you have taken together. Finally, remember also to love and value each other for what you have done, and continue to do every day: create your own family history.