Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Developing Stress Response in Infants

Who wants to see their child distressed?  No one does.  But isn't it inevitable and normal for all children to go through stress in life?  One way we can help develop a healthy stress response is to gradually give them space to safely explore their environment.
"Healthy stress regulation systems prepare children to meet a range of challenging and stressful events without becoming overwhelmed. Over a lifetime, emotionally healthy individuals draw on this internalized system to tolerate both normal daily stress and larger, more catastrophic stress. The ability to moderate stress to tolerable levels is key to emotional health and resiliency. The absence of healthy stress regulation results in individuals who are easily overwhelmed or who respond in maladaptive ways."  (by Heidi Holman)  
Loving your children and creating a secure attachment and bond is so important.  This will effect all the emotional relationships they make in life.  We should seek to make sure our children are well loved and cared for.  Holding, rocking, hugging, giving eye contact and give them the physical attention and fulfilling their emotional needs.  Could this be overdone to the child's detriment?  An interesting TV documentary, "Hyper Parents and Coddled Kids."addressed some of the issues of this parenting style.  This has been a highly controversial issue lately, I believe this type of parenting starts in infancy.  I think hovering or "helicopter parenting" is tough because parents are truly doing so much for their children but this is showing it's a little too much.
As you let your mobile infant move away from you, and try to figure out things on their own, their stress response is being developed.  If they are so dependent on mom or dad because they are always hovering over them, telling them what and what not to do, it may be more difficult for them to adjust when they are left with babysitters, nursery, or preschool.  If they are use being able to play without mom or dad right there they are more likely to be more comfortable in a new environment.  I have always been curious why some babies/toddlers are just fine going to a babysitter and other children scream and cry into hysterics no matter what the sitter does.  These are children who are well loved at home.  I took a class recently about child development and they mentioned that many children who get really upset when mom and dad drops them off to day care or to school have not developed a healthy stress response because parents have not given them the opportunity or space to do so.
I remember that most of my babies went through a stage where they would cry as soon as I walked out of the room and then when I would reappear they would stop crying.  This is a normal stage of development and we can help them through this by playing peek a boo games, and giving them a more contained area to play in. When they are very small, the safe contained space may be a playpen.  A playpen is a perfect place for them to be where you know they are safe and can play independently and explore without you.  Start with a few minutes a day if baby is not happy with this.  Gradually add minutes where they have some independent play time.  I incorporated "playpen" time in baby's routine once or twice a day.  I found it was a great time when I need some personal bathroom time or a much needed shower.  When they get older you may want to expand the area to a toy room or their own bedroom.  Even though it's so important for children to be able to explore safely in their environment on their own, we need not forget that we are their best playmate, let them lead out and then give them space when it's time to grow.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Developmental Concerns-Who can Help?

If you have any concerns about the development of you child in a certain area, it is so important to get it checked out early.  Early Intervention has shown to help so many children.  The earlier you recognize a developmental delay in your child the more you can do to help them reach their full potential.  Watch for signs as they play, learn, speech, and act.
There are many places to turn.  Here is some that I have found helpful, and please if you know of others, please share.
1.  I would start with your family physician or pediatrician.  Tell your doctor your concerns and see if they see the same thing and have suggestions or local places you can get help.  If they tell you to not worry, they will grow out of it, it may be true but if you are still concerned I would get a second opinion.  Mothers are with their child the most in a day and know what makes your child tick.  If your gut tells you there is a problem, find someone who can help.
2.  Up to 3 Early Intervention-This center is based at Utah State University but is only one of fifteen early intervention programs in Utah.  They offer families many services including, a full assessment of your child's health and developmental status, then they offer many classes, therapies, and strategies based on your child's needs.
3.  For Children over three years old go to your local public school.  Every school is different in what they do for preschool children who need extra services before kindergarten.  For example in the Logan School District they have a preschool devoted to children with developmental or speech delays.  They continually are testing and admitting students all through the year if they qualify.  The school is Riverside Preschool.  Cache County School district does it within the elementary schools.  Making a few phone calls to the local schools and the school district you could find what services and testing is offered in your area.

4.  Check out the CDC webpage.  It has so many resources and information at your fingertips for parents about developmental milestones and warning signs you should watch for.  This may answer many questions right at home.

5.  Head Start serves children 0-5 years old of low income families.  Eligibility is based on income level.  They even have a home visit program used to help pregnant women educate and then later bond with their baby.

I've been doing a preschool this year in my home and I've seen a few children who have shown signs that they need a little extra help. It's hard to tell a parent concerns but on the other hand it's doing the child a disservice if you choose to ignore signs.  You may have a child in your daycare or preschool, a neighbor, niece/nephew, or grandchild who you can see may have some developmental delays.  This is so hard because we are worried about offending someone.  But think about if no one ever says anything until they are a really problem in school, it's so much harder to address these issues.  Much care and tact should be used in approaching the parents, but if you do it with a pure love and concern for the child, it could really help the child and their family.  I feel strongly that if we address speech/language, physical motor skills, emotional, behavioral, or cognitive developmental delays early, the better chance the child has to be successful in life.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Doctor Shots

Today was not a fun day at the doctor's office.  First we waited an hour to be seen (so the girls were pretty tired), then each of my girls got shots.  Peanut got 4 shots and Pumpkin had 5.  It's a hard thing for me to see them cry especially when it's inflicted.  I prepared them by talking about what was going to happen and what it might feel like.  Peanut is still sore in both legs tonight.  I was grateful for a tip I learned last week and I think it helped.
A study was done with children and babies who were given shots in a doctor's office.  One group of the children were sitting on the table with their parents on the side and the other group of patients were being held by their parents.  The children who were being held by the parents cried just as long but their levels of cortisol were significantly lower. Cortisol is the stress hormone in our body.  I believe this indicates that children being held by their parents have a less stressful experience.  It made sense to me so we tried it.  I just sat up on the patients table and held them on my lap.  I held their arms in a hug and my legs helped keep their legs still.  It went pretty slick and we didn't have any kicking or screaming just the normal shock of "Owwie, that hurt and I can't believe you just poked me cry."  So next time your kids have shots you may want to try it.  If anything I felt like I was more part of the process and was helping, rather then just being a bystander watching.  

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Utah Upstart-At Home Preschool Program

My daughter was chosen to participate in this years Utah Upstart, At Home Preschool Program.  We have been using the software for about 3 weeks.  She absolutely loves it and is learning so much.  I think this program is amazing.  She is learning her ABC, pre-reading skills, how to spell her name, numbers, and science.  I would highly recommend anyone to it.  The program is designed to track the progress of the child and give specific activities that the child needs to learn all the letters and other kindergarten readiness skills.   The great thing is it's funded by grants so it cost nothing to participate.  Also there are some who were selected to participate who didn't have a computer who will get a computer to use while in the program.  It is hard to get in the program because the demand is high and the funds can't compete.  But it would be worth it to try so follow this link to pre-register.  Have you heard of this program before, or has any of your children used the program before?  What did you think?