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Why does self care HELP your toddler?

When little people are overwhelmed by big emotions, they need for us to share our calm, not join their chaos.”~ L.R Knost

This is one of our favourite quotes and it is often used in our consultations. It can be really difficult when you’re tired, frustrated, have an endless list of things you need to do, and your child just WONT cooperate.

Your child is not out to wind you up intentionally (despite the way it might feel sometimes!) – they aren’t born with the ability to regulate or manage their emotions.  Right from birth, we are our children’s first teachers. Their emotions will mirror ours; so if you are feeling anxious, stressed, overwhelmed, exhausted, frustrated or another myriad of emotions, those are the feelings your child is taking on as well. 

Have you ever noticed that if you are in a good place emotionally that your child also seems to have less meltdowns or challenges? But when things start getting tough that’s when your child’s behaviour deteriorates as well which increases your stress level?

This is why self-care is so important.

If you aren’t able to take care of your own physical and emotional needs, then you aren’t equipped to take care of your child’s. Self-care is the least selfish thing that you can do. It will make you a better parent, partner, friend, son or daughter, aunt or uncle. Your child deserves to have you at your best, so make the time to get yourself there. 

We find the majority of parents are terrible for actually following through with self-care because they always put others first. Find someone to help keep you accountable! Whether its your partner, a friend, your mum, anyone who can check in on you to make sure you are taking time for yourself. There is no right or wrong way to engage in self-care – many people assume that you should be doing some sort of exercise or personal development (and if that’s something you like to do then yes!) but taking time out for self-care means doing something for yourself that you previously really enjoyed and makes you FEEL good and rejuvenated. 

I am someone who tends to be paralyzed into inaction by having to come up with things to do for myself. To help others who may fall into that category, here is a list of ideas that may or may not interest you:

  • Nap

  • Read a book

  • Have a cup of tea and stare out of the window

  • Go for a walk / run

  • Take a zumba class (if nothing else, you will get a good sweat on and learn to laugh at yourself!)

  • As a friend to meet you for coffee

  • Take a bath

  • Yoga class

  • Explore essential oils and make yourself a roller for stressful times

  • Make jewellery (youtube has lots of videos and you can get supplies off etsy and amazon)

  • Make bath bombs (amazon has 

  • Organize (This might sound strange, but if it makes you feel good then go with it! I get a lot of pleasure out of organizing and having things sorted into containers etc. When I feel anxious, I organize.)

  • Knitting (Again, youtube has tons of videos, your local yarn store would help you get started and often have knitting groups once a week) 

  • Go to the gym

  • Go to bed early

  • Cook or bake 

I could go on for ages, so if none of these appeal to you keep on digging! You are sure to find something soon enough.

So you have someone to keep you accountable, you have an activity that you are planning on doing (napping count’s as an activity) what is going to make it happen? The number one reason I hear for why self-care didn’t happen is because they didn’t have childcare or something happened and you didn’t get the time. So here is another list of strategies for making sure you are taking time to be the best version of you: 

  • Make a plan and schedule it into your calendar 

  • Make sure you have someone to take over your childcare responsibilities 

    • Self-care isn’t as restorative if you have to be “on” in case your child wakes up, etc.

    • Ask Grandma to come over during nap time

    • Put it in your partners schedule that they are on bedtime duty

    • Hire a babysitter to come over

      • If funds are tight and you are planning on being in the home, ask a teenage neighbour to come round and play with your toddler while you take time for yourself

    • Do a childcare switch with a friend – look after her tot while she takes care of herself and vice versa (this also works well for date nights!)

What are some of your favourite self-care activities? Comment below to help a fellow parent out! 

XO

Amy

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Handling Big Emotions

Children are emotional beings.

They feel so passionately and so strongly but they haven’t yet developed the ability to self-regulate. These emotions can often engulf children in a wave of sensations and they temporarily lose all control. Most children go through phases where they are constantly “melting down” over one thing or another but often as language develops, they become a bit older, or their ability to self regulate and handle challenging situations becomes more refined these emotions tend to reduce. There are some children however, who continue to struggle with how to handle these big emotions and as a result their parents become lost, frustrated and confused as to how to help their children.

It is easy for parents to become frustrated with their children – “I’ve told them over and over that we don’t _____!” insert whatever behaviour your child typically resorts to hitting, biting, pushing, hair pulling, screaming, throwing, etc. Or “No matter what I do or say, I’m in for a fight or tantrum.” Does any of this sound familiar?

Children are not good or bad. They don’t enjoy losing control, and they don’t mean to hurt people. But when these trying times do happen, they need us to help them deal with those emotions BEFORE the incident, DURING the incident, and AFTERWARDS. How we respond to young children and their emotions can impact their lives for years. It is so important to address these challenges with compassion, understanding and keep any judgements out of the conversation.

When children are at the peak of feeling – emotions are heightened, they may be crying, screaming, very angry, or appear out of control – they are unable to process any information. When you see your child in this phase your only goal is to help them calm down. This might mean giving them space while keeping them safe and any other children around them. It could also look like giving them a big hug – the deep pressure of a hug can help relax their body and calm them down. It might even be as simple as providing them with a comfort item and saying, “I’m here when you’re ready.”

Once they have calmed down, that is your teachable moment.

You can talk through the event, the emotions and the actions that took place and address any safety concerns that occurred. If someone was hurt in the process it is important to follow up with that person and ask if they are ok and if the child can do anything to help them feel better. This can be a hug (if the child is open to offering / providing one, but is not necessary), a cold cloth, an ice pack, getting a comfort item for the hurt person, etc.

Challenging behaviours can be overwhelming and distressing for parents to deal with. We have many years of experience supporting children with challenging behaviours and extra support needs. We would love to support you through this difficult time.

We came across a post by Childhood101 about how to manage big emotions. We think it’s an excellent read and a great place to start. We would love to hear your feedback!

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Toddlers and the Power of Choice

Children NEED limits in order to feel safe; when they act out through attention seeking or challenging behaviour this is often a result of craving the boundaries and leadership needed to feel secure. 

A child’s job is to consistently test or push the boundaries to check to see which ones are rock solid (generally safety based – holding hands in a parking lot, keeping hands off the stove) and which ones are written in the sand (ex. we wear shoes outside but they can decide on what pair). Without boundaries children will take on too much of the parenting role and this causes them to become overwhelmed; this triggers an anxious response and causes them to question whether they are safe.  

Around the age of two, toddlers begin to explore their own individuality and independence. Parenting isn’t a dictatorship; it is a partnership.

You need to give respect to get it and in order to build a secure, safe, attachment you need to establish clear boundaries.

The power of choice is the most underused parenting strategy out there. If you can give your toddler as many choices throughout the day as possible, when situations arise where there isn’t a choice, your child is going to be more willing to co-operate and comply. 

Examples of creating opportunities for choice:

  • Choosing clothes in the morning

    • Josephine, would you like to wear the green pants or the blue? 

    • Would you like to wear your running shoes or boots? 

    • Which jacket do you think would be best when it’ snowy? 

  • Providing options at mealtimes

    • Michael, would you like cereal or eggs this morning? 

    • How is your tummy feeling? Do you think it would like an apple or banana? 

  • Changing diapers

    • Your diaper looks quite full. Would you like to change it now or in two minutes? 

Giving your little one the opportunity to make decisions and live with the choices they have made is incredibly important. There are going to be strong emotions attached to these boundaries and it is important to hold the space for them, but not to give in to them. Providing your child with empathy and compassion when they are disappointed, have changed their mind, or are upset is not “giving in.” This is being respectful and caring – you are showing your child that you understand that this is hard for them and they are struggling but unfortunately they made that choice so we are going to stick with it. Just because you are empathizing doesn’t mean you are giving in. 

While we strongly advocate for providing choices and involving your child as much as possible, some children can’t handle the decisions. They become paralyzed into inaction with the overwhelming options. You can support them by making the choices for them in scenarios where they will not push back (ex. clothing, shoes, breakfast, etc.) or you can ask, “Would you like to ______ or would you like me to do it?” This gives them the opportunity to give it a try or if they don’t want to they can verbalize that. If they don’t respond, wait 1-2 minutes and then say, “Ok, I’ll choose today.” 

Setting boundaries and seeing them through is hard. Don’t overwhelm yourself and set yourself up to fail by attempting Boundary Bootcamp where you set every boundary and stand your ground. Chances are you’re going to burn out and your child is going to be an emotional disaster. Pick one thing that really bothers you (this gives you the motivation to stand strong!) and then start setting a boundary around that one situation. Once your little one understands the cause and effect his behaviours and actions have and that you will do what you say, all of the other limits that you set just come together and become much easier! 

If you are struggling with boundaries and limits and need more support, reach out for a complimentary discovery call to see if a behavioural support package might be part of your solution! 

XO

Amy

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Why is my toddler doing this?! The beginning of boundary setting.

The transition from babyhood to toddlerhood happens seemingly overnight. Your child becomes more capable, curious, and communicative. They are ready and (almost) able to tackle things they previously could not do (choose their clothing, pick their own breakfast, select their shoes, decide on the route to the car, etc.) and are willing to go to great lengths to coerce (force) you into letting them show you.

Toddlers crave autonomy – they want to be an active participant in their life. Gone are the days where you can grab the first thing your hand reaches in the closet, pop them into that, put shoes and a coat on, grab the diaper bag and head out the door. Now you are entering negotiating territory – you finally get her dressed with cajoling, bribery, and maybe even a threat or two about taking away a coveted toy but then there are the shoes. She flat out refuses the shoes and the coat for that matter. You start to see red and wonder how your sweet cooperative little tyke has become so defiant?!

Take a deep breath.

Everything described above is completely NORMAL toddler behaviour.

Toddlers want to feel like they have a sense of control over their lives. They want to know that they have a say in things. The terrible twos are simply toddlers who are becoming more independent and parents who aren’t ready (or haven’t realized the need) to provide a little more freedom. So where do we go from here?

Boundaries. Boundaries with a (BIG) dollop of consistency are what will help you maintain your sanity while parenting your toddler. And the amazing part is, the more time and work you put into it now, the more benefits you reap when they are older.

Boundaries are an integral component of raising a happy, healthy, and emotionally well-adjusted child. These secure boundaries help create predictability to everyday routines and reduce child anxiety and uncertainty. These limits support children in discovering what is acceptable and what is not so that they can develop self-regulation, self-discipline and self-control skills.

A child’s brain is not fully developed; therefore they should not be given the responsibility of making big decisions. It is important to consider each child’s unique stage of development when determining where to set that limit. What is an appropriate level of choice for them?

So what is the first step that you can take to try and find harmony in your home again? Think about the limits that you set, and then challenge them! Why is this a rule? What happens if we didn’t have this limit? What is my child learning from me preventing this activity? How will my child benefit if I were to let her do it?

Some boundaries that you have in place will be there for a reason; these are primarily safety boundaries. These are not the limits we want you to re-evaluate. But consider picking your battles – does it REALLY matter if he wears two different socks to daycare? Is it the end of the world if she wears princess sandals to school on a rainy day? Pack her rain boots and socks – she will figure out pretty quickly that it’s not comfortable or pleasant and will know for next time.

Give your toddler the opportunity to learn from THEIR choices.

Natural and logical consequences allow children to further investigate the concept of cause and effect. It helps them learn about the world around them, how their family works, and how far they can push you. Toddlers constantly test those boundaries to find out which are rock solid, and which are written in the sand.

Stay tuned for next weeks blog where we go a little deeper on the “establishing” of said boundaries!

Comment below on your favourite toddler COMPROMISE. I once let a toddler wear one rain boot and one running shoe to school because.. COMPROMISE. When I picked up? “This boot stinky. My feet be wet.” He definitely didn’t choose that combo again! What have you done to keep a little bit of peace?

If we can support you with your child’s more challenging toddler behaviours, please send us a note to amy@heavyeyeshappyhearts.com.

XO

Amy

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Why I do what I do…

Over the last 4 (almost 5!) years since I begun sleep coaching I have worked with hundreds of families. People usually contact me when they are at their wits end. They are so very tired it is hard to think straight, and they have heard that I might be able to help them.

Working with tired people every day… can be.. Tiring.

I’m not going to lie.

When people are tired, they are emotional. They are depleted. They have little left to give to their spouse, their partner, and their other kiddos. So, what do you think they have left to give to their sleep coach?

You guessed it – nada. Ha!

They are just so tired, I become the catcher of all the feels. The person they can tell their worries to. The beacon of light shining on them letting them know day after day that it is going to be okay, and they are going to move on from this struggle in their life in some way, shape or form.

It is an honour to be this person. For an empath such as myself I have to remind myself daily that their stress or pain is not my stress or pain, and that their tired is not my tired. Helping people through a critical time in their lives is an honour, and I feel privileged that people let me in at a time that is so difficult for them.

Yesterday I hopped on the phone with a father I have been working with on and off since January of this year. Now you might ask yourself why someone would need to still be talking to their sleep coach 5 months later.. “Aren’t you just supposed to ‘fix it’ so that people can move on in a few weeks time?” Maybe you’re not thinking that.. Maybe you’re not… but let me tell you a little bit about my relationship with this family and how it has evolved over time.

When this mama first contacted me through my website, she was exhausted. Her baby was waking hourly overnight and having very small feeds due to the reflux she was diagnosed with. The family was cosleeping out of sheer necessity, not by choice. And the parents were beginning to wonder if their daughter would ever be able to sleep by herself.

When we did our consultation it was clear they were nervous, and excited. Apprehensive too! Sometimes when things have been so bad, and someone tells you it is going to get better soon, it is pretty hard to believe them. I remember thinking these two are scared to trust me, but somehow they convinced themselves to let me in.

We walked hand in hand, day by day. We made the most gradual changes imaginable… first attaching their crib to their bed as a sidecar, and then having dad also learn how to put their baby to sleep. He had never done it. Not for months anyway… it was a brand new experience for him to rock his baby to sleep, and it was very hard for everyone at first. But I knew it would be okay, I knew their baby would be okay.

We transitioned from co-sleeping all night, to partial crib sleep in the side car. From feeding at every night wake, to feeding at every other night waking.. We added in dreamfeeds, and encouraged baby girl to fall asleep with patting instead of rocking. Everything happened one step at a time as led by baby, and as parents adapted to their new normal. Every day they saw just enough change to keep going.

Now, baby sleep is not linear. Far from it! We had our hiccups along the way. Baby got sick. She went through a weird week of pooping every night and no one could figure out why! Parents had work responsibilities that caused us to pivot and delay, and then baby got sick again. We paused. We regrouped. We relaxed. We picked up where we left off, and we started again.

Yesterday I was catching up with dad (who is now the primary bedtime guy and overnight caregiver for this baby), and it just became so clear to me why this work still has meaning for me nearly 4 years later.

It is because the shift a family can make through a transition from sleepless nights, to sleepier ones is pretty damn amazing to watch!

Dad said, “She is actually sleeping really well… on a good night, she goes to sleep easily.. And then I don’t hear from her again until like 5 am, and then we cosleep from there til morning. It is the best of both worlds, and something that mama was really comfortable with too.”

I asked him if he felt his bond with his daughter had increased as a result of our work together to which he answered, yes.

Sleep work when you are not relying on formal sleep training methods is dynamic. It is interesting. It can be fun and exciting.. And it can be hard. But, I always see people walk out of our time together with a better understanding and appreciation of their partner, and an increased bond with their baby. And that my friends, is the reason why I do what I do.

XO

Lara

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Play for Sleep Success

Play is a vital part of your child’s development: It is not only fun, but it encourages gross and fine motor skills, communication, and sensory development among other things. Play is also directly related to our quality of sleep believe it or not!

“Playing just helps burn energy and make them tired.”

Anyone heard that before?!

It is TRUE that play helps children expend the excessive amount of energy that they seem to have, but it does so much more than that in terms of sleep.

Being active (inside and outside) prompts our bodies to release endorphins which in turn helps produce melatonin – that wonderful, natural hormone that makes us sleepy. Daytime activity can also encourage longer periods of deep sleep, which is most restorative, and it encourages us as parents to get down at our child’s level, be hands-on with them, and make lots of eye contact right before that separation to sleep.

So how can we PLAY for SLEEP?

Try to incorporate a variety of activities into your day that encourage movement; climb up and down the stairs, make an obstacle course, play ball, provide push toys or help your child to walk, play music, clap your hands and dance or move your feet. There are so many ways to get moving.

The benefits of playing and developing gross motor skills will have a long-lasting effect on your child’s overall health and wellbeing. Being outside in fresh air and natural light to play, even if it is just for a short time, is tremendously beneficial for your child’s sleep as well.

  • Children are able to make bigger and faster movements outside. This not only uses more energy, but helps to build muscle and endurance.

  • Being outside signals the body to release even more endorphins than playing inside.

  • Light stimulus affects our circadian rhythm, also known as our internal clock, and helps us differentiate between daytime playtime and nighttime sleep time.

So get outside when the weather is nice – go for a walk, play in the yard, or sit on a park bench. And if the weather is truly Vancouver in Spring (aka.. Rainy af), make an obstacle course in the living room! Any playtime activity will contribute to better sleep and overall better health for your kiddo, and your family.

XO

Lara

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Going, Going, Almost Gone! Transitioning from 2 Naps to 1

Many people say that the first year is the hardest, but does it ever get ‘easier’?!

Spoiler alert. NOPE! ha.

Just when you think you’ve got it all down pat, your kiddo is going to throw another transition in and send you through a loop. Your children will continue to change in all kinds of ways because they are simply not done growing. It is hard but.. at least it is interesting?! ha.

Getting down to 1 nap tends to be a bit of a difficult transition. For most children, this could happen anytime between 12 and 18 months, and it may take upwards of a month to get this new routine into place. The average age most children transition is 15 months from my experience.

As with all changes, your child must be ready for this one too. You may notice a period where you are stuck in limbo as 2 naps feels like too much but 1 is not quite enough. You will have to be patient and flexible as your well-loved super routine nap schedule, starts to look like the hot mess express!

What are some signs your child may be ready?

  • They are getting 10.5 to 12 hours of consolidated sleep each night

  • Your child is playing through their nap time or is taking a very long time to fall asleep

  • Their morning nap is getting longer, and they are resistant to a second nap

  • They are taking a shorter morning nap and seem very content until a later afternoon nap.

Any or all of these things should be happening majority of the time (i.e. more than 4 days in a week) before you try to make the switch. One-offs happen, so don’t jump too quickly into this transition. Moving too quickly to one nap can add more challenges to your overnight sleep. Super long awake windows during the day.. an unbalanced day essentially.. tends to lead to long wide awake periods overnight as well, and it is something to move into with cautious optimism.

For those with their little ones in daycare, talk with your provider about their nap schedule; make sure you work with them to determine a routine that works for YOUR child, not just one of convenience.

If your child is ready to transition down to 1 nap, here are some steps to follow:

  • You can begin by capping your child’s morning nap to protect two naps as long as possible. Some of my clients will have their baby nap for 1 hour, 45 mins, or even just 30 mins in the morning to ensure their child still takes a decent nap in the afternoon. This can help prolong the transition until your child is a little older; which usually makes this transition a bit easier to make.

If it is clear the nap needs to go, even after some careful capping experimentations..

  • For the first 2 days, start with a morning nap around 11 a.m. If this nap is short, try to encourage them back to sleep or offer a second short nap later in the afternoon (an emergency plan-B nap in the carseat for example).

  • On days 3 and 4, push the morning nap a little later, maybe 11:15-ish.

  • On days 5 and 6, push the morning nap a little later again, maybe 11:30-ish.

  • Continue gradually moving the nap later each day until you reach an early afternoon time between 12 – 12:30 p.m.

Most children will continue to take 1 nap per day until they are well into their preschool years. This nap tends to stay around 12:30 – 2:30/3:00 pm for quite a long time, with 5 – 6 hour awake windows on either side of this nap each day.

Many kiddos reject their nap around age 2 for a little while.. this is totally normal, and a few skipped naps does not necessarily mean your child is done napping! Continue to offer quiet time, rest time, and honour your child’s need for mid-day sleep most days of the week, and you are likely to see the nap return sooner than later.

I hope this helps! And as always, if you do need more focused or 1:1 support as you make your way through this transition, I would be happy to help you. Reach out to lara@heavyeyeshappyhearts.com.

XO

Lara

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Making the Most of Your Own Sleep Space

Let’s face it. We focus a lot here on getting the babies and the toddlers sleeping. But, sometimes after we’ve worked together, baby is sleeping and parents still are not! Why is this? Well.. many different reasons, to be exact. One of the main ones being – they haven’t slept in 5, 6, 24, 36 months, and their body has forgotten how. If your child has just begun sleeping through the night, give yourself some grace and know that it will take time for everyone to adjust to the new sleep routine, and begin sleeping well.

But, let’s also take a look at our own bedrooms and see if there are any improvements that could be made.

I, for one.. Am a “terrible” sleeper. Which is one of the BIG reasons why I got into this field in the first place. So keeping my bedroom a “sleep sanctuary” is definitely at the top of my list. Here are a few things that I have considered in creating my sleep space. And, I do feel many of them have helped.

  • Make the Bedroom DARK. AS. NIGHT.

Light is the single most important environmental factor impacting your sleep. This can be from any source of light – computer, phone ding, but also the biggest one often ignored is our bedroom windows. Light streaming in from the street through your crappy bedroom blinds is going to keep you up people! When your environment is bright, your melatonin levels remain low. Darkness helps your body secrete this sleep hormone. In my opinion, great blackout curtains are a worthwhile investment for every room in your home. But, if this is not possible because you have just spent every last dollar on your nursery.. A good sleep mask will definitely also help in a pinch.

  • Your room is for sleep (and maybe sex.. But.. you are parents so.. you might be too tired for that.. :D)

Don’t make your bedroom an entertainment space. If you are using your room to watch TV right before bed, or play video games – this is going to impact your sleep. If your body and mind equate your bedroom with excitement, it will be really hard for your body to settle down and prepare to transition to sleep.

  • Calm, neutral wall colours make a difference.

Now, most grown adults don’t have their room painted bright red, pink or orange. But, if you do – this could be affecting your sleep as well. These colours are associated with anger, and panic. Not exactly how you want to be feeling when you enter your sleep space. Cooler calmer colours on the walls. Think light greys and pastels, really do help transform your space into one of calm solitude and rest.

  • Clear Out the Clutter

Your room furniture should definitely take “feng shui” into consideration. Creating a good flow in the bedroom is really important. And if your bedroom is cluttered, you are going to find yourself distracted before drifting off to sleep. Thinking about piles that need to be moved, or laundry that needs to be folded, will distract the mind and cause a bit of unnecessary stress right before sleep. Definitely take some time and clear the clutter out of your bedroom. Your body and mind will thank you. Channel your inner “Marie Kondo” who is all the rage right now! ha.

  • Remove Some of the Noise

Did you know that your brain actually processes noises in your sleep? This is the exact reason your baby crying in the night jolts you out of bed like nobodies business. Try to reduce the noises in your bedroom.

Personally, we sleep with a white noise machine. I know people think these are just for kiddos. But, if you live in a busy metropolitan area or tight community like we do.. A good white noise machine that produces relaxing sounds can help create great ambiance and encourage you to fall asleep faster. Another suggestion is just to use ear plugs. I have not found too many that are optimal in comfort for me.. But everyone’s ears are different!

Don’t worry that you won’t hear the baby. Trust me – you will. And if you’re really nervous just make sure that the ear plugs you are using have a noise reduction rating of 32 decibels or less.

  • Invest in the Bed

You know you spend ⅓ of your life in that thing right? Make sure you’ve got a comfortable cozy mattress, and great bedding too. Sliding into nice clean sheets is an amazing feeling! Find sheets that are natural, breathable, and of a decent thread count. Your pillow will make a difference too! We so rarely try out our bed or bedding for longer than 30 seconds before purchasing. (Mattress stores are kind of an embarrassing place to hang out for prolonged periods of time). But, make choosing your bed and bedding a high priority. You really do spend a great amount of time here.

Of course I could go on and on and on. But, I hope this helps you look for a few simple and easy changes you might be able to make to begin getting a better night’s sleep in the very near future.

XO

Lara

Thank you to the amazing Stacie-Lynn Photography for the use of this beautiful photo seen here of this adorable family. She really is the best!

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Surviving Sleep Over the Holidays

I just got off the phone with my accountant. We were planning our next meeting, and she informed me that Christmas is just over 2 weeks away! Umm… excuse me?! How did this happen?

I felt my heart pound a little harder. The air got a little foggy.. And my throat started to tighten up ever so slightly.

I can’t be the only one who suffers from holiday related anxiety? So much to do. So little time.

Don’t forget to move the elf! Stocking stuffers.. Haven’t even started on those! Where are Grandma and Grandpa going to sleep?! The turkey takes how long in the microwave?

(kidding)

This could arguably be the busiest time of the year. It seems like we are trying to plan a year’s worth of get togethers into the month of December. There are many dinners, way too many desserts, hot chocolates aplenty, light displays, and the like. It is hectic, and if you are a parent to a sensitive child, all of these extra events can increase everyone’s stress levels.

Accommodating your child’s sleep needs over the holidays can be a real challenge. And not every family member will understand your “type A ways” and join you on your suggestion to swap Christmas eve cocktails, for a Christmas eve brunch that better suits everyone’s sleep needs.

So what can we do to survive the next few weeks?

Step 1: Try to get everyone to change their plans to suit you!

I know.. You thought I was joking above about the Christmas Eve brunch thing, but if your family is flexible maybe this is the year to swap a dinner for a breakfast instead. We all get to enjoy each other’s company while we are well rested, and everyone likes a mimosa… am I right?

Step 2: Relax and try to go with the flow..

Okay, so they are not quite as open minded as you had hoped. Well, you are going to have to just relax a bit. If your child goes to bed late just one night out of 7, all hell is not going to break loose for the most part. If they have two car-seat naps on the way to and from visiting family, it is also not the end of the world. Try to live like the other half do for a few days and resist the urge to schedule your child’s every move. I know.. Easier said than done for some of us. But, remind yourself that your track record for getting through really difficult days is 100% so far!

Step 3: Resist the urge to be at EVERYthing..

Are there some events that you might want to pass on to save your child from being crazy over-stimulated, and you needing 10 or more rum and egg nogs just to have a good time? It is okay to say no, sometimes. You know your child best and if they are truly very time-sensitive, you might have to skip a few get togethers this year. Remind yourselves (and your friends), that it won’t always be this way. Children tend to be more adaptable to changes in their sleep schedules the older they become, and this is a year you just have to sit one or two events out.

Step 4: Try to set your child up for sleep success in a different space..

For many families, this can be done. If your child has some pretty solid sleep skills already, they may very well be able to go down to sleep in their pack and play at Aunt Louise’s house while everyone else eats an 8:00 pm Christmas dinner. You know your child best, and whether or not this might be a possibility for you. 

Step 5: Embrace the chaos, and try to find your calm.

Remember, this too shall pass. In a few weeks everything is going to be back to normal-ish. Well, despite the fact that there will be 50% more people at the gym, and a line-up at the bottle return depot.

And a special reminder for the friends and family who don’t remember, don’t know what it is like to have small children, or just want to be super supportive. 

Try to empathize with us right now. We really wish we could be at your “thing”. We really wish we didn’t have to leave earlier than everyone else. We really wish a babysitter was a possibility right now, or that our child didn’t need to hold our hand every single time they fell asleep. But this is the reality of where we are at. So please, offer us your patience, kindness, and support as we navigate the highs and lows of this holiday season with little ones in tow. And share with us that you are here to help however you are needed, and only offer “what worked for you” if you are asked.

Merry Christmas all, and happy holidays to you and yours!

XO

Lara

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Supporting Baby Through Separation Anxiety

Recently my two year old has been making requests for mom and dad to stay with him at bedtime. I am not surprised! We’ve been through the “peak in separation anxiety” thing a few times already.. and at age 2, this tends to come back one more time. Aren’t sleep regressions fun?! ha.

The first time we see this in babies is typically at 9 months, and I think it is the most surprising because it is new, and different. By the time we experience a second peak in separation anxiety around 18 months, we are usually able to communicate more with baby, and work through it together. And at age 2, my son has many words he can use to tell me more about what he needs to feel safe and secure for sleep. Words are the best!

Remember the concept of object permanence? This is learning that objects exist even when we can’t see them? While this new intellectual skill is a vital part of your child’s development, it is also one of the root causes of separation anxiety.

But if my child knows I exist even when they can’t see me, what’s the big deal?

Your child now has a mental picture of you forever in their mind and, unfortunately, babies learn about people leaving before they learn about people returning, and it is between the ages of 9 and 18 months that separation anxiety will typically peak.

Dealing with separation anxiety can be a challenge for both parents and children, but there are a few things you can do to help you through:

  • Create a secure relationship with your child. Focus on active play, building trust, and responding to their cries.

  • Allow your child time to play independently (although be within sight to ensure safety, and practice distancing yourself for short periods of time).

  • Communicate with your child: Tell them you are leaving but assure them that you will be back. Come back when you say you will. This also builds trust.

  • Read books about characters and animals who leave the home, and return again.

  • Introduce new people and places gradually; it takes time to build relationships.

  • Introduce a transitional object such as a blanket or special toy that can be comforting when you are away from one another.

  • Keep goodbyes brief.

For bedtime troubles, comfort and reassure your child that you are there for them. When they are ready for sleep, some gentle back rubs or hand holding can help to soothe your child and bring back those easy bedtimes.

I know we are often worried about creating a, “bad habit”, in place of a habit that we have worked hard to create such as; going to sleep independently. But remember, one of the first stages of developing secure attachments is proximity. Children will return to this phase, and not graduate to the next stage of attachment until their needs have been met in the stage that they are in, and they feel safe and secure. It is normal for our children to need more support through these times in development.

As our children develop, they will eventually learn that separations from their parents (whether they be daycare or bedtime) are not permanent. This too is another stage that can be incredibly difficult and pull on your parental heart strings, but remember that it is a normal stage of development in building healthy, secure children, and one that does show your child’s development is right on track.

I encourage you to chat with me more if there is anything I can do to help you through bedtime challenges you are experiencing in your home. I would be more than happy to help.

XO

Lara

And as always, thank you to @stacielynnphotography for the beautiful image you see here.