I’ve mentioned before that my eldest daughter Birdy has a fairly rare brain condition, so we spend quite a bit of time at Westmead Children’s Hospital. Recently she had to have an MRI. For those who haven’t had one, you lie inside a tube and you have to be perfectly still while an incredibly noisy machine takes photos of your brain. Some adults find it a bit claustrophobic, but it’s especially hard for kids so they usually do it under anaesthetic. But Birdy’s done it before without anaesthetic, so when they sent me the forms to consent to the anaesthetic I called the hospital and said we wouldn’t be needing it. Everybody I spoke to seemed very dubious that a 5 year old would be able to do it without anaesthetic. Even on the day, every time I’d say “We’re not having anaesthetic” we would get these knowing looks and raised eyebrows from the staff. But my husband and I both had complete faith in Birdy… and she was perfect. They got every photo first go with no fuss. That’s just a small example of how we can all do better than we might imagine when somebody has faith in us.
Children are born with an innate belief in their own abilities, but the messages that they get, initially from their parents, but also from their peers, can either build on that self-belief or chip away at it. Then those beliefs can become self-fulfilling. When I was at Uni I used to write and sing with a friend of mine. This friend, Andrew, would bring me a song he had written, and more than once I said to him, “There’s no way I can sing that!” But he would say, “Of course you can sing it! I can already hear it!” And after a bit of practice I would be able to do it! (I don’t think it’s any co-incidence that his wife is now a successful author! I bet he said to her, “Of course you’ll get published!” like my husband did to me.) When people believe in us, we can do more than even we imagine.
Of course there will always be some kids (and adults) who struggle to find their niche.
It’s that time of year where schools are handing out the end of year awards – and some kids always miss out. So what do you do for the child who doesn’t seem to be able to find their special talent?
I don’t think you need to be especially good at something to be able to feel a sense of achievement. I recently did the Mud Run, which is a fun-run through mud and over all sorts of obstacles. I’m not a very fit person, and I’m not a good runner, but I happened to be running with a friend, Natalie, who really spurred me on. She continually set small achievable challenges along the way – she’d say “Let’s take the blue guys” or “Let’s jog to the next drink station to beat the queue”, so with her help I was able to run a lot more of it than I would have otherwise. And I felt proud of myself just for finishing (especially in the 42 degree heat!).
This friend of mine is a teacher and I don’t think it’s a coincidence that her students have achieved exceptional HSC results. I think the approach she used in the Mud Run is a good model for what we should be doing for our kids. Child psychologist, Louise Porter says, “Children need a coach, not a cheerleader”. We don’t need to be always telling our kids how wonderful and talented they are, but we do need to get alongside them, encourage them, spur them on and recognise what they are capable of! Then hopefully they’ll go on to bigger and better things. Things they didn’t think they would be capable of.
To me, Christmas is all about having faith in the impossible!
We celebrate the idea that God came down to earth in the form of a baby. We celebrate the idea of a God who is powerful enough to make the world yet personal enough to care about each one of us. Since this blog is all about celebrating our own babies I thought it might be good to finish the year with some words about the baby Jesus. This is from the Jesus Storybook bible by Sally-Lloyd Jones. (From Luke)
“The God who flung planets into space and kept them whirling around and around, the God who made the universe with just a word, the one who could do anything at all – was making himself small. And coming down… as a baby. Wait. God was sending a baby to rescue the world? “But it’s too wonderful!” Mary said and felt her heart beating hard, “How can it be true?” “Is anything too wonderful for God?” Gabriel said.
So Merry Christmas! Believe for the impossible. Nothing is too wonderful for God!
I got a bit of a shock this week. One night, I finished breastfeeding Molly and put her to bed for the night and she refused to sleep. After trying everything, I wondered if she was hungry and offered her a bottle of milk. She devoured it so I put her back to bed. She still wouldn’t settle. Eventually I got her up again and as we came back into the kitchen she lunged for the empty bottle of milk. So I gave her another bottle of milk and put her back to bed. The next morning, when I tried to breastfeed her, she totally refused it. She wanted the bottle! She has clearly decided she’s weaning, whether I like it or not.
Emotionally, I’m not really feeling ready to wean her, but sometimes weaning just happens naturally like that, where the baby loses interest and the milk supply gradually drops away. Other times the mother wants to stop breastfeeding and the baby has to be almost forced off the breast. I’d actually prefer it happened this way, where she loses interest, rather than me deciding when to wean her. But either way, it’s good if it happens gradually so we can both get used to the idea. There are certainly some bonuses to weaning. It makes it easier to go out at night or have a sleep-in! But it’s also hard to give up that beautiful physical closeness that mum and baby spend together when you’re breastfeeding. There’s nothing quite like holding your baby while she accidently falls asleep playing with your hair. It’s really special.
But if we’re talking about weaning, the latest catch-cry in parenting is this concept of baby-led weaning.
It gets a bit confusing because the term ‘weaning’ means different things to different people. In the UK, the term means introducing solid foods, whereas in the US it implies giving up breastfeeding. In Australia, we use the word to mean both things.
Baby led-weaning is just a fancy term that means letting your child feed themselves solid food from the word go. You don’t spoon-feed them at all. So rather than feeding your baby rice cereal and purees you just start giving them pieces of real food between their milk feeds. And ideally you should offer the same types of foods that you are eating.
So what are the supposed benefits of baby-led weaning?
1) Well there’s really very little research in this area but advocates of baby-led weaning say it produces less fussy eaters because they’re eating a wide range of foods early on.
2) It’s more sociable – because baby is more likely to eat with the rest of the family
3) It’s good for their fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination
4) There is some evidence that baby –led weaning leads to a lower incidence of obesity later in life. This could be because they are learning to self-regulate from the beginning or it may be because of the types of foods that the babies eat – such as more complex carbohydrates.
And are there any downsides to baby-led weaning?
It’s very messy and there’s lots of food wasted. If you’re eating Atlantic salmon it can be disappointing to see so much of it going on the floor.
It is also quite time consuming. At first the baby doesn’t get much of the food in their mouth so you can spend a lot of time over meals but still not know how much they’ve eaten.
Some people worry about the risk of choking. It should be a problem, but to be safe, never leave your baby alone when they are eating.
Personally I’ve tried to do a bit of both. I did do purees from four months because my baby wasn’t putting on enough weight. I also found that filling Molly up with mashed potato or pureed casserole encouraged her to sleep a bit longer at night. But I also tried to use some of the Baby-led weaning principles by offering a wide variety of family finger foods from 6 months. Baby-led weaning is a relatively new concept, so I think the jury is still out as far as the research goes.
If people want to know more about the idea of Baby-Led Weaning, Gill Rapley is the guru of baby-led weaning in the UK. She has brochures online and a book and a website where you can get more info. www.baby-led.com
Well now that we’re into December and officially into the down hill run for the year I thought it might be good to talk a little bit about dealing with change. The end of the year is often a time when both children and adults are gearing up for big changes in their life. Perhaps moving house, one or both parents changing jobs, having a good friend move away or starting at a new daycare, pre-school, school or even starting high school for the first time. Change can be difficult for anyone, but especially for kids.
Some people seem to cope with change better than others…
Personally, I’m not very good at coping with change. Recently I’ve been reflecting over the past 12 months and I’ve actually had quite a bit of change in my life. I gave up my job which I loved, I had a new baby, I launched my first children’s book and had to learn a whole new industry and then my eldest child started school. My husband also changed his working hours more than once. There have been a few times this year when we’ve thought about moving to another city, going overseas or buying a house in another area of Sydney and I really haven’t wanted to. My instinct has been to sit tight. So personally I’m not wanting any big changes for 2013, but I know that for lots of families some change is inevitable.
So I’ve done some research into how to help children cope with change and here are a few ideas.
– Usually anxiety around change is fear of the unknown. For children they might be worried about not knowing who they’ll make friends with or who their teacher will be. So remind them of other times they’ve made new friends or coped with a big change.
– Give them as much information as you can about the details,even if you can’t answer all their questions about what life will be like next year. Take them to see their new house or new school or show them photos so they get a sense of what their life might be like.
– Focus on the positive aspects of the change so they have things to look forward to.
– Practice the rituals – getting dressed in the school uniform, packing up the back pack, practising where to catch the bus.
– Kids love routine, so it’s a good idea to keep some aspects of your routine the same, especially routines around meals and bedtime.
– And make sure they have plenty of notice about any changes that are happening. Many kids don’t react well to having things sprung on them at the last minute.
Often the changes that affect children most are things that they have no control of… so it’s important to be aware of signs that suggest they’re NOT coping.
Hopefully they’ll tell you if they’re feeling anxious or overwhelmed, but if not it may show in their behaviour. Whether that’s through tantruming or being withdrawn or not sleeping or eating as well as usual – all those things can be signs that kids are bottling up their feelings.
The good news is that young kids get most of their security from their relationship with their parents so as long as you remain constant and you’re available to talk to, that can be very reassuring for them. Also little kids are used to dealing with lots of big changes – learning to walk and talk are two of the most colossal changes a person could go through. Children are always learning new things about the world. So they may even cope better with change than we do.
If our kids are really concerned about a change, it’s possible that they’re taking their cues from the adults around them.
Maybe we’re the ones who are having trouble coping with the idea of our baby starting school, or of leaving all our friends. We need to make sure we’re not projecting our worries onto our kids and burdening them with things that otherwise wouldn’t concern them.
Have you had some big changes in your life? How have you coped with them? How have your children adapted to moving house, changing cities, moving overseas or starting a new school or pre-school?