Saturday, September 29, 2012

Child's Sexual Identity Awareness

During the first two years of life, as your child begins to explore her own body and to notice sexual differences, your actions and reactions will help her from a healthy sexual identity. As early as their first year, children begin to wonder why they are made the way they are. Their tentative explorations provide the first awareness of their bodies as a source of pleasure; before long, they learn that touching or rubbing their genitals creates feelings of excitement. Parental acceptance of this early behavior is important. For your child, the romantic fantasies and fixations of adult sexuality do not exist; her sexual exploration and experience reflect nothing more than a natural curiosity and healthy delight in her body. If her hand is angrily slapped away from her genitals, the toddler feels that there is something bad or forbidden about a part of her body – a part that, to her, is no different from her nose or toe.

 During the second year, the toddler’s growing awareness of differences between males and females sets the stage for the establishment of her own sexual identity. Increasing contact with siblings and playmates, coupled with the uncovering of body parts previously hidden under diapers, leads the toddler to a truly exciting discovery: Although children look pretty much alike with their clothes on, they are made in two distinctly different ways. This realization leads to close identification with the parent of the same sex. The little girl, observing that she resembles her mother, strives to be as much like her female parent as she can. The little body, noticing that he has the same parts as his father, is eager to imitate him in every possible way. Fascinating as these discoveries of similarities and differences can be, they sometimes cause anxieties in young minds. A little girl may silently wonder way she does not have a penis like her brother. A little boy may feel anxious about the obvious differences in size between his own body parts and those of his father. Parents can relieve such anxieties by clearly explaining sexual differences. Tell the toddler that boys and girls are made differently from the beginning; no one is missing any parts, and no one is going to lose the parts they already have. Emphasize the positive aspects of each child’s gender, pointing out that boys can become fathers, and girls can become mothers, when they are older.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Night wanderers

Once the learn how to climb out of their cribs, some toddlers not only wake up in the middle of the night – they get up. This is when you may have to decide whether you are going to let your child get in bed with you or be firm about her returning to her own bed. Other children, especially those three years or older, actually get out of bed and walk about without waking up. The sleepwalking child’s eyes will be wide open, but when you try to talk to her you will realize that she does not know what is happening. Sleepwalking episodes can be as brief as a few seconds or as long as half an hour. Try to get her back into bed without awakening her. Later, she will not recall the incident. Children usually grow out of a sleepwalking problem, but persistent, frequent episodes may indicate some underlying disturbance that should be explored with your pediatrician, a child psychologist or a sleep clinic.

As a parent, you play critical role in your child’s sexual development and adjustment. Your influence goes far beyond the traditional concept of sex education; in countless subtle ways, from the tone of your talk to the type of toys you buy, you help shape your child’s attitude toward her own sexuality and that of others.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Putting our toddler to bed

When your child is two or two and a half, you may find yourself a participant in series of bedtime rituals that are a toddler’s way of making the transition from being awake with plenty of company to being asleep alone. All the simple, practical processes are elaborated into a carefully choreographed ceremony: the bath, brushing the teeth, putting on pajamas, and selecting the right stuffed animal and the right book for the bedtime story. Everything must be in the same sequence every night or the spell is broken, so beware of adding any new elements that disrupt the ritual. Also beware of the delaying tactics that some children try to slip into the ceremonial routine: I went to change pajamas; I want another drink of water; I left something downstairs.
Your child may be more skittish about sleep on days when he has endured long separations from you or when he has experienced other daytime worries. The proverbial monster waiting at the foot of the bed after rears its head during this period of childhood. You should demonstrate to your child that you are in charge and able to protect him – even if it requires your loudly banishing the demon from the house.
Try to make bedtime the same time every night or as nearly the same time as possible. But keep your attitude toward your child’s sleep positive and nonpunitive. If he is having trouble getting to sleep, do not try to force or threaten him. Your child needs to be shown; instead, that sleep is a welcome and pleasurable retreat. You can help foster this attitude by teaching him to cherish his bedroom as a pleasant heaven for comfort, rest and security, rather than making it seem like a place that he is banished to for punishment.
Although many children consistently go to bed voluntarily, some do not, especially when the rest of the family is awake and doing interesting things. Give a 10 minute and a five minute warning as the time to start the bedtime ritual nears. If your child insists on putting up a fight about going to bed, try a neutral signaling device, such as an alarm clock. This way, the source of the unwelcome news is impersonal, and the child cannot argue with it. Let him know that you understand how much he does not want to go to bed, but tell him firmly that it is, nonetheless, his bedtime. If he is playing, assure him that in the morning, he can return to what he was doing. Sometimes children feel less victimized when they are given options: “You can either go get in bed now, or you can kiss me good night and when get in bed.”

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Maintaining good sleep habits

Even if your baby takes readily to drifting off to sleep on her own, your troubles may not be over. At some point between seven and nine months, she may suddenly begin to protest with anguished cries your departure from her room each night. Her panic is a sign of separation anxiety, which emerges at about this time in a child’s life. She has become strongly attached to you and does not yet understand that when someone disappears from view, that person continues to exist and will return. She is afraid you are going away forever.
Soon after this time, the baby’s drive to master body skills such as walking becomes so intense that she often finds it difficult to unwind for sleep. You may discover her in the middle of the night crawling around in her crib or pulling herself up to a standing position, as though her drive to practice her skills outweighed her heed for sleep.
Help your baby find her own methods for soothing herself to sleep, while reassuring her that you are not abandoning her. One way to accomplish this double purpose is to casually leave and reenter the room several times after she has been put to bed, making reassuring sounds but concerning yourself with some other bit of business rather than hovering over your protesting child. Presents sometimes interfere too much at bedtime, when their babies really just need a chance to complain a little before setting down to some humming or jabbering and then to sleep. Small gestures can help ease a baby’s resistance to sleep. Let your child have a favorite toy or blanket for comfort when you leave the room. A night light that allows her to see her familiar surroundings when she awakens at night might also help.