Building a Family and It’s Holiday Time!
written by Carol Castanon, Parent Consultant
Babies begin to communicate who they are, and are becoming in those first moments after birth and beyond. As adults, we come into these new relationships with joy, worry and expectation. As the baby’s grown-up, there are times in the baby relationship when we are simply providing the basics of nurture, nutrition, cleanliness, and shelter. We are doing “to” baby as part of routine and ritual. When there is a shift from doing to baby towards partnership with baby, we are creating a mutually respectful relationship. These are moments when we watch, listen, ask, and finally do. We observe babies learning how they feel, what their needs are, how they calm themselves, what their interests are, how they move, where they look and look away, and when they are asking something of us.
Holiday time can be full. Find time to take care of your mothering/fathering needs so you can remain true to yourself, partner and baby. If you are a single parent, ask others to help or participate in holding you and your baby. Your infant or toddler will let you know when they need just you, or quiet, or sleep.
Adults are eager to get smiles and entertain infants and toddlers because a smiling baby feels so wonderful to adults. The act of responding to a child, as opposed to a child responding to adults has profound implications in attachment. Role model this new way of interaction, and encourage grown-ups to watch and listen before entertaining.
Holidays can be a time of firsts, or long distance reunions and of course giving. The extended family might need some words of wisdom or validation. You might say, “This is really new for the baby and everyone is so excited to hold her/him!”
How is a balance created, and when do you as the grown-up know it’s a healthy balance? Early infancy (0-3 months) is a time of great flexibility. Parents may yearn for structure and predictability, but this is most often a time of sleep and wake cycles that still have a degree of unpredictability. For most babies, a pattern emerges between 2 and 4 months of age. We can begin to organize day and night with walks, bath, rocking, cooking, and people coming and going. A baby’s world includes all their senses!
Holiday time can be an intense sensory experience for both infants and toddlers. Remember to observe when you or your child has reached the pleasure threshold and need a retreat. Routines typically shift during holidays. Look for ways to be flexible and predictable. Tell your infants and toddlers who, what, where and when. The “now plan” is very important to an infant and the “now and next plan” is very important to a toddler.
Having a baby teaches us to move through time with a slower rhythm or pace, learning about the challenge and pleasure of attachment at the earliest of life stages. Give you and your baby the gift of full and luxurious attention. Ask for help if you need it and seek love and pleasure this holiday season!