LITTLE THINGS ABOUT
Dr. Gayatri Bezboruah
We parents are all the same, really! All of us know that the emotional umbilical cords we share with our little ones never ever get cut, whatever their age, whatever they are doing, and wherever they are. This trait shows all the time in the way we behave with our children, and how we react to situations that they are in. It's definitely hard to listen to our little ones shriek for us from their play yard as we are get dinner ready. But rushing to bring them to our side all the time actually does a disservice. Sometimes we have to make them understand that their own wishes have to wait and that they will not always get what they want the moment they yell for it. Fulfilling all of their needs-for more juice, to be picked up, to have the box of toys opened-sends the message that we will always grant their every wish 24-7. It also implies that they are incapable of doing things themselves, and don't have to try to develop their skills really, because they get what they want anyway. What's more, our 1-year-olds have developed close emotional ties to us, so it's natural for them to be both wary of separating from us and suspicious of strangers. But whether we're dropping them off at day care or leaving them to nap while we take a shower, temporary partings are inevitable and necessary. If we stay calm and upbeat, they'll pick up on our cues and the separations will bolster their confidence.
Easing the Grip
The toddlers need first to be handled in this funny puzzle of life. If our toddlers are used to having us always by their side, we need to go slowly. First, we have to set some boundaries. We're entitled to some time on our own; it's perfectly reasonable for us to cook a meal, go to the bathroom, or talk on the phone without our 1-year-olds clinging to us. It starts with establishing our rules-"Mummy can't hold you while she's cooking", "How can I bring the toy down if you don't let go of my hand" -making ourselves understood, and sticking to them.
Though our children may not like the idea of entertaining themselves for short periods of time, they can and will learn to do it if we give them the opportunity. Children this age have the capacity for independent play but often lack the motivation to be involved in it. It's our job to give them the courage, the confidence, and the opportunity to stretch their wings. We have to start by actively playing with them. Then lessen the intensity of the interaction, but stay involved in what they're doing. For instance, instead of helping them build a block tower, we might kneel close by and simply watch them build one. Next, move farther away and start doing our own work. Staying in visual contact is reassuring. Our children will soon make the connection that Mommy's still here-and that they're still loved-even when we're not physically right by their side.
Tips to Help
Introducing toys that mimic what we do is a great idea because our children absolutely adore them and also learn a lot of skills while playing with them. If we need some freedom to cook, we have to equip our toddlers with plastic foods, play utensils, and safe containers. If we're reading, let them flip through their own book or magazine.
Setting aside a special bag of tricks that we bring out from time to time works wonders. As soon as we're able to interact with our children again, we should stash the toys away until the next time we need them.
We must remember not to jump right in to "save" our children from a difficult or frustrating situation. Give them time to figure out a solution on their own. As a result, they'll be less apt to expect us to always be there with the answers.
When we can't play with our toddlers, we have to remind them that we're still there. Pat them on the back, offer words of encouragement or praise, or ask them about what they're doing.
Dr Gayatri Bezboruah is Professor of Paediatrics, Gauhati Medical College, Guwahati. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com