Friday, June 15, 2012

Preparing for Baby: Establish Independence in Children

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Taking care of a newborn and one or more other children is naturally much harder than just the newborn or just the other child(ren). A simple way to make life with a newborn easier on yourself is to take the opportunity during pregnancy to bring your child to independence on all age-appropriate activities.

Think about getting ready in the morning. You have yourself, your baby, and your other child(ren). If there is anything the other child(ren) can do independently, it will make your task-list shorter. Perhaps your three year old can learn to take her shirt off on her own. Perhaps your two year old can learn to put her own clothes on. Your seven year old might be ready for choosing his own clothes for the day. Your five year old can be expected to put her pajamas either away or in the hamper. Teach your children to do the things appropriate for their ages, and then have the expectation they will do so. 

Pregnancy, I think, is the best time to bring your children up to speed on these skills. Once the baby is here, your time will be far more limited than it is while pregnant. Trying to get out of the house by 9 AM and needing to get everyone ready, packed, and fed is not the ideal time to have the patience for your young child to put her shoes on by herself or buckle herself into her carseat. 

The more things your child can do independently, the more multi-tasking can happen. You can set clothes out for the older child and have her get dressed while you change the baby's clothes. To get to this independence, follow these steps:
  1. Think through the things your child could possibly do at his/her age. For guidance on this, see this post: Creating a Parenting Plan. You can also follow your child's lead. Children are good at asking to do things. Another thing to do is to think through your daily routine and think of what your child could be doing that he isn't now doing. 
  2. Train and teach your child to do the desired task. Expect it to take at least weeks to get right. This will require patience and time. Be sure to start a task with enough time for your child to do it herself. If you struggle doing this in the heat of the moment, set aside time for training in non-conflict, so practice putting shoes on when you aren't going anywhere.
  3. Allow your child to make mistakes along the way. Have patience through the process.
Following these steps is a great thing to do routinely--we want our children gaining independent skills as they get older. It is especially beneficial to focus on while pregnant so that when the baby comes, everyone can do their best to be independent as age appropriate.

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Marcus W said...

Great topic Val! I was wondering if you could provide some more concrete examples for age ranges, perhaps what you focused on during Brayden's 2nd year to prepare for Kaitlyn's arrival, then in the 4th year for McKenna's? I always find your examples very helpful. I am expecting #2 to arrive when #1 is 23 months. It's kind of hard to see now (at 16 months) what I should be expecting at that time. Things change so quickly when they are little! Thank you, as always for being an amazing resource.

Austyn said...

Not that it really matters, but I accidentally left the above comment from my husband's account :)

Amanda said...

I have definitely done this with my 2nd and 3rd pregnancies. With my first pregnancy Tobias would be 2 years, 4.5 months when the baby was born so I knew potty training was on the agenda and I also taught little things like going up and down stairs safe, 'come to mommy', and a great tip was to teach him to wait on the yellow/white line beside the car in parking lots. This way I could let go of him to get the baby out and know he was safe. We still use the rule now at 4 years old and it's great to unbuckle him, go get his brother, and come back to find him standing patiently on his side of the car on the yellow line with the car door shut. I'm now teaching Peter (who will be 24 months when baby is born) to do the same.

So to the above poster, since my Peter will be the same age as your LO will be when his sibling is born, here's my plan.

1. crib-to-bed transition (probably, depends on your circumstances but this is an appropriate age to do it by if you can get it done 3 months before baby is born.
2. take off shoes
3. stand on line beside car door in parking lots.
4. walk holding mom's hand or the stroller reliably
5. wipe own place at the table (we're already having success with this at 19 mos)
6. come to mama (always a work in progress)
7. wait for mama (a new one I'm realizing is useful, just to have the skill of waiting standing in the corner of the bathroom while I'm changing a baby's diaper or whatever).


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