A while ago I posted asking what you’d like to hear about, and I was asked about what parenting challenges I have experienced and how I have overcome them or attempting to overcome them.
This is basically the foundation of my blog, and there have been MANY challenges in my parenting journey, and still continues to be so.
What I have found over time is, that in many scenarios such as fussy eating, tantrums, separation anxiety, and the list goes on and on, it’s trial and error.
What a lot of these parenting books and well-known forums etc. state about how we should tackle certain challenges, isn’t always realistic or practical for most parents. The information is written based on theory rather than actual parental experience, and we can’t expect our children to react to techniques in a textbook manner. This is where I stumbled so many times and saw myself as a failure because I saw no improvement with the issues we were facing with our son, but adapting techniques is when we started to see our son overcome certain issues.
Parental challenges, however, aren’t just what our children challenge us with, it is also a question of how having children changes your life as you know it. How it challenges your relationship with your partner and even friends. So with that in mind, let’s get into it…
Challenges we have faced
I love a good nights sleep, and I got a good 7- 8 hours of sleep every night before I had my son, and maybe even 10 hours on the weekends! But when you have a baby, sleep is a luxury, particularly in those early months, and if you are unlucky than well into toddlerhood.
My son was a bad sleeper for well over a year, by which point I had started back at work full time and looked like this!
He wanted to be held and cuddled to fall asleep, and he would scream if we put him down awake. We could spend an hour just bouncing him to sleep, which was a great work out for those bingo wings (I’ve never had such toned arms!)…but terrible for my mental well being, not to mention bad sleep association for our little one.
When he eventually went down, he would wake up in the middle of the night, and would not settle until one of us saw to him, again another hour of cuddling and bouncing.
This really affected my mood, I was overreacting to the smallest of things, and snapping at everyone close to me. It was like my hormones were on steroids and I simply couldn’t function with disturbed sleep. My husband did his part, but three out of five working days he starts work at 5am, so I couldn’t expect him to be the one to get out of bed in the middle of the night on those days.
My son needed to learn to settle himself, and sleep training was well overdue, in retrospect why we didn’t start it earlier is beyond me.
I (kinda) tried the shush-tap technique in my own way, now don’t quote me on this, but this is basically a technique whereby you put your baby /toddler to bed awake, but tired, and you leave them to settle themselves in intervals. For example, you put your child to bed, if they cry for 2 minutes you go back in and you tap their bottom in a heartbeat motion for about a minute, and in-between the taps you say “shush”.
You then walk out of the room, if they begin crying/moaning again, you then wait 4 minutes before you go back in and repeat, adding on 2 minutes each time (2 minutes, 4 minutes then 6 minutes etc) allowing your child the chance to settle themselves longer periods at a time. If you sense your child is beginning to settle, but still may be crying a little, then wait it out a few extra minutes.
We didn’t follow the technique to the exact rules, just did it in a way that worked for us. For example, If my son unsettled for the 3rd time, I would then speak to him through the monitor, saying in a soft voice, “It’s time to sleep, good night” and would end with “shush”. He would then become quiet and settle himself.
This sort of technique is usually used on babies under 12 months, but my son was over when I started this. Tapping was a little difficult as he was very active, so I had to gently hold him down with one hand and tap with the other.
It took us between one to two weeks to have him sleep trained and life completely changed. I put him to bed fully awake, and rather than being met with cries, he gets himself comfortable and settles to sleep until morning. He doesn’t wake in the night anymore, but if on the rare occasion he does, he settles himself back to sleep. For us, it was just a matter of giving him the chance to settle and not rush in at the first sign of a cry.
This process allowed him the opportunity to learn how to settle without mummy or daddy holding him. I know it’s not easy to hear your child cry out for you, but with this technique, they can see you are there for them, but also that they can sleep on their own. If sleep is an issue for you, then this is worth a try.
Time with my husband
It’s definitely far between date nights for us. Getting dressed up for a nice meal and night out, or to go watch a movie is rare. Even at home, we may neglect each other a little, as our focus is on our son, choirs or just having five minutes to one’s self.
No one tells you that sometimes you have to learn how to reconnect, love and appreciate each other again in a whole other way once you have kids. We are good at giving each other a breather or “night off” from tantrums; My husband has his time with his friends and so do I. But we have come to realise, what about us? We’re not just parents now, we are still a couple.
This is a challenge that I believe affects a lot of couples, whether they admit it or not. The way we try to get around this is by not putting pressure on ourselves to go out, and instead, we have a date night at home when we can’t get a sitter. In all honesty, whether we stay in or go out doesn’t bother me, although it’s nice to get dressed up and go out for a slap-up meal, it’s not always practical and sometimes I just want to be in my joggers, sweater, bare-faced, with hair up in a messy topknot!
The most important thing for me is that we are showing each other we still care and remain connected… We put our son to bed, cook a nice meal or get a cheeky takeaway, enjoy eating together, and each others company like we use to. We don’t always get around to it, but the effort is there.
My suggestion would be to try one night a week, put it in your diary like an appointment you have to keep. But like us, don’t put the pressure on yourselves to go out and paint the town red, just put the kids to bed early, order a takeaway and enjoy an evening together.
Now, this is something I wrote about a while ago, my son has truly given me anxiety with his fussy eating. I cook a toddler-friendly meal, serve it to him, and he refuses to eat. Most of the time the food would end up on the floor and I’d want to tear my hair out from sheer frustration. You can read about this in My fussy eater post.
An updated view of how we have significantly improved his fussy eating is as follows:
Food throwing: When our son threw food on the floor, we stopped reacting, eventually, he learnt that he gained nothing by doing this, and so he no longer throws his food. It was honestly that simple!
Verity: Offer a verity of food at mealtimes, use those segmented plates, and always offer a couple of veg options, a protein source and some carbs, by doing this your child will at least have something nutritional even if they don’t finish all of their food.
Snacks: Only offer light snacks, if your child is or seems hungry between meals, try offering a smoothie or a portion of fruit. Generally only “watery snacks”, so that your child is not full by mealtime, but satisfies their interim hunger.
Social encouragement: Eating with you, others or simply watching other children eat on YouTube / food-based nursery rhymes really helped encourage my son to pick up his spoon and eat. I’m not condoning watching TV while eating, but I’m not going to lie, sometimes it helps. Just make sure it’s something based on food so that it doesn’t create mindless eating habits or take away from your child building a good relationship with food and mealtimes.
Don’t fuss: If someone keeps telling you to do something do you do it? Or do you become annoyed and refuse? Well, this goes for kids too, they become stubborn. We kept fussing (well I did) around my son, trying to encourage him to eat, and the more I tried the more he refused. When I stepped away, served him the food and left him to it, he began eating on his own!
Sometimes he still misses a meal or only has a bit, which is perfectly normal. Of course, it still frustrates me when he does this, but I know he’s ok, and he’d eat if he was hungry.
I remind myself that his stomach is only as large as his little fist, so even a small amount of food goes a long way.
In conclusion, know that whatever challenges your little one throws at you, you are not alone, you’ve got this and you’re doing a great job.
There have been plenty of other challenges I have faced, some of which I have covered in other articles, which I have linked below.
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