Tips for Parenting Infants

Posted by onlinedivorce on March 15th, 2017

Through Separation or Divorce

Infants (0-18 months)are completely dependent on parents or caregivers. They need to establish trust intheir environment.

•    Infants attach to their parents at about 6-7 months. It is very important that theyinteract with both parents if possible, regularly and often. A good rule of thumb for infants who have become attached to bothparents is that they have contact with both parents every other day or every third day.

•    Parents mustbe able to get along and control their conflict. If there is a lot of tension and conflict, it can disrupt infants and youngchildren’s sense of safety and security. Overnight visits with the non-residentialparent may not be a good idea until parental cooperation is improved.

•    Emotional sensitivity and responsiveness to the baby are even more important than physical care. Parents should be involved in normal parenting activities. These include feeding, bathing, napping, and play.

•    Both homes need to have similar security items likeblankets,toys,pacifiers, or other similar items that are comforting to the children.The two households should also have similar daily schedules, like bedtime andfeeding.Introducing new things such as solid foods and drinking cups should be done at the same time by both parents.

Infant Temperament Traits*

Temperament is a set of traits we are born with that affect the way children react in different situations, including separation or divorce of their parents. These traits are evidentin babies, and can generally be seen into adulthood:

•    Activity: Is the person always moving and doing something (“hard to sit still”) or do they have a more relaxed (“laid back”) style?

•    Routine: Do they have regular eating and sleeping patterns, or are they always changing?

•    Confident vs. Shy: Do they embrace and enjoy new situations and people, or tend to shy away or avoid new circumstances?

•    Easy-going: Does the person easily adjust to changes in routines or plans, or react irritably, grouchy, or confused in reaction to changes?

•    Intense or Calm: Do they have strong reactions to situations, either positive or negative (overly excited, outbursts, etc.), or tend to react in a calm, quiet, patient manner?

•    Mood: Is there generally a more negative attitude or reaction to daily situations, or more positive, optimistic, “glass-half-full” outlook? Does their mood frequently shift (“mood swings”), or is it usually even-tempered?

•    Drive: Do they give up quickly when a task becomes difficult or does he/she keep on trying? Do they stick with an activity for long periods, or do they tend to wander?

•    Distractible: Does the person get easily distracted from an activity or can they shut out distractions and stick with the current activity?

•    Touchy: Is the person bothered by loud noises, bright lights, or new food textures, or do they tend to ignore them and “go with the flow”?  

Based on combinations of these traits, infants tend to take on one of the three following general personality “types”:

Flexible (easy-going, able to adapt):

•    The most common type (found in about 40% of the population).

•    Generally has regular patterns, positive mood, low intensity, low sensitivity, and is easy-goingin changing situations.

•    Children in this category may transition well, but might not get their needs met if they do not speak up when they could or should.

•    These children often get along in the world without “making waves” because they are so even-tempered and adaptable.

Cautious (slow-to-warm-up, shy, fearful, passive):

•    About 15% of the population.

•    Tend to withdraw and/or cry, especially during stressful situations.

•    May need more time to adapt to changing settings.

•    Sometimes too connected to people and places (clingy); but develop these connections slowly. Children in this category do best with:

o    slow transitions, familiar settings, stableroutines, objects that help them make a transition through change (holding on to a familiar stuffed animal, blanket, or toy), and a preview or warning of changes before they occur.

•    Often have more trouble living in two homes; one caregiver may be easier to manage for these children.

•    The more settings to which they are required to adapt (e.g., daycare, preschool, etc.), the more difficult it is for them to stay on an even keel.

•    May find it difficult to leave either parent and may act clingy or whiny before, during, or after changes.

•    Need routines they can count on as they do not react well to sudden changes. For babies, transitions to new homes and routines should be carefully planned.

Feisty (difficult, fussy, over-active):

•    About 10% of the population.

•    High intensity, unstable, over-active behavior, distractible, sensitive, and moody. Often described as “a handful.”

•    Need calm surroundings, patience, flexibility, and frequent vigorous activity.

•    Transitions from setting to setting can be challenging for children with this temperament.

•    Need plenty of warning to stop what they are doing before a change occurs, and a “preview” of what is coming, as they do not easily shift gears.

•    May “test” parents’ follow-through when it is time to make a transition and may be disobedient or unhappy after moving from one house to another.

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