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How can I ease my new mom nerves?

Dear Mama Drama:

I’m a new mom and feel like I have no idea what I’m doing most of the time. I haven’t spent much time around babies or young children, so am not sure what my daughter is supposed to be doing when. We are also on a tight budget, so my resources are limited.

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What ideas do you have for getting us off on the right foot?

~ Nervous Mama

Dear Nervous:

Please know you are experiencing the same feelings every new mom faces. Trust your instincts, respond to your daughter’s cues, and get connected with a support system.

There are many great resources to help you feel more confident in understanding your daughter’s development as well as your ability to support and care for her. Look at a variety of sources and find a style that feels right to you. Since you are on a budget, you may want to start at the library books on child development and care. A favorite of mine is The Baby Book by Dr. William Sears. It addresses development, attachment parenting, and common ailments for children 0-2.

Another fabulous FREE resource is available from Bright Beginnings. They offer research and evidence-based parenting support for children birth to 3 years old. Their resources include three programs targeted to children 0-12 months, 12-24 months, and 24-36 months. Each program offers an age appropriate board book for your child and tips for parents on child development, positive discipline, learning games to play at home, and more. You can go to their website and request a home visit or join a group presentation of the materials. You’ll have the opportunity to get the additional sets as your daughter grows. Additionally, they have many partner organizations where you can obtain the programs and find assistance.

Moms groups can also be a wonderful support to new mothers. Some local options are Mod Moms, MOPS, Moms Club, Mocha Moms,  and La Leche League. Mommy and me classes at yoga studios and rec centers are also great places to meet other moms and kids.

It is important to connect with other moms for support and social interactions for you and your daughter. Motherhood is wonderful, exhilarating, challenging, and exasperating all at the same time. Having other moms to help you navigate the roller coaster is essential to your confidence and well-being as a mom.

Please share your new mom tips of encouragement.

-Lisa Vratny-Smith

Mama Drama: Articulation Angst

Dear Mama Drama:

My 4-year-old son has an extensive vocabulary but like a lot of kids, has a difficult time saying his “R”s and “L”s. When should I start worrying about getting him in speech and what can I be doing with him now?

~ Concerned Mama

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Dear Concerned:

While I’ve worked with children of all ages and a wide range of special needs, I am not a speech expert. To make sure you get the best information I consulted with Deb Trench and Ashley Neff, Early Childhood Speech Language Pathologists in Aurora Public Schools.

Articulation guidelines indicate that the ability to clearly articulate the /r/ sound should be developed by the age of 8. Children should be able to use /l/ sounds consistently around five or six, with boys often being on the later end. Since your son is well below these ages you won’t need to worry just yet. However, there are several things you can do to support his development of these sounds.

Play with language: Make up silly alliterations and rhymes that use these sounds. Work together to see how many words you can think of that start with specific letter sounds – include the ones he is struggling with, but expand beyond that as well. Search out items in your environment that start with specific letters – a letter specific version of I Spy. These are great activities to do while riding in the car or waiting in line.

Correct through restatement: When your son mispronounces these sounds, repeat what he has said emphasizing the correct pronunciation without necessarily correcting him. “You’re right, that is a big LLLion.” “You want the RRRed shirt?”

Read aloud: When reading aloud remember to read the words as well as talk about the pictures together. Here are a few suggestions of books that emphasize the letters /r/ and /l/. Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile by Bernard Waber, London Bridge is Falling Down by Peter Spier, Rain Makes Applesauce by Julian Scheer, Red is Best by Kathy Stinson,  Rosie’s Roses by Pamela Duncan Edwards, and Rotten Ralph by Jack Gantos. You can browse the library or bookstore for more books focusing on these letter sounds.

Talk with your child: Frequently conversations with your child will support both his articulation and his continued language development.

Remember that articulation involves initial, ending, medial (middle) and blended sounds. Initial sounds generally come first.

If you continue to feel worried or have any other developmental concerns please seek further evaluation for your child. Early intervention is very effective and sets the stage for academic and social success. For children under the age of five, contact your local school district and ask for their Child Find evaluation team. Consult with your classroom teacher about a referral for an evaluation for school-age children. You can also consult your pediatrician or a private speech language therapist.

Motherhood is an amazing journey that can have its share of Mama Drama. The Mama Drama column runs on Fridays with everyday mothering questions from readers and answers providing strategies to tackle these daily challenges. Send your questions and challenges to [email protected], and your Mama Drama could be in next week’s column! Lisa is also available for private consultations. All emails and identifying information will remain confidential.

Mama Drama: Bedtime Woes & Sibling Fights

Dear Mama Drama: My 13-month-old daughter used to go to bed easily. Now she stands in her crib and screams. We have a consistent, calming bedtime routine, but it doesn’t seem to be working right now.

Dear Exasperated:
Your daughter may be telling you it’s to change her sleep schedule. She may not be as tired at her current bedtime as she used to be. Toddlers often shift their sleeping patterns as their activity and developmental needs change. They still need 10-13 hours of sleep on average, but may take fewer naps, need a different bed time, or need to be awakened earlier.

It may also be helpful to take a look at her schedule throughout the day. Make sure she is getting enough physical activity and that she is not over-stimulated in the hours just before bed. Warm baths, massages, wrapping up in a blanket to provide deep pressure, and quiet stories are all great additions to your nightly routine that will help her relax and be ready for sleep.

Dear Mama Drama: My seven year old twin boys were teasing each other last night when it escalated to one hitting the other multiple times in the back and the other one stabbing his brother in the head with the point of a pencil several times before I could intervene. I got them calmed down and put to bed, trying to stay calm myself. This is the first time this has happened and I am trying to figure out if this is normal or if I should be worried?

Dear Reeling:
Sounds like you did well to stay calm and get them calm. I suggest spending some time talking with them separately about what happened, focusing on how they were feeling at the time and helping them take responsibility for their part in the problem. Then have a conversation together where you problem solve and make a plan for future situations when they feel so upset.

While seven year olds generally have adequate vocabulary, they often don’t know how to express themselves effectively. Teaching and practicing problem solving language gives them the tools they need to successfully navigate social situations. With siblings, and particularly twins, emotions can be especially intense. Creating a peaceful problem solving structure provides a great framework for the family and is a skill they will use throughout their lives.

As a one-time incident I wouldn’t be over-the-top worried. Definitely let them know this behavior is not acceptable in any way and keep your radar up for escalating situations. Sometimes things happen too quickly to stop them, but other times we can step in to support them when the tension begins to rise and help them start communicating before the problems get bigger.

Motherhood is an amazing journey that can have its share of Mama Drama. The Mama Drama column will be running on Fridays with everyday mothering questions from readers and answers providing strategies to tackle these daily challenges. Send your questions to [email protected], and your Mama Drama might be in next week’s column.