One of the most common questions you get asked as a new mum is.. “is your baby a good sleeper?”. Hudson began life as a dreadful day time sleeper, but slept pretty well over night. That is until the dreaded ‘four month sleep regression’ recently kicked in (I can hear the collective sighs of all mums as you read this).
As a result, we have recently embarked on trying to teach Hudson to self-soothe to improve his ability to sleep for extended periods of time.
Teaching any child a new skill has it challenges, so I wanted to share with you my hot tips on staying ‘sane’ when trying to teach your child something new. Whether you’re trying to teach your little one to self-soothe, tie their shoelaces, or use the toilet…these tips will hopefully help to make this challenging time that little bit easier.
- Set yourself a clear and specific goal
Make sure you know exactly what you are trying to work towards. For many goals you may find it helpful to set a ‘long term’ goal, with several ‘short term goals’ for you to work towards to reach your larger goal. Keep in mind though that ultimately you want to make sure you’re working towards one new skill at a time. You may like to chat to your child’s OT about how to break up a new skill into small steps.
- Timing is everything
When deciding to start working on teaching a new skill, ask yourself ‘is the timing right?’ You want to make sure that you give yourself and your child the very best opportunity to learn the new skill- so try to avoid starting something new when your child is unwell, or you have a lot on your plate at the time. I often find that school holidays is a good time to try and learn something new, this is often when everyone is most relaxed.
- Consistency is key
When teaching a new skill, it is imperative that your approach is consistent. This means that the process you use to teach the new skill must be consistent each day, and if there are multiple people involved in teaching the new skill, you must all be consistent in your approach. Imagine how confusing it would be if you were trying to teach your child to tie their shoelaces one way, but your spouse was trying to teach them another way. Consider writing down what strategies you are going to use to teach the new skill so that everyone is on the same page.
- Have a support network
Sometimes teaching your child a new skill can feel exhausting or overwhelming. Try to identify people around you who you can talk to about the challenges you are facing. You’ll be amazed at how many other families are likely to be going through the same processes as you.
- Be prepared for tough days
Be prepared for the fact that some days are going to be tough, for both you and your child. Sometimes your best laid plans will fall through, and your progress may stall or take a backwards step. Don’t beat yourself up about this, it’s ok! There will be speedbumps along the way. On these days take a step back, take a deep breath, and remember that tomorrow is a new day.
- Celebrate the small achievements
Sometimes it can take a while for a child to learn a new skill, and it can feel like a long road to success. Before you start to teach a new skill, you may like to write down exactly what your child’s current abilities are, or even take a video. That way every now and then you can remind yourself of where you started, and how far you have come. And don’t forget to celebrate the small achievements!
- Make it fun!
When trying to teach your older child a new skill, it is imperative that they feel motivated towards working hard to achieve the goal. The best way to do this is by making it as fun and meaningful as possible for them. The more they enjoy the process the more relaxed and engaged you will feel.
Depending on what you’re working towards, and how old your child is, it is incredibly important to involve them in the goal setting and planning process. Chat to your child’s OT about the best way to get them involved.
As for us, our journey towards teaching Hudson to self soothe is going to be a long one- but I’m confident that with consistency and patience we’ll get there. And in the mean time I am going to enjoy the extra overnight cuddles, because before I know it I’m going to miss them!