How to move slowly with your toddler 

Did I mention that we will move in barely two weeks?! This is also why I share my thoughts a little less often with you at the moment.

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Today I want to share some thoughts and feelings about this tough situation of moving with small children. But I think these ideas also fit to all situations, in which change happens in a family, like the soon birth of a new child, the start of a new job or any period in which your children react sensitive. Always be aware that children are our mirrors – Whenever you have problems with your little ones, ask yourself what problems YOU currently have in your life.

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It is the second time that we move to another town since J was born. Last time he was five months old and we thought he wouldn’t realise much. How wrong we were… He might not have known that he would soon sleep in a different room, be carried through a different park, but he felt all the trouble around him. All his world falling into pieces and his parents racing through this world with barely time for him with all the packing and organising. This was also when he started crying and yelling through the night for almost 4 months. I didn’t know Emmi Pikler then, I hadn’t really developed an intuitive parenting feeling and I just tried everything to calm him.

This time mostly nothing is different. We are packing and organising, J is crying a lot and I feel again how scared he is that everything and everyone will leave him, especially me. I decided right at the beginning of all the preparations that I wanted everything different this time. So we decided to reorganise our priorities. We can’t avoid the moving part of the situation, we can just work with the HOW.

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1. The Core Matters

When you move into another apartment or even to another town, a lot changes around you. But research has shown that the event of moving also counts to the major life events that shape your inner and thus psychological history. For children this is accompanied by feelings of excitement, but also of loss and desperation. Children, especially young ones, are barely familiar with consistency. They trust us blindly to lead them through the world and they need repetition to slowly learn to adapt to life. So we need to find consistency in the only thing that stays consistent when we move: our family core. Spend as much time together as a core as possible. 

We do that in our weekly nature trips every Sunday. This day is always safe and it is always the same: We stay in bed to snuggle, we prepare a slow sunday breakfast like a smoothie bowl or an ayurvedic porridge. And then we prepare a big backpack full of nice snacks like egg sandwiches, potato salad, banana bread, or the like. Then we are off till sunset, exploring nature and hugging trees.Stabilising and empowering our core. 

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2. The JUST YOU NOW Moments

This is what Emmi Pikler taught us: Stay mindful or at least make these mindful moments part of your daily routine. Whenever you feel that your child starts being “difficult” (Children are never difficult, only situations are), hold on for a second and breathe 5 deep breaths. Did you spend at least 10 minutes of the last two hours as a whole ONLY with your child? If not, let everything be and sit down at your child’s height and just watch him. Ask yourself why he is just wonderful. And tell him. Stay. 

3. Be open for PLAN B 

I feel it is very difficult to leave for work at the moment, because J needs me so much. But some things just have to be done. Though not all. In these last weeks before moving I often ask myself, if certain things really need to be done or if I can just cancel them for some more family time. So go through your weekly calendar and strike out all things that are not absolutely necessary now. 

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4. The ME Minutes

Your children need you more now. Yes Yes Yes. But unfortunately there is not more YOU than before. And the balancing act between moving, working and satisfying your child’s needs will absorb you at some point. So ask for help where you can. Ask your parents, neighbours, friends and whomever you like, love and trust with your little ones to help you. Maybe they can help you clean, pack and unpack or they might just watch your children. Even 30 minutes, in which someone cares for your little ones are a relief where you can take a relaxing pine bath, have a yin yoga session or just lay down in your bed and watch the ceiling. 

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Change is a constant part of our life circle. We will always be touched by it from in and outside. No matter if we try to ignore or deny it. No matter if we try to race through difficult periods. If we consciously perceive and embrace change, then we have a chance to deal with it and to adapt slowly. That doesn’t mean there won’t be pain. But this way there will be time for the pain. Time to feel it and time to heal.

I am very curious how you deal with change in your lives?! Tell my in the comments 🙂

Susann

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Stop Smiling.

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Whenever you see a baby, there is this reflex around your mouth that makes it twist. Research has shown that it is hard to look angry at babies in general even when they look angry themselves. But to look angry at a smiling baby is just impossible. I also examine this phenomenon in my PhD thesis by the way 😉

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It obviously starts earlier somewhere in the emotional and cognitive parts of our brain. Emotions such as affection and warmth are driven by the most rudimentary regions of our body, where hormones like oxytocin and endorphines are secreted. We also have expectations towards ourselves about how we want to treat children. We have believes of what society expects us to treat our children. And we see a lot of movies and advertisments where people smile all the time.

And smiling at a baby is the most natural reaction there is! It protects the child. With round cheeks, great eyes and a small nose, nature has produced a little human that everyone wants to protect and support.

But then there is your every day life. And if you watch yourself closely, you might notice, that you smile at your baby or even at your older child, whenever you see it. Even if you don’t feel like smiling. Even when your child does something that you disliked. But you don’t want to hurt his feelings so you smile. You are bored and exhausted and look out of the window. But whenever your child looks at you, you suddenly give him a smile.

Please: Stop doing that.

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You wonder why our western world becomes more and more superficial and why everyone is showing a teethy grin on photos? You wonder why the first answer that slips you, whenever someone asks you how you are is: great? People all in the world must be so happy, if we believed all of them. And if you smile all day long in the presence of your child, your child will think just the same about our world.

What your child will think:

Everyone is always happy. My mom always smiles. She is always happy- even when I do something stupid. I am not always happy, so I am not normal. I have to smile on pictures, even if I’m sad. I have to smile at aunt Kathrin, even if I am scared of her. I will try harder to smile.

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You are the center of your child’s world, of your child’s believe system and reality. So just relax a little more often. Be mindful whenever you spend time together and try to remind yourself as often as possible that you can show your feelings. If you feel exhausted because you had a hard day then why not frown? If you are mad or sad why not sit there with your mouth corners looking in the wrong direction? That won’t traumatize your child. It will encourage him to be authentic and to show his feelings.

Children don’t need HAPPY parents- children need REAL parents

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I’m not saying you should NEVER smile. Whenever you feel like it and you are filled with joy, then please smile! It is one of the most wonderful body reactions to smile and laugh and it is so healing! But try to be aware a little more often of how you feel and what you are displaying in your face.

You seek for a little more authenticity in our world? More real people? Start with your child and show him how real people are. Start in your little world.

Susann

 

Our Waldorf Homeschooling Calendar

Several of you have asked on Instagram, whether I could write some more details about our waldorf routines. I already shared some thoughts about Emmi Pikler and she really has a great influence on how we see children and our relationship with them. But all in all we have many other influences like Maria Montessori and Jean Liedloff. And one big influence that mostly shapes our days and routines and also the atmosphere we live in is by Rudolf Steiner, the founder of the Waldorf pedagogy in Germany.

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Me and my 3 years younger brother actually visited a normal school and thus didn’t experience the waldorf pedagogy  personally. But if I could have chosen, I would have wanted to visit a waldorf kindergarten and school. Kindergarten and school times are periods of my life I would rather forget and that are constant memories of cold, envy, pressure and loneliness.

I have watched my 4 younger siblings visit the waldorf kindergarten/school and always admired the magical and warm atmosphere in there. There is no pressure and a lot of freedom to develop and still (or maybe just because of that) they grow into independent, joyful, confident and curious beings, who learned how to learn and who found their place in this world.

With Rhythms we feel save, supported and alive. We move with rhythms as we dance through the seasons with all other beings like plants and animals, who adapt to the eternal repetition of nature. We use pranayam exercises to heal and to gain back energy during yoga sessions with the rhythm of our breathing. Our body  follows a biorhythm in food intake, digestion, hormonal cycles and activation levels.

The waldorf pedagogy has shown how precious these rhythms and repetitions are for small children.  The natural rhythm is given by the shift of the seasons and weeks and thus the daily routine just adapts with certain activities.

Since we still live at home with J, we chose to integrate these rhythms into our daily life. We always have a nature table that we create together with our little one, by collecting nature goods and crafting. We choose seasonal colors to decorate this table with silk clothes and kind, friendly things. We always integrate candles to give it the power of an altar. We don’t believe in god as in christian religion, rather than a universal energy that we welcome with nature’s givings.

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Since J was 18 months old, we created a weekly calendar based on what we know about the waldorf routines. These calendars are freely created and differ from kindergarten to kindergarten. But there are some characteristics that repeat everywhere. The anthroposophic pedagogy assumes that very young children have no imagination of yesterday and tomorrow, but live in the very day.  How mindfully spoken! Thus children need something special and magical in every single day to be able to recognise it. This is easily reached with daily food and activity routines.

I really like the image of Wednesday as potato day or Thursday as soup day.  But we weren’t yet able to accomplish that in our daily life but are constantly trying.

We rather have a fixed routine for every day, which I want to outline shortly. Of course the calendar changes a bit through the seasons, but that makes it even livelier.

Our Waldorf Homeschooling Calendar

Monday: Sweet day

This is where we bake cake, prepare raw truffles, energy balls or hot vegan chocolate. It is a wonderful welcome to start the week satisfied and joyfully.

Tuesday: Crafting and Coloring

Here we prepare treasures for our nature altar, craft christmas stars or just use brushs and colors on Aquarell paper.

Wednesday: Stocking day

The middle of the week is my favourite day.  Here we prepare Ghee, broths, wild herbal salt or ferment sauerkraut. There are endless possibilities. Sometimes we just fill up our refrigerator with self cooked beans, quinoa or veggie patties to use for the rest of the week in salads or sides. J loves everything that goes on in our kitchen. He has a foot stool since he was 12 months old to reach everything on the counter.

Thursday:  Magical Stories 

This day we visit the children’s library or just stay at home to build us a palace of our books on the sofa that we read while drinking tea and eating cookies.

Friday: Cleaning day

The flat is brought into a glittering and gleaming castle… no that is actually not what it looks like.  Before the weekend we like to do the laundry, vacuum (J helps with his broom) or change the sheets. In waldorf tradition Friday is the day to prepare the weekend and to slow down. And since we have visitors nearly every week, this is how we spend that day.

Saturday and Sunday 

Of course we are not a kindergarten and thus we also enjoy the weekend together. We always have one slow, unplanned day. And as you might know if you followed me for a while, we also have our weekly nature trip. This is where we stand up very early to fill our backpack with egg sandwiches and hot tea and drive to an unplanned nature spot. We always explore something new and this is the perfect day to regain all energy after a long week. 

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Don’t get caught by your calendar!

This might sound like it were the best thing to vanish in an uncountable number of dates and routines, but this is definitely not what it means. To develop freely children absolutely need a mixture of routines and free play. This free play is a core quality of the waldorf pedagogy and can of course also be found in many other modern pedagogies.I have already written some lines about that the other day when I told you about our Pikler Play Time and I will soon write some more about that. Try to have your days mixed and always “plan” some free time for all of you, where you can enjoy mindful minutes with each other.

Let them play

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J was about 10 months old, when we started visiting a Pikler Play Room and it felt like being finally born into a whole new world of understanding. These Play rooms are led Persons who are qualified to mindfully and confidently accompany children with the philosophy of the Hungarian pediatrician Emmi Pikler. It is a rather great contrast to baby groups where there is lots of singing, colorful toys and where the mothers play for their children rather than letting their children play.

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At first it was quite awkward. We arrived and were told to sit on a mat like the other mothers and just to watch the children play for 60 minutes. After that there would be 30 minutes time to have a conversation together and to share our thoughts and feelings. The babies were all about the same age. It was a calm, nearly intimate atmosphere without talking. The room was filled with beautiful wooden waldorf toys and different wooden units that were developed by Emmi Pikler and her successors. At first I felt a little uncomfortable, thinking that J would surely be falling down if I don’t stand behind him and that it would surely be boring for him, if we don’t play with him. Oh I was so wrong.

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Children are great at playing on their own. Indeed they are born to play on their own at least for the first three years. They love to explore and touch everything around them and are fascinated by things like empty flower pots, wooden spoons or any nature objects. They don’t need help 90% of the time!

  1. They DON’T need to be told how toys work as it is much more satisfying for them to find out themselves. And even if they use things in a different way than you would- be tolerant and patient and don’t push them. Who says that a pencil is made for drawing, when a 10 month old would rather stick it through that hole in the flower pot? Who says wooden bricks are made for building, when your 6 months old rather likes to lick or throw them? Be open-minded to see the world with your child’s eyes.

2. You DON’T have to stand behind them, to prevent them from falling. This way they will only stand up, when they are really ready for it. And if it really happens that they do fall down, then it is no drama. My grandma always said, children have a head like a tennis ball: As long as they fall from their own height it’s no problem.

3. You DON’T even have to be careful with small objects. As long as you stay relaxed, your child will be focused on his actions. He actually won’t be able to swallow them, because of his gag reflex. Children do have a much stronger gag reflex than we do. It already starts at the middle of their mouth. Meaning that when your child is gagging, he is NOT choking, but just gagging because a small object has reached the middle of his mouth. It is a simple reflex that mother earth has invented for them that enables us parents to stay relaxed while they play. You can give them any small object to explore. Trust your child- you will be astonished about the abilities and knowledge about the world he already has. (Our Pikler teacher even said:” In my 20 years of experience not a single baby  swallowed a glass marble.”)

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We continued letting him play since that age and at the playground or at family festivities people often mention how autonomous he is and that it is unbelievable that he busies himself for 1-2 hours at a time. The only thing you have to do is being present. Hold his eye contact, so he knows you are there.

Now that he is nearing the age of 2 we suddenly realized how much our play times changed. J is still playing a lot on his own. But during that time I sometimes write Emails, read a magazine, run household errands or cook in the kitchen. I don’t take that time anymore to actually sit down and watch him.

So several weeks ago I had to remind myself to reestablish that wonderful routine in our family life: To prepare a smoothie (or now rather a hot mug of tea) and to sit down at his eye level on the floor, snuggled under some blankets. And then to watch him for at least 30 minutes.

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It changed a lot between us. J really enjoys his mindful playtime. He smiles a lot, reassures himself, that I’m still watching and comes to me once in a while to touch me or kiss me. He also shows me his toys or paintings and we talk about them. I don’t praise him (that is another topic ;-)), but just enjoy that time with him and soak it up deeply into my heart.

Children grow up so quickly and it is worth to really get to know them at that age.

Susann

Are you at eye level with your child?

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If it is anyhow possible for you at this very moment,  then try out the following thing:

Go down on the floor and lay on your belly. Lift your head slightly and use your hands to stabilise your upper body. Stay there for some minutes. Imagine now that you are your child. Try to see your surroundings with his eyes. Do you see the dust under your sofa? Do you smell the wooden floor right beneath you? Look what is on your perception level: A toy lying on the floor, daddys socks under the sofa? Try to see now what is lying on your desk or imagine what other people would look like from down here. Try to soak in this perspective. 

There is one reason for this maybe awkward introduction. We can’t easily imagine what it is like to be small. Even though we have been there once. Our children are different from us in height and their perception is thus immensely different from ours.  Can you accept your child’s height?

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It all starts at playing again. Whenever your child plays, he does it at his level of perception and development. He doesn’t long for another height, as he just doesn’t know it exists and as it just doesn’t belong to his world yet. You don’t have to lift your child up the climbing frame at the playground if he can’t climb the latter by himself. Don’t sit him up the slide just because you want him to slide down. There will be the moment when he will do it all by himself. Mostly even sooner than later. And when he does, he will have determined the moment. He was the one who decided. He will also be content with himself, if he has done it all alone. It will help his self-reliance and self-esteem much more than when you just sit him up there. He needs this moment of achievement. Do you want other people to sit your exams?! Help your child being grounded and accept that up the latter might not be his play level at the moment. Don’t disroot him.

This is even more important for small children of course as it not only disroots them but stresses and endangers their body! Don’t put your child in any sitting position if he can’t do it himself (Sitting also includes, if he is leaned against you). Beside physical reasons think of his perspective again. He has a certain time of his life (some months only) when he is supposed to be lying on his back or belly and to explore everything from that perspective. For us it might be awkward to lay on our back and look at the ceiling all day, but for children at that age it is the most natural and pleasant thing. Who are we to say: ok sweety, time to get ready and go to the next level! Accept that it is an important developmental stage for him and that it is highly important for his whole life.

Another point is conversation. If you have something to say to your child and most of all, if it is something emotional like explaining your feelings or a certain boundary  (“I can’t let you hit me again, because it hurts me, so next time you do that I will have to protect myself” ) try to stay on your child’s eye level. Yes, go down as low as possible to speak to him. Only if your child is at eye level, he can properly see your face and perceive what it displays. Are you severe, sad or understanding? You will see, it is much easier to communicate with him that way and your child will be much more responsive. You may also treat your child as you would treat any friend or other adult at the situation. Tell him everything you feel and think as detailed as possible. No matter how old he is, he will comprehend you much better and he will get used to open emotional communication at this sensitive age.

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My last point on height is the one I already mentioned some weeks ago in here. It’s emotional and physical pain. If your child experiences stress, because of growth spurts, shock or injuries, leave him at his developmental height level. For your child our world is full of stimuli and surprises. And especially in a situation where he can’t handle it anymore he seeks for love, support and understanding. Don’t lift your child up to your level. This might feel good and normal for you, but it totally disrupts the situation for your little one. Go down to listen to his pain and most of all: take him close to you if he wants that.

It all comes down to acceptance and respect. Be aware that your child is smaller than you much more often. Your child is much nearer to the ground. He is much more grounded even. All children are,  thank god. He will grow anyway. But let him leave the ground in his pace. Let him grow as slowly  as he needs it.

Susann

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Why your toddler hits you

Last week my brother visited us. We see each other much too seldomly to be appropriate for our deep relationship. Clearly we wanted to do something special, so we visited a very nice vegan family eating spot to hang out and give J the opportunity to run around wildly and play with wooden toys. I am not a big follower of fixed times throughout the day, but I know, that J normally gets tired around 12:00 and that he has to sleep somewhere at around 12:30. So we sat there and waited for our food at 12:30 and it was delicious and J was playing wildly. I know he prefers to sleep in his bed instead of the stroller, but I thought today he could just do with the stroller and that we would just manage it, if we stay relaxed. You know how days get planned and how it really works in the end…

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When we left the restaurant he was so groggy, he yelled and screamed. I tried to put him into the ergo carrier and held him close. He stopped screaming and started scratching and biting me. He is quite good at scratching- and faster than I can protect myself. As soon as we reached the next meadow, I lay down and nursed him to sleep. All was well. Except for my décolleté that was covered in red welts (I am not exaggerating here).

I think you know where I am getting at. Your toddler always has a reason to hit, scratch or bite you. He never wants to hurt you on purpose. For him it is the only way to release tension. It is a catalyst for stress and pain.

So if your toddler hits you right in the face or pokes you in the middle of your eye, don’t say:  “What is wrong with you?!” “Are you kidding me?!” “You can’t just hit me!” “What was that supposed to be?” “Are you nuts?” “Don’t do that again!”

First: He won’t understand the content of your words. All he will understand is: I should suppress my feelings and I shall not show it, when I feel bad.

Reasons why your toddler hits you:

  • he wants attention and love
  • he wants to release tension
  • he is hungry or tired
  • he needs to move and play
  • he is curious about the effect

Instead: calm him down and breathe for a second. Take a step back and give yourself time for the right reaction. “I have a feeling that you are aggressive?” ” You have tensions in you, don’t you” “Please don’t hit me, I don’t like that” “How about you hit right on that pillow?” “You are really tired honey?” “I understand you want to say something?” “You feel uncomfortable?” “You need some running, let’s go outside?”

Protect yourself as good as you can, but understand that the little soul in front of you just wants to give you a portion of his bad feelings. And that he feels incredibly relieved when he is done with you.

Sometimes it is us who produce the whole situation. We stayed inside all day to relax, although the little ones want to run and move outside. We decide for a long exhausting day in the city, because we want to go shopping. Or like myself: We just want to do something special and delay expected rituals. And please don’t stop doing the things you like and that fulfill you, not even that long shopping tour with your toddler.

But afterwards don’t be mad at him, if he has bad feelings and if he doesn’t know where to go with them. Your toddler vents his anger on you because he knows he can trust you. Be thankful for that.

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When my brother was gone in the evening that day, J and I were quite exhausted of the long long day. So I just lay close beside him in our family bed after I nursed him to sleep. I lay with my hand on his quickly moving belly and with my face close to his. I felt his breath on my forehead. I lay there and I thanked him silently for spending the day in my way.

Don’t pull me. Let me grow.

Last weeks Sunday Nature Trip, we explored a very wild looking forest and after about an hour we found a green clear lake, surrounded by beautiful old trees. We spread our blanket next to a very old grandma oak. And while I sat there, watching that majestic tree and J climbing on its roots, I reminded myself of the first 18 months and how J has grown and grown, too.

Tall trees need strong roots to be able to stand and hold balance and to be able to provide the whole upper part with enough water and nutrients.

Children might not be plants at all, but I like to think of that metaphor from time to time. Children start as rather immobile beings, lying on their back. Until 18 months they strive more and more for heaven. Starting to lift their head, when lying on the belly. Starting to sit on their own. Starting to stand and finally starting to walk their first steps. And the journey is just at the beginning then. But while striving for height, our little forest children also need deep roots. Otherwise they will move insecure and start falling.

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Real babies cry

I was always kind of the perfectionist. Be perfect at what you do, make no mistakes, show everyone just how happy and perfect your life is. That changed dramatically when I became pregnant. With J floating inside my belly I started to let go of my own perfection. I didn’t care anymore if I looked good whenever I left the house or if I had perfect grades or if others knew of my problems. Because what I actually started to care about was that little being inside me and that everything would be perfect for him. I guess I stepped to another level of perfection.

So what I did is probably something that many know: I tried to be perfectly healthy during pregnancy and  prepared every single bit for him in a perfect manner (homebirthing, using a natural rubber passy, ecologic linen sheets, no plastic toys, only ecologic cotton clothes, cloth diapers and water to clean him instead of chemical wet tissues). And it all went on with him being born. He made us so happy, I had to cry the first days whenever he lay sleeping in my arms and I thought I couldn’t bear the thought of losing him or anything happening to him. So what did I do? Or what did we do? (Please insert we whenever I say I, or my husband goes nuts ;)). We wanted him to have a perfect joyful life. Whenever he cried a little more than usual we were searching for our mistake or his mistake: was he sick? Was it his clothes, what he ate, what I ate, was he teething or did he have a growth spurt? I think these thoughts and feelings occur in many families. Your little one cries and you desperately search for an answer, a reason to soothe him. So we did everything we could: we carried him, I nursed him, we massaged his belly or sang for him. And often times that worked and we were satisfied with our role as parents and what we could manage.

But on other days that didn’t work and there were days when he just screamed and screamed. So we asked ourselves again: what went wrong?

Nothing!

He screams, because he is not feeling well, right? What is wrong about that? Sometimes we feel bad ourselves for a lot of reasons; the wheather, hormon levels, it’s monday or we are just in the mood. And that is ok and accepted. Still for some reason we don’t concede our children to just feel grumpy, unhappy and bad. And they have so many reasons to feel like that! They had to get out of that perfectly secure environment -the womb- where it was nice and warm and cozy, where it was dark and where they could constantly feel us around them. They could get food whenever they needed via the umbilical cord and they felt us around them in a tight embrace. With birth and coming into a separate earthly being that was all taken from them instantly. So yes, they cry. And they have a lot of reasons to do so.

So let us spoil them! Nurse, hold, carry them.

And then, after 6-12 months and whenever they have a growing period? Babies and Toddlers cry a lot then and that birth reason can’t hold forever! So why do they cry then?

Babys, children or even humans don’t need a reason to be unhappy! They are as moody as you are and as unexpectedly as you are. And saying: It’s ok darling! Nothing happened! Hush hush! won’t make it any better. It will just make them understand that they aren’t supposed to feel that way. So instead say:

You’re not feeling well, are you? Are you upset? You are unhappy, I see! Cry sweetheart, as much as you want. I am here for you. I hold you. I won’t go.

Hold your baby in your arms, look him in the eyes and show him, that you are there. Breathe deeply and watch yourself breathing. Watch how your body calms down or feel your emotions flooding you. You can even cry with your baby, that often helps a lot. And if you embrace the thought that you’re baby is just a human being that needs to know that someone is there to hear them out, then it will be the first step to bear the pain whenever your baby feels bad.

Susann

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