One of the typical developmental stages that we see with the families we work with is the stage of separation anxiety. Separation anxiety is a common and completely normal phase of development that can have a negative effect on sleep. It usually emerges between 7-10m of age and can persist into toddlerhood.
Below are some ideas for playtime that can help your child work through this stage. To deal with normal age-appropriate separation anxiety, you need to make your baby feel secure with separations. Consistency is key to make sure your baby becomes secure that you are still there and you will return! When you separate from your child, always let him know you are going (to another room, out, etc.) in a matter-of-fact manner and when you reunite, come back with a big cheerful greeting.
You can play these games to help your child develop object permanence and show him that separations are met with cheerful reunions:
Peek-a-Boo: Playing Peek-A-Boo can help with the separation anxiety that is disrupting sleep. Use a cloth or scarf to very briefly hide your face or your child’s face and then revealing yourself to him can help him realize that you exist even though he can't see you.
Find-the-toy: Place an interesting toy under a cloth and ask your child "where's ______?" Lift up the blanket to show him. Once he starts uncovering the toy, you'll know he's getting the idea of object permanence.
Hide-and-seek: Introduce your child to "Hide-and-Seek". While you're likely not quite at the stage of counting to 20 and yelling "ready or not, here I come", you can start by hiding yourself around the corner or behind the couch and then call to your child. If he responds by looking toward your voice or crawling to you (if able), respond really positively with a big smile and laugh. This will teach him that separation okay, that you are still there when he can't see you and that happy reunions always happen after separations.
Separation anxiety can be a tough stage for your child and for you but working towards building the skill of object permanence and practicing with short separations will go a long way in helping you and your child sail through this stage.
For those of you who are just getting introduced to working with an Occupational Therapist, here is some information to help you become more familiar with our background and philosophy of practice.
Occupational Therapists work with people across the lifespan, from tiny premature infants to seniors. The common thread in all our work is the concept of engagement in daily occupations and helping clients to successfully engage in daily activities that when woven together make their life safer, more enjoyable and more meaningful.
When Occupational Therapists work with people, we focus on what is important to them and then draw on our backgrounds in both biology and psychology to assess a client’s needs and design a treatment plan that allows our clients to reach goals that are important to them.
Sleep is a cornerstone in health for everyone, babies and parents included. For children, lack of sleep can affect their ability to attend and participate in their lives during their awake times. Lack of sleep can affect both cognitive and physical development. Babies can also be more irritable and able to cope with less. Often sensory processing issues are magnified. For their parents, lack of sleep can affect the same domains of cognition, motor control and emotions. We all know that our skin is just a little thinner when we have no quality sleep under our belts.
Helping babies to sleep better helps families to function better as a whole.
Working on the issues that are most important to a family is what is important to OTs.
Helping families to identify their goals and then giving them the tools and support to move toward those goals is the focus for OTs.
As OT’s, we are often involved in families’ lives when they don’t feel their best. Families reach out for help and may feel frustrated or defeated and usually feel downright exhausted. To be able to connect with families, help them to identify what their specific goals are and support them to reach their goals is what makes us thankful each and every day that we chose Occupational Therapy.
To each and every family that we’ve worked with, thank you for trusting us with your care. We feel privileged to walk your journey with you and witness the changes that are so important to you and that you work so hard to achieve.
Happy OT Month!
On the West Coast we’d hardly know it with all this sunshine, but the leaves are turning, the nights are cooler and the warmer clothing is starting to get unpacked into kids’ drawers. Before you know it, the end of Daylight Savings Time will be upon us. On the first Sunday in November, clocks go back an hour. Before you to bed on Saturday November 1st, turn your clocks back one hour. So on Sunday November 2nd (at 2am precisely), your clocks will read the correct time.
This next sentence is important for those of you that have early risers. On Sunday November 2nd, when your early riser wakes at 5am or 5:30am, this will now be 4am or 4:30am. Yikes!
To more gently ease into this and have a smoother transition, here are some tips. Mark them on your calendar and watch on Facebook as we’ll have some tips coming up as we approach this time change.
Think about your schedule for the day including wake up times, snack and meal times, nap times and to bed times. On a regular basis this schedule shouldn’t vary much for kids, particularly the waking up time and bed time, even on weekends.
The week prior to the time change, starting on Wednesday start the shift. Shift everything by 15 minutes. This includes wake up time, eating, naps and bedtime. If you’d like to go slower, start on Monday.
By the time you’ve reached the weekend, your child is ideally shifted an hour forward. So if they normally woke up at 7, you’ve transitioned them to 8. This one is the most difficult shift.
Once Saturday night rolls around and you head to bed at 10pm and switch your clock back an hour to 9pm, you’ll be set. Your child will be on track!
Don’t be tempted to stay up an extra hour, remember the morning will come earlier on Sunday. Get your rest!
To help your baby wake a little later, try to hold off on “morning” time by soothing them and keeping them in their “night” environment until you want to wake them. When it’s time to wake up at the new time, welcome them to the new day with light and cuddles and offer them a feeding a few minutes after they wake (if that is your typical pattern of eating with them).
It’s a simple truth. When babies don’t sleep, parents don’t sleep. Not only are babies over tired and have difficulty sleeping; parents can become zombie-like while racking up huge sleep debt.
When we arrive at a family’s home for our home visit (a part of our Occupational Therapy Consultation process) one of the things we talk about is how the child’s sleeping problems are affecting the family as a whole.
Most parents are stoic and re-direct the conversation to their child and the benefits their child will gain from better sleep. All true.
But the real picture here is as follows: If your baby is sleeping better, chances are you are too. If you are sleeping better, the whole world around you is easier to cope with. Your thinking is clearer, your emotions more in check, your immune system is chugging (not limping) along and you actually have energy to get out to baby groups or the park. Take sleep away and parents can get into some serious sleep related danger such as:
Increased risk of post partum depression
Increased propensity to have a motor vehicle accident
For parents that are at work during this phase – their work safety may be compromised. If you are someone who relies on sharp cognition or precise motor control, consider addressing sleep now.
There are normal levels of daytime sleepiness; every parent feels some level of tiredness. But when it starts to affect your ability to perform daily tasks, it’s time to take a look at your sleep. And this often means addressing your baby’s sleep so you have the opportunity to sleep, too.
Sleep well parents. For everyone’s sake, do not minimize the importance of your sleep. Your ability to safely and effectively navigate your day to day activities is important. If you are not well, you can’t do your best to look after your baby.