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5 Life Lessons Only Parents of Children with Birth Defects Will Understand

5 Life Lessons Only Parents of Children with Birth Defects Will Understand

Birth defects affect one out of every 33 babies, and that defect will often impact the entire family. Parents of babies with birth defects are uniquely affected because they face the challenge of helping their child meet their full potential in a world that is challenging for everyone.

With every challenge of caring for a child who was born with a defect, there is also an amazing lesson that teaches parents about love and life. These lessons include those of hope, strength, courage, and learning to love through the pain.

Here are five life lessons that only the parents of children born with birth defects can understand.

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How to Be Fearless

Fear is something that we learn over time. We learn to fear rejection, the future, and the dark. But, mostly, we are afraid of the unknown. But, having a child with a birth defect can help relieve those fears because you quickly learn that there is no time to waste in being afraid. The time you miss out on because of fear is time you could have spent loving.

How to Participate in Advocacy

The moment you realize that your child has a birth defect is likely one of the most difficult moments of your life. It is a moment that you would not wish on anyone else, and it is not until this moment that you are able to truly understand what it means to be an advocate.

Your child gives you a voice and the drive to stand up for others in ways you never realized you could.

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When you have a child with a disability, you are not just an advocate for your child and your family. You have the unique opportunity to stand up for other families in your community and around the world. This was especially true for my partner and me; our child had been injured through medical negligence at birth.

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    You can quickly find yourself speaking to doctors and lawyers, not just on behalf of yourself, but also on other families who have gone through a similar experience. Brain injuries during birth are common and many parents with disabled children are at a loss on how something like that could have happened.

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    This position is a heavy one because you know that your abilities in preventing the sadness others may feel are limited. But, you know every moment that you breathe life into your cause, you might someday help relieve the pain of another family.

    How to Dream Big

    So many people choose to limit themselves over the smallest of things. But, when you parent a child with a disability, you learn that even the big things do not need to stand in your way. The way that all children are able to reach for the stars is aspirational to parents. Because if your child, who was hindered so early in life, is able to dream big, why can’t you?

    How to Believe in Yourself

    Disabled children believe they can always work harder, do more, and be better versions of themselves. From the very beginning of life, they strive hard to overcome the obstacles that they never asked for or created for themselves.

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    Watching your child perform small miracles every day inspires you to believe in yourself, both as a parent and as a person with so much to give to the world.

    How to Transform Lives with Love

    Love is the one thing that makes everything feel alright, even if only for a moment, and love was what helped you get through every difficult moment of those first weeks of parenting.

    A child helps you learn to love unconditionally, and ask nothing in return. The ability of your child to love you so much despite everything can transform your entire life in ways you never imagined.

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    All children are precious miracles with much to teach us. But, there are some lessons that only parents who have had the joy and heartbreak of raising a child with birth defects will truly understand.

    Featured photo credit: Stephen Hockhaus via flickr.com

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    Published on May 21, 2021

    Bedtimes For Kids At Different Ages (Your Go-To Guide)

    Bedtimes For Kids At Different Ages (Your Go-To Guide)

    Bedtimes for kids might be one of the most challenging parts of the day. Parents are tired and ready to relax, while kids of all ages seem to find extra energy and want nothing to do with sleep. One more story, one more trip to the bathroom, and one more question quickly make for a late-night, and no one gets the rest they need.

    If this happens often, you might start wondering if you and your child are getting the proper amount of sleep and how to make bedtime easier. Why is it so crucial for your child to get enough sleep? What does sleep deprivation look like? How do you improve bedtimes for kids?

    How Sleep Impacts Your Child’s Health

    Whether young or old, sleep is a vital part of staying healthy. There are many benefits to getting the right amount of sleep while not getting enough can have negative consequences. How does it impact your child?[1]

    • Brain Function – Sleep is linked to certain brain functions such as concentration, productivity, and cognition. These all impact a child’s behavior and academic success.
    • Weight – Sleep patterns affect the hormones responsible for appetite. A lack of sleep interferes with the ability to regulate food intake, making overeating more likely.
    • Physical Performance – Sleep impacts a person’s physical abilities. Proper rest means better performance, concentration, energy, mental clarity, and faster speed.
    • Physical Health – There are many ways sleep promotes health. Sleep heals the body but also helps prevent disease and health issues. Getting proper rest will regulate blood pressure, help prevent heart disease, reduce chances of sleep apnea, reduce inflammation, boost immune system, and lower risk of weight gain.
    • Improve Mental Health – A lack of sleep has a negative impact on mood and social and emotional intelligence. A child not getting proper sleep is more likely to experience depression, lack empathy and be unaware of other people’s emotions and reactions.

    Sleep, Risky Behavior, and Teens

    Studies found that teens were more likely to engage in risky behavior when they are sleep-deprived. They’ll have problems regulating their mood, making them more short-tempered, aggressive, and impulsive. Their inability to self-regulate can even look like the symptoms of ADHD.[2]

    Sleep deprivation becomes hazardous when teens are driving. The impulsiveness and risk-taking, along with exhaustion, put them at a higher risk for accidents. In fact, driving tired is comparable to driving with a blood alcohol content of .08.[3]

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    You can see why sleep is so essential to everyone’s health, but how much is needed? What do pediatricians recommend? Is it the same for all ages?

    Sleep Recommendations From Pediatricians

    Sleep requirements vary by age. It won’t be the same for every individual. Some people find that they need more sleep than others.

    Here is a basic guideline of what pediatricians now recommend:[4]

    • Ages 4-12 months: 12-16 hours (including naps)
    • Ages 1-2 years: 11-14 hours (including naps)
    • Ages 3-5 years: 10-13 hours (including naps)
    • Age 6-12 years: 9-12 hours
    • Age 13-18 years: 8-10 hours

    Increase the amount of sleep if your child isn’t thriving on the recommended amount.

    Signs Your Child Isn’t Getting Enough Sleep

    There are ways to tell if your child is getting adequate sleep beyond the usual grumpiness. Here are specific things to watch out for:[5]

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    • Excessive sleepiness during the day
    • Difficulty waking up on time
    • Hyperactivity
    • Depression
    • Inattention
    • Mood swings
    • Aggressive behavior
    • Irritability
    • Impatience
    • Impulse control

    As you can see, prolonged lack of sleep can cause relational problems and hinder your child’s ability to do well in school. What can you do if you realize your child is not getting enough sleep? How can you improve bedtimes for your kids?

    How to Set Up a Bedtime Routine

    Sleep hygiene or a bedtime schedule will help your child fall asleep faster. It will also improve the quality of sleep. You will need to adjust to what works for your family, but the following suggestions can help everyone have a more pleasant bedtime.

    For Babies

    Most people think they have to let their baby “cry it out” at bedtime. However, there are ways you can teach a baby to sleep without tears, making the experience more pleasant for everyone. In fact, studies show the faded bedtime method—or gentle sleep training—is just as effective as leaving a baby to cry but without the stress.[6] What is gentle sleep training?

    Gentle Sleep Training

    This method eases babies and young children into falling asleep on their own. There are two ways to do this:

    1. Positive Routines With Faded Bedtime

    Kids learn to fall asleep easily by using comforting, quiet, and predictable rituals, up to twenty minutes long. The key is to choose a bedtime that’s not too early. A child that isn’t tired will only fight sleep.

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    Start the process when your baby or child is sleepy, even if it’s later than you’d prefer. You’ll notice a pattern and quickly discover the time they naturally start winding down. Make this their bedtime for now. They will learn to associate sleep with the routine, and you’ll be able to start fifteen to twenty minutes earlier to slowly adjust their schedule.

    2. Sleep With Parental Presence

    With this method, you lie down with your baby or child until they fall asleep. Over time, you pay less attention to your child, gradually sitting up, then sitting in a chair. Eventually, your child will be able to sleep without you. A study showed that using this method helped infants sleep longer and wake up less.[7]

    Both of these ways take time but are effective and less traumatic than leaving an infant or young child to cry.

    More Tips to Help Your Baby Sleep Better

    You want to build a routine, but how? What are practical things you can do to help your baby get ready for bed?

    Here are tips for a soothing and calm bedtime:[8]

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    • Help set their “internal clock” by exposing them to natural daylight, daytime activities, and the calmness of evening.
    • Block blue light exposure.
    • Make the hour up to bedtime calm, peaceful, and pleasant.
    • Learn how to keep stress minimal for you and your baby.
    • Don’t force sleep. It will increase anxiety and make rest more difficult.
    • Avoid late afternoon naps
    • Prolong the time between nap and bedtime.
    • Feed baby right before bed.
    • Avoid intervening too soon if the baby starts to wake up. Give your child a chance to fall back asleep without your help.

    For Elementary-Aged Children

    It’s easier to follow a routine if you start young, but it’s never too late to begin. The good news is it only takes a few nights to notice an improvement in your child’s sleep.

    These ideas will help you set up a schedule that will encourage your child to fall asleep easier, faster, and for a more extended period.[9]

    • Offer them a nutritious snack.
    • Bathe them.
    • Brush their teeth and go to the bathroom.
    • Read them a story.
    • Sing them a song.
    • Cuddle or massage them.
    • Talk about the day.

    For best results, choose a handful of activities and do them in the same order each night. Dim the lights and keep activity minimal to help everyone slow down.

    For Teens

    They might fight the idea of getting more sleep, but teens will benefit from a routine, too. They’re usually capable of overseeing their bedtime, but a little structure and oversight can help them get the sleep they need. By implementing the following tips, your teen can get better rest.[10]

    • Avoid caffeine in the evening.
    • Limit screen time.
    • Avoid late-night binging.
    • Exercise, ideally sixty minutes a day.
    • Keep the bedroom dark, cool, and quiet.
    • Talk through problems.

    Quality Sleep for a Healthy Life

    Bedtimes for kids can be an enjoyable part of the day with proper sleep hygiene in place. Not only can it be quality time with your child, but it can also set them on the road to good health and high performance. By implementing these tips, you can ensure proper rest for the whole family and better bedtimes for kids.

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    Featured photo credit: Igordoon Primus via unsplash.com

    Reference

    [1] Medical News Today: Why Sleep Is Essential For Health
    [2] Child Mind Institute: Teens And Sleep: The Cost Of Sleep Deprivation
    [3] Depart of Health: Drowsy Driving Prevention, Teens Ages 16 To 19
    [4] AAP publications: AAP Endorses New Recommendations On Sleep Times
    [5] Journal of Excellence in Nursing Leadership: Sleep Deprivation In Children A Growing Public Health Concern
    [6] Parenting Science: Gentle Infant Sleep Training
    [7] BetterHealth: Solutions to sleep concerns (11) – babies 6 to 12 months
    [8] Parenting Science: 15 Evidence-Based Baby Sleep Tips
    [9] Sleep Foundation: Bedtime Routines For Children
    [10] NHS: Sleep Tips For Teenagers

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