Teen mothers can be excellent mothers because loving and nurturing a baby doesn't necessarily require having passed 25 or 30 birthdays. Many teen mothers are at a disadvantage, however, because many, themselves, have mothers who had them young and may not necessarily have provided examples of the most "solid" nurturing skills. For other teen mothers, the pregnancy and delivery are but one part of a general rebellion often associated with the teen years. Then, too, there are young women in serious relationships who find themselves pregnant, decide to keep their baby, but may be resistant to their own mother's child-rearing advice because (rightfully so) they want to raise their child their own way. Situations like these can mean a high number of teen mothers who aren't as knowledgeable about child development as mothers need to be.
Health care workers, books, websites, and other experienced mothers offering information about feeding, diapering, bathing, and other child-care basics are plentiful. Information about developmental milestones is also plentiful. Often, however, teen mothers (even the most conscientious, who may actively seek to educate themselves about parenting) remain in the dark about one of the most important aspects of parenting; and that is having an awareness of the "theme" (focus) of different ages between birth to five. Another area of parenting often overlooked by inexperienced mothers is the need to keep language development in mind right from the newborn's first days.
Common problems for many teen mothers are having crying, "frazzled", babies; having well cared for but poorly behaved preschoolers, and having children who are bright but not "ready" to attend kindergarten.
Some of these problems could potentially be eliminated if mothers understood the following basics of the first five years of life:
WHAT TEEN MOTHERS NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THEIR CHILD'S DEVELOPMENT
The different stages associated with their own focus (or "developmental theme") are:
FROM BIRTH TO TWO YEARS OLD:
The theme for these first two years: Making a baby feel secure and safe, as well as laying the foundation for language development and interacting with you, are the "developmental theme" (focus) of babies/toddlers in this age range.
How to make a baby feel secure:
Hold him securely (rather than sling him over your arm, causing him to feel a little less secure).
Be responsive whenever he fusses or cries, and don't show your exhaustion, loss of patience, of frustration. (This can be exhausting for mothers of any age, but babies with responsive mothers tend to cry less in the long run. On top of that, it is now known that crying equals distress, and distress equals stress. Stress is not good for a baby's development.)
Don't let several adults pass your baby around. This can be overwhelming for babies. This doesn't mean not to let your mother hold the baby for a while. There is a difference between that and allowing several people to pass him around (or two people to pass him back and forth).
Keep in mind that babies have young central nervous systems, and being frazzled as a result of being over-stimulated (either through too much active play or too much activity around him) happens easily. This doesn't mean you have to whisper in the house and keep all the lights off, but it does mean to keep your baby's environment in mind, try to keep things calm a good part of the time, and give your baby "quiet time" during his day.
Be calm and comforting with your baby. He is new to the world, and you are his only world until he gets a little older. Even then, you are a very big part of his world. He needs to know that the person he trusts to keep him safe is capable and calm.
Laying the Foundation for Language Development and Encouraging Interaction:
All this takes is talking to your baby from the day he's born, and holding him so he can face you while you look in his eyes and talk in a soothing, calm, and/or cheerful soft voice. Since he won't understand what you're saying, you can, of course, talk about how much you love him. Also, however, talk about the things that affect him or that you're doing. For example, when you put a sleeper on him say something like, "One arm. Other arm. One leg. Other leg," as you put each of his arms and legs in the sleeper. Saying things like, "Let's go get your bath ready," or "Ooh - it's cold out" (when you step outside and notice how cold it feels) can help your baby in at least two ways: 1. He feels that you value him enough to talk to him, and 2. Long before he is able to use words he will begin to associate some of the words he has heard since he was born.
Talking to your baby will remain one of the most vital things you can do throughout his early years (as well as his later childhood years, but for different reasons).
As your baby nears one keeping his sense of security in mind is necessary for a new reason: Your baby will become aware that you and he are separate people, but he won't be able to understand that if you're not in the room you aren't gone forever. For the months between about nine months and thirteen months (or so) you need to be particularly understanding of this developmental stage.
Also, babies who are new walkers tend to fall often and easily. Keeping in mind that falls on carpets and grass don't hurt but falls downstairs, on fireplace hearths, or corners of coffee tables do; try to protect your baby from getting hurt too often. One-year-olds who are constantly getting hurt and sometimes being pushed aside by older children can feel particularly frazzled.
As your baby nears and passes his second birthday he'll need your understanding, patience, and cleverness in helping him deal with (and sometimes avoid) the frustrations of being new at feeling like an independent little person while still not having the emotional composure to be able to deal with a frustrating world. Try to keep him away from situations you know will invite a temper tantrum. Give in to him once a while if possible (it will show him you are willing/able to let him have a little control of things, and it won't set a pattern of bad behavior for the rest of time).
Keep in mind that a tired and/or hungry two-year-old is grouchier than a well rested, well fed, one. Also, keep in mind that he's still pretty young and still needs some quiet time during his day. Keeping up with older children can be pretty difficult for two-year-olds, so limit his time with older kids sometimes.
THREE YEARS OLD
The theme for this year is, "Your Child's Admiration of, and Wish to Be With, You".
With so much brain development that occurs in the first three years of life, it can seem as if turning three marks the beginning of your child's being a kind of "complete" child, and this is a year when child will seem to be absolutely "in love" with you or other special adults in his life. Three-year-olds (known for asking too many "why's") want to know about the things in day-to-day life. Capitalize on this great age by spending lots of nice time with your three-old, doing simple things like going out for lunch, bringing him with you on errands but talking about everything you encounter on the trip, reading to him, and teaching him things like how to set the table or fold socks. Of course, three is also a great age to introduce some letters, numbers, colors, etc. If your child picks up letters and numbers, great. If he doesn't, he's got time. It isn't an emergency.
FOUR YEARS OLD
The theme for this, the fifth year, is, "The Year of the Expanding World - Getting Ready for School".
Having had three solid years of "turning into a complete, little, person" and one solid year of focusing on his close relationship with you (and other special adults in his life), as well as learning some of the basics of day-to-day life; four is the year when children show particular interest in expanding their world to friends and activities outside the home. Birthday parties, trips out, preschool, and other activities make a four-year-old''s life more interesting. Four is when you can talk about kindergarten, what will go on there, and how nice it will be. Four is also the age when encouraging some sit-down activities for part of every day is important. Drawing, puzzles, blocks, PlayDoh, or any other sit-down activity helps a child discover how much fun can be had even when playing quietly. These activities encourage your child's skill development in other ways as well.
FIVE YEARS OLD
The theme for this year is "The Kindergarten Year - The Beginning of a New Stage of Childhood"
From this sixth year on, the focus for parents shifts from "building a child" or "building a brain" to "guiding your child through childhood". When parents have been loving and skilled during the baby and preschool years the child they "built" is most often a well behaved, nice, child with few problems. What parent could ask for anything more