Friday, June 09, 2006

When your Infant turns into a Toddler

By Christina VanGinkel

Keeping your infant safe is often straightforward. You handle them with care, you do not expose them to people who are sick, you watch over them to keep them safe from various troubles, such as not leaving them unattended when they are playing, or in situations that could cause them harm, and you love them. The rest of it in most circumstances naturally follows. Then, that same small infant transforms into a toddler, and the task of keeping them safe still involves all of the same things you did when they were infants, but also much more. They can often be their own worst risk factor when it comes to some of the things they will find to get into or attempt to do.

Toddlers are busy exploring the world around them, and they are not concerned with issues such as safety. To them, jumping off the couch is the perfect way for them to see if they can fly like the birds at the feeder. They do not see the coffee table with the glass top as a potential hazard. They watch you plug the radio into the light socket, and out comes music. They wonder if they plug the dog's tail into the same outlet, if the dog will sing. What looks like water under the sink might be ammonia, but they just see a bottle that looks like something to drink. Crossing the road each day to grab the mail from the roadside mailbox is second nature to us, so why should they not be able to cross it they wonder. If you do not watch them and explain to them why they are not allowed to cross it without your help, you can almost be assured that they will try it. They like to mimic what we as adults do, and then some. They often come up with things that just leave the adults around them shaking their heads in wonder on how they ever dreamed up what they are doing. With all of the confusion, as they are learning so much about life in such a short span of time, it is up to the adults in their lives to be sure that these and other hazards never have a chance to happen.

As a good parent, you probably walked around your house, or even got down on your hands and knees and crawled around it so you were at their eye level, looking for hazards that as an adult you might otherwise have overlooked. You think you have done everything you can to keep the place they call home safe. You installed safety covers on the electrical outlets, and wrapped up loose cords. You have locks on the cabinets, and covers on the stove knobs. Now that they are getting a bit older though, it is time to go through the house again. Also, add any outside area that they play in, and be sure to pay close attention to all the entry doors leading into and out of your home. If you have a child who wanders, make sure that they cannot gain access to the outside of the house without you being aware of it. Years ago, I had friends who had problems with their three-year-old daughter leaving the house whenever she felt like going to visit her grandmother who lived just down the street. Recognizing the potential danger in this, they not only talked to her about why she should not do this, they added bells to the doorknobs, and also changed the locks so that she could not as easily open the doors.

My own grandson recently tried a similar tactic, escaping to the yard while his parents thought he was safely in his room playing. They also ended up changing the locks and talking to him about why this was not something he should do again. His parents explained to him that if he wanted to play outside, all he had to do were to come and ask. As long as they were not busy doing something else, they would take him, or they would shortly after, as long as he asked. With toddlers, parents and caregivers often just say no or punish a child when they do something that they should not. They forget to explain to the child why they are taking the action that they are. Toddlers are like big sponges when it comes to information though. If we just take the time to explain things, once, twice, a dozen times, eventually it will sink in and they will gain an understanding.

If you have progressed from being the parent of an infant, to being the parent of a toddler, take the time to do another household safety check, then never take anything for granted where your child and safety is concerned again. Toddlers are notorious for doing things adults never thought they would or could do. While this is natural, it does mean that from here on out, a major portion of your time is going to be used up staying on top of all the things your toddler will do in exploring the world around them. Take heart in knowing that this is all natural and every parent of a toddler will go through some of the same things you are going through. Also, remember that talking to your toddler and explaining why they cannot do certain things, can go a long way towards helping them understand and keeping them from repeating at least some of the unwanted behavior and actions.

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