As a mama of two, it has been difficult for me to accept that the language stimulation I have given my second child is much different than the language stimulation that I gave to my first child. My son is 4 years old and my daughter is 18 months old. It’s almost like I am even grieving the mama that I was when I was a mama of one compared to the mama that I now am as a mama of two. The picture-perfect DIY multi-sensory activities and sensory bins have not been introduced to my second child. She also doesn’t have her very own restaurant kit like my son had at her age. My children’s personalities and sensory needs are total opposites, so my daughter is making me feel like a first-time mama all over again.
Adjusting to being a mama of two during a health pandemic quarantine was not what any of us had in mind.
My maternity leave turned into a furlough resulting in not working for 11 months. Although this was a blessing in disguise, I had postpartum depression the entire time. And I wasn’t officially diagnosed until my daughter was 15 months old (when I finally went to my OB for my annual visit).
We have been dealing with so many roles, while grieving our pre-pandemic life, that I wasn’t even able to really evaluate myself and what I had been feeling. We have pretty much been on survival mode. After getting the medicinal help that I needed, I can finally say that I am feeling better and that I am connecting with my children on a different level. (*Thank you, serotonin!*) In addition to medication, I have also been applying cognitive behavioral therapy, such as behavioral activation, into my daily routine which has been very effective. Behavioral activation suggests that instead of waiting until we feel better to do more, we activate first which changes our mood and brain state. We have to stop allowing our postpartum depression to keep us from doing the things that bring us joy and meaning.
I know how effortful it can be to stimulate your child(ren) and be your best for them even when you are not feeling your best.
I want you to think about this for a second: You do NOT need toys in order to stimulate language with your child. YOU are the best “toy” in the room. YOU are all that your child needs. Think SIMPLE. Think PLAYFUL. Think FUNCTIONAL.
Here are some language stimulation techniques that can help your child’s social-emotional and language development, even when mama isn’t feeling her best:
Make sure to make eye contact with your child while playing social games such as peek-a-boo, tickling, rough play on the bed, dance parties, airplane, kisses on the cheek or belly. Remember to SMILE and make your child laugh. FOLLOW THEIR LEAD. Change your intonation from monotone to a variety of inflections, including singing nursery songs!
Talk out loud about what YOU are seeing, hearing, doing, or feeling when your child is nearby or within hearing range. Also, talk out loud about what is happening to your child– what your child doing, seeing, hearing, or feeling when your child is nearby or within hearing range. This is the perfect time to narrate all of the actions that you do throughout the day doing house chores. Include your child. Be sure to use slow, clear, simple words and short phrases.
Create scenarios where your child NEEDS to communicate by putting items out of reach or inside of clear bins. Do not anticipate your child’s every need or desire before he/she has the chance to make them known to you. If your child gets what he/she wants without communicating for it, they will not even bother to point, gesture, or possibly ask.
I’ve had my share of bad days.
I know how effortful it can be to smile, add intonation to your voice, narrate, wait, stimulate. I know how much you love your kids. I know how much you are aware of your postpartum depression, but it feels like you are stuck in quicksand as much as you want to get out of it. There will be good days ahead. I promise. Behavioral activation works. Medication works. These simple language stimulation techniques work. Get the help that you need because your children need you. YOU GOT THIS!