* Getting Your New Year Off to a Great Start *

By Whitney Eaton, LCSW, Courier & Press, Jan. 3, 2017 –

As the New Year arrives, I often find myself in a time of reflection. It’s the time of year for beginnings and endings, looking forward and back.

What were my greatest achievements? What were some of my biggest challenges? How did I handle those challenges? What did I learn?

Looking back can help me plan what I want to accomplish going forward. What do I want to continue? What do I want to try? What should I avoid? Contemplating these things helps me with the ritual of setting a New Year’s resolution.

Setting a New Year’s resolution is usually an attempt at self-improvement. However, many New Year’s resolutions are hard to maintain and end in failure. It is really difficult to turn our good intentions into long-term success.

If you find yourself having trouble setting and maintaining your resolutions, here are some steps to help:

Try a “New You” challenge. Think of a different habit you could track each month. At the end of the year you will have twelve new habits. For example, in January you could resolve to eat more vegetables. In February you could get more organized by cleaning out closets.

Write your resolution down and post it somewhere that is often visible to you.  This will serve as a reminder of your goal and help you stay on track.  Also, writing down your goals makes it more likely for you to achieve them.

Make a plan. Sit down and write up a step-by-step plan to achieve your goal. Write down baby steps you can take each month.

Write down the barriers to maintaining your resolution. Next, find solutions to your barriers. If your resolution is to save more and have an emergency fund, a barrier might be that all of your paycheck goes to pay bills. A solution could be to sell some of the old toys your children are not playing with anymore to establish the emergency fund.

Have an accountability partner. Share your resolution with someone who will help you keep it. This could be a spouse, parent, co-worker or friend, someone who is going to remind you kindly that you don’t really need that $7.00 coffee.

Celebrate success. If you have achieved some of the small steps toward reaching your larger goal, celebrate!

Having trouble thinking of a resolution?  Use some of these prompts to find yours:

I’m going to do better at…
A new book I want to read is…
A bad habit I would like to break is…
A place I would like to visit is…
A good deed I would like to do is…
Something I want to do differently is…

Breaking habits or trying to form new ones can be difficult.  Practicing a few of these steps can help you stay on track with your goals and get the New Year off to a great start!

Helping Your Toddler Get a Good Night’s Sleep

Sleeping toddler

By Whitney Eaton, LCSW, Courier & Press, May 17, 2016 –

Have you ever awakened in the middle of the night to little eyes staring at you or the quiet whisper of, “Mom?” For some little ones, getting a full night’s sleep is a tall order.

But for the parents who care for them, the struggle may be to function without sleep the next day. Starting the day sleep-deprived is not good for parent or child.

Toddlers bring so many joys, as they can now talk and are showing so much personality. Sometimes part of “self-expression” involves balking at bedtime.

Common bedtime challenges include battles with routine, not staying asleep or getting up way too early. All of these issues can be frustrating.

Equally problematic is the fact that it is hard to make rational decisions as a parent when you are sleep-deprived. Let’s face it, after a full day of work or caring for little ones, it can be a struggle to stick to a bedtime routine that will promote healthy sleep habits.

Some babies sleep like a dream initially and then develop problems with sleep patterns later. Why would a toddler suddenly have difficulty with bedtime when they have had months, or even years, of successful sleeping?

Any major transition such as having a new sibling, getting a new bed, or moving into a new home can cause sleep disruption.

Going from a crib to a toddler bed can also cause changes. A toddler learns they have freedom to get out of bed, explore and roam.

A toddler’s sleep patterns also typically change. As infants, most children take longer naps in the middle of the day that may last 1 to 3 hours. However, toddlers typically only need 1 to 2 hours for naptime.

So what can we do? We have all heard that routines and schedules are very important when it comes to bedtimes for infants and toddlers.

Coming up with a calming bedtime routine is definitely a great place to start. A warm bath, quiet time in your little one’s room, or reading a story before bed are just a few things you could incorporate into your bedtime schedule.

The key is to make bedtime a relaxing routine, one that “winds down” rather than “winds up” their day. Overstimulation before bed can cause difficulty with falling asleep.

Now how do we keep the little ones in bed? A sound machine or white noise machine can work wonders. Sometimes just having something to block out other noises can be beneficial to help your little one stay in bed and sleep more soundly.

A monitor allows you to listen or see if your child wakes up without actually going into the room. As long as your little one is safe, it is OK to let him cry a little before going into the room. In fact, it can be normal for your little one to wake up occasionally through the night. The best thing is for him to be able to soothe himself back to sleep.

Developing a rewards system can also be motivating for your toddler. Purchase a few low-cost items your child likes, such as stickers, bubbles, chalk or a book. If your toddler can stay in her room all night, then she can chose something from your prize basket.

If you incentivize the behavior, your toddler will soon put together that sleeping in his bed all night makes mommy and daddy happy. Then you will be able to slowly remove the tangible rewards and just offer praise each morning.

These are just a few ideas you could try to help your toddler (and you) sleep better. For more tips on parenting and building healthy habits, visityouthfirstinc.org. Sweet dreams!