*Easing your children’s life transitions*

Age and emotional development influence kids’ coping abilities, but all benefit when parents grant legitimacy to their feelings and encourage them to ask questions.

Crying young girl (photo credit: INGIMAGE)
Crying young girl
(photo credit: INGIMAGE)
My husband and I have three children aged 13, seven and four; I am five months pregnant with a fourth. Due to changes in my husband’s work, we are planning to move to a different city soon after the delivery and will be in a new house. We were wondering if there is anything we can do to ease the transition to a new place and expanded family, so our three children will have an easier time getting used to the changes. B.N., Haifa
Dr. Anais Lior, director of the child and adolescent psychiatry unit at the Dana- Dwek Children’s Hospital at Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center, replies: Two things influence children’s emotional coping with changes: their age and emotional development. Parents should adapt their behavior to such factors when changes are about to occur.
Generally, one can divide emotional coping of children into three age groups: zero to five, six to 11 and 12 to 18. Each group has different characteristics.
In the youngest age group, the brain is more flexible and absorbent than at any other time in life. Between six and 11, the child is still dependent on his parents and environment, is learning the rules of society and copes with social ties independently in school and extracurricular activities, mostly without parental intervention.
Parents should let them know, however, that they are there and are an address for any question.
Between 12 and 18, coping with adolescence, the youngster is building his personality and beginning to separate himself from his parents, who should remain somewhat in the background without “interfering,” but at the same be there for him.
Significant events in the life of toddlers, children and teenagers, like the birth of a sibling or moving house, directly affect them emotionally. If their coping is healthy, it can lead to the learning and development of successful emotional skills for the future.
A mother’s pregnancy can cause siblings up to the age of about seven to regress, with possible bedwetting, crying, awakening in the night, and displays of anger and the need for control. They may return to previous habits such as thumbsucking, and may also show jealousy – which can occur at any age – because they have less parental time than before. You should grant legitimacy to these feelings and encourage them to ask questions; this will give them the feeling of partnership and control of the new situation.
After you give birth, encourage them to help take care of the baby, each according to his age. But if anyone refuses to help, that is a legitimate response.
The time when you are busy with the newborn is their chance to tighten connections with their father, and spend quality time “doing things only big kids can do.” For your younger children, there are various storybooks that can help.
Moving to a new house is a significant change, but most kids survive without major difficulties. Yet moving to another city, which entails going to a new school, making new friends and so on, can cause a lack of confidence and even anxiety. Before the move, tell your children about the benefits of going to live elsewhere, such as a larger room or a nicer home.
Your toddler should be prepared emotionally for the move only a few hours before you leave, because his sense of time is different. When the moving truck arrives, ask him to help with little packages and suggest taking photos of the old apartment to hang in the new house.
Older children have to separate from friends in the neighborhood and in school, but remind them that with social media, they will not be totally apart.
After you move, organize a tour of the neighborhood, to learn where the supermarket, playground and schools are. If a child insists that the former home was better than the new one, don’t argue with him.
The level of confidence the parents show about deciding to move will largely determine how well the kids cope with the change. If one of the parents is not fully happy about the relocation, talk about it together; it will help your children cope successfully.
I am a first-time mother of an 11-month-old baby boy, and have some questions about feeding. I stopped breastfeeding at 10 months and began to give formula. But there is disagreement among my friends – some of whom say you can give cow’s milk instead of formula at age 1 and that the baby can eat anything by the time he reaches his first birthday; others who say I should continue feeding him formula.
My baby already eats cottage cheese and yogurt; I’ll be taking him to tipat halav in another month. Is there any problem feeding him cow’s milk from age 1, or any other food? Also, I see formula containers that say they are for age 2 and even older, while there are containers specifically suited for up to six months, and after six months. Is there any real difference between them, or is it a mistake to give a baby over six months formula suited for below six months? V. N., Modi’in
I went back to work after giving birth to my first son six months ago and have to provide formula to the babysitter, as I don’t have time to do pumping. I have seen TV ads for formula, one boasting that it has palm oil, and another boasting it has no palm oil. I always thought palm oil was bad since it is saturated fat. Do babies need palm oil in their formula, or are they better off without it? A.N., Ma’alot
Prof. Basil Porter, a senior pediatrician at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev’s Faculty of Health Sciences and international coordinator of the Israel Ambulatory Pediatrics Association, replies to both queries:
Feeding instructions sometimes seem complicated (including different formulas for each age group and questions about additives like palm oil). Basically, the aim should be to move a baby from breastfeeding to regular foods, smoothly and comfortably for mother and baby.
The formula business is a powerful industry, and companies try to persuade mothers to keep babies on formulas, which progressively change as the baby gets older – and are expensive.
If a breast-fed baby has normal hemoglobin at their first birthday, there should be no problem moving to cow’s milk.
Some will suggest carrying on with formula until the child is on a regular diet. A one-year-old should be able to eat the full range of foods; just be sure to introduce new foods one at a time to let them adjust.
Feeding should be fun, not challenging.
And don’t forget that babies don’t follow the rules of three meals a day, and will often skip eating at certain time and make it up later. Go with the flow.
There seems to be every reason to avoid palm oil, and very little reason to promote it. Again, the baby-food industry overwhelms parents with lots of pseudo-science regarding the need for fancy formulas.
Rx for Readers welcomes queries from readers about medical problems. Experts will answer those we find most interesting.
Write Rx for Readers, The Jerusalem Post, POB 81, Jerusalem 91000, fax your question to Judy Siegel-Itzkovich at (02) 538- 9527, or e-mail it to [email protected], giving your initials, age and place of residence.