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Child Development (0-5 years)
The article specially for for single parent families.

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Child Development - Infants (0 - 1 Year Old)

Developmental Milestones

Cognitive development for your baby means the learning process of memory, language, thinking and reasoning. Your baby is learning to recognize the sound of your voice. She is also learning to focus her vision from the periphery or the corner of her eyes to the center. Language development is more than uttering sounds ("babble"), or mama/dada. Listening, understanding, and knowing the names of people and things are all components of language development. During this stage, your baby is also developing bonds of love and trust with you. The way you cuddle, hold, and play with your baby will set the basis for how she will interact with you and others.

Positive Parenting

Talk to your baby. It is soothing to hear your voice.

Sing to your baby.

Play music. This helps your baby develop a love for music and math.

Read to your baby. This helps her develop and understand language and sounds.

Praise your baby and give her lots of loving attention.

Spend time cuddling and holding your baby. This helps her to feel cared for and secure.

AAP Developmental Delay Warning Signs

The American Academy of Pediatrics include the following as possible signs of developmental delay during the first months of a baby's life:

Sucks poorly and feeds slowly.

Doesn't blink when shown a bright light.

Doesn't focus and follow a nearby object moving side to side.

Rarely moves arms and legs, seems stiff, or seems excessively loose in the limbs or floppy.

Lower jaw trembles constantly, even when not crying or excited.

Doesn't respond to loud sounds.

Does not crawl by twelve months.

Child Safety First

Now that your newborn is at home, it is time to make sure that your home is a safe place. Look around your home for household items that might present a possible danger to your baby. As a parent, it is your responsibility to ensure that you create a safe environment for your baby. It is also important that you take the necessary steps to make sure that you are mentally and emotionally ready for your new baby. Here are a few tips to keep your baby safe during her first year of life.

It is important that you never shake your newborn baby. Newborn babies have very weak neck muscles that are not yet able to support their heads. If you shake your baby you can damage her brain and delay normal development.

To prevent SIDS or Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, it is recommended that you always put your baby to sleep on her back. For more information on SIDS, visit National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.

Place your baby in a car safety seat every time she rides in the car. The safest place to put your baby's safety seat is in the back seat of the car.

To prevent your baby from choking, cut her food into small bites. Don't allow your baby to play with anything that may cover her face or is easy for her to swallow.

Never carry hot liquids or food near your baby or while holding her.

Immunizations (shots) are important to protect your child's health and safety. Because children are susceptible to many potentially serious diseases, it is important that your child receive the proper immunizations. Please consult your local health care provider to ensure that your child is up-to-date on her childhood immunizations. You may visit the CDC immunization website, to obtain a copy of the recommended immunization schedule for U.S. children.

1 to 2 years - What to Expect

Children this age are:

Energetic (walk more steadily, run, push, pull, take apart, carry, and climb on and grab things); Self-centered; and Busy (like to flip light switches, pour things in and out of containers, unwrap packages, and empty drawers). Between their first and second birthdays, they

Like to imitate the sounds and actions of others (by pretending to do housework or yardwork, for example); Want to be independent and do it themselves (and express this by saying "No!"); Can be clingy; Can have relatively short attention spans if not involved in an activity; Add variations to their physical skills (by walking back-wards or sideways, for example); Begin to see how they are like and unlike other children; Become more sensitive to the moods of others; Play alone or alongside other toddlers; and Increase their vocabularies from about 2 or 3 words to about 250 words and understand more of what people say to them.

What they need

Children this age require:

A safe environment for exploring; Opportunities to make their own choices ("Do you want the red cup or the blue one?"); Clear and reasonable limits; Opportunities to use big muscles (in the arms and legs, for example); Opportunities to manipulate small objects, such as puzzles and stackable toys; Activities that allow them to touch, taste, smell, hear, and see new things; Chances to learn about "cause and effect"--that things they do produce certain results (when a stack of blocks gets too high it will fall over); Opportunities to develop and practice their language skills; and Chances to learn about kindness and caring about others' feelings. Excerpted from the U.S. Department of Education Office of Educational Research and Improvement "Helping Your Child Get Ready for School"

3 to 4 Years - What to expect

Helping your child through your divorce may be one of the most difficult tasks you will ever face as a parent. The following is a brief list of practical tips that can help as you walk through this difficult time with your child.

1. Be honest. Don't lead your child to believe "dad's away on business" or "everything is going to be wonderful". Children are very perceptive. They know if a parent is trying to hide something, even if the purpose is to spare their feelings. Children need simple straightforward answers they can understand, without blame or making anyone wrong or bad.

2. Let your child know it is not their fault. All children assume they may be responsible for their parents' breakup. Children need to be gently reassured repeatedly over the first couple of years that the divorce is an adult decision having nothing to with them or their behavior.

3. Listen quietly. Children have many questions, feelings, assumptions and concerns about divorce. Many parents find it difficult to just sit quietly and listen to their children talk without trying to interrupt with a "fix-it" statement. Children need to feel heard with quiet patience and undivided attention.

4. Let your child know however they respond to the divorce is O.K. Many children hide their feelings of sadness, grief, anger or confusion because they are afraid expressing these feelings will upset their parents. Children need to know all their feelings are acceptable.

5. Let your child know it is normal for them to want their parents to get back together again. Children can feel ashamed about this very normal wish. You can explain to your child that once divorced, it is very unlikely that people ever get back together, but their wish for reconciliation is very normal.

6. Reassure your child of personal safety. Many children are concerned if their parents divorce there will not be enough food or shelter or clothing for them. Children living with single mothers may also need reassurance that she has a plan to protect them in case of fire, "burglars" or "ghosts".

7. Ask your child about friends of theirs whose parents are divorced. This is a good way to learn of your child's fears and assumptions about divorced parents, and gives you the opportunity to clear up any misconceptions and remind them that other children have gone through what they are now going through.

8. Don't put your child in the middle or try to make them take sides. Don't say anything about your ex in earshot of your child. Don't have your child carry messages to your ex. Children need to be able to love both parents. If one parent is disapproving of affection a child expresses toward the other parent, the child will begin to withdraw, become dishonest or depressed.

9. Spend time with caring friends. Having a supportive network can protect your child from becoming your confidant and feeling responsible for your emotional well being. It can also give you a higher frustration tolerance for the normal everyday things kids do.

10. Read together and talk about a book on divorce for children. This will help you explain important facts to your child and help your child formulate questions they might otherwise not have words for. A wonderful interactive book to read with your child is My Parents Still Love Me Even Though They're Getting Divorced, written by Dr. Lois V. Nightingale, a Clinical Psychologist, for children and their families. More about this book can be found here.

4 to 5 Years - What to expect

Children this age

Are active and have lots of energy;

May be aggressive in their play;

Can show extremes from being loud and adventurous to acting shy and dependent;

Enjoy more group activities because they have longer attention spans;

Like making faces and being silly;

May form cliques with friends and can be bossy;

May change friendships quickly;

May brag and engage in name-calling during play;

May experiment with swear words and bathroom words;

Can be very imaginative and like to exaggerate;

Have better control in running, jumping, and hopping but tend to be clumsy;

Are great talkers and questioners; and

Love to use words in rhymes, nonsense, and jokes.

What they need

Children this age need opportunities to:

Experiment and discover within limits;

Use blunt-tipped scissors, crayons, and put together simple jigsaw puzzles;

Practice outdoor play activities; purchasing kids baseball gloves is recommended if you want to get them in to organized sports in the future.

Develop their growing interest in academic things, such as science and mathematics, and activities that involve exploring and investigating;

Group items that are similar (for example, by size);

Stretch their imaginations and curiosity; and

See how reading and writing are useful (for example, by listening to stories and poems, dictating stories to adults, and by talking with other children and adults).

Excerpted from the U.S. Department of Education

Office of Educational Research and Improvement

"Helping Your Child Get Ready for School"

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