Use your imagination

Parenthood doesn’t only take time, energy and money – it also takes imagination. Imagination is a crucial parental emotional muscle to develop and exercise throughout the span of being a parent, before, during and after the active parenting years.

Transitions are a time of change, with old expectations and routines often not working as well and new demands on the horizon. Pregnancy is one such transition, where imagination is needed to prepare with pleasure for the tasks to come.

Growth is so rapid in the first year that parents are constantly challenged to keep up with their baby. Instead of feeling confused and frustrated when the old methods don’t seem effective, try imagining yourself into your baby’s situation and find a creative solution.

For instance, the relation between feeding and sleep patterns shifts markedly in the second three months, as babies spend more time awake and active between naps. Just when parents thought they had settled into a nice pattern of nursing or feeding as soon as their baby wakes up, they may find that she won’t settle back to sleep as easily the next time.

This is frustrating and worrying for parents. But it’s not a sign of failure or something wrong. Instead, the frustration can be a signal for problem-solving, invoking the muscle of imagination to figure out a new plan.

In the first three months, babies usually spend most of their time feeding and sleeping. But, as their capacity to stay awake and alert and interested in the world around them grows in the second three months, playing is just as strong a need. Interactive games, like peek-a-boo and singing songs and handing a toy back and forth, start to be just as important to babies.

Playing is hard work for babies and it makes them hungry, often too hungry to go back to sleep without feeding. So parents may have to put themselves in their baby’s shoes and realize the new priorities. The sequence may have to be rearranged, so that it includes both the feeding and the playing needs. Your baby may want to wake up, be changed, then play for a while, and then have a nice feed before going happily back to sleep.

When parents use their emotional muscle of imagination, it’s easier to negotiate the development transitions that babies go through. And it feels very satisfying to solve the problem.

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