Ask a Parenting Professional

    Potty-Training Pitfalls and the Remarriage Challenge

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    I have a 3-year-old son and a 2-month-old baby. My son was completely potty trained until about a month ago when he insisted on going back to wearing diapers. We gave in, and now wonder if we did the right thing. What do you think? Do we let him stay in diapers, and if so, for how long?

     

    It is our job as parents to support our children in moving forward developmentally. We should never push them to do things they are not equipped to do. Neither should we allow them to stay in a more infantile place in their development once they have mastered the skills they need to have success. What your son is experiencing is known as a regression, and it is very common in young children. Any major change in their lives can cause children to regress as a way of handling stress.

    In this case, a new baby is a huge change. Sleep is often disrupted for the entire household as babies are up and down at all hours and may wake up your son, and of course, his parents. In addition, your 3-year-old may be feeling a bit displaced by the new baby even if he has welcomed him with open arms. On your part, you probably took the path of least resistance by giving in to his demands for diapers.

    So what do you do now? I suggest you have a talk with your son. Let him know that he is a big boy and that big boys wear underpants and use the toilet. Reassure him that you believe in him and in his ability to have success. After the talk, recommit to wearing underwear during the day. If he hadn’t been staying dry through the night before, then I would continue to allow him to wear a pull-up at bedtime. Even if he protests, you need to stick to your resolve. In addition, try to spend a bit more one-on-one time with your older child so he feels equally deserving of your time and attention. And of course, try to make sleep a priority for him (and you!) so that he can be his best, most mature self. This is just a blip in his growth, and with your guidance and support, he should get back on track in no time. Also, please cut yourself some slack! While parenting young children is a joy, it is also a huge challenge, no matter how skilled the parent.

     

    I have been divorced from the father of my 12-year-old daughter for over five years. I have been dating Dan for two years now, and we are talking about getting married in the coming year. How can we make sure that the marriage will be well-received by my daughter?

     

    The good news is that it is possible to successfully blend families. There are a few very important points to keep in mind. The first is that blended families can take a very, very long time to jell. Go slowly and try to have realistic expectations. Try to keep as much of the familiar routine as possible. The fewer changes the better. I believe that the biological parent should continue to play the role of disciplinarian when needed. Allow Dan to remain neutral until he is integrated into the family and accepted by your daughter. In the meantime, there is much Dan can do to try to build a relationship. If he and your daughter could find a mutual interest, that would be great. This could be as simple as a huge jigsaw puzzle that they work on. Maybe they could practice a sport together such as tennis. Another idea is to include her in the wedding. Let her help with some of the planning, and make sure that she feels a part of the big day. And last but not least, please continue to spend one-on-one time with your daughter. You need to stay very connected as she moves into her teen years, and you don’t want her to feel displaced by Dan. Invariably, there will be rough spots, but in time and with patience and empathy, your daughter should adjust well to this new man in both of your lives.