Expert Parenting Advice

    Dating After Divorce and Tummy Time for Babies

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    Q: I have been divorced for several years and have two children, six and nine. They live with me during the week and with their father most weekends. I have been dating Chris for three months. We usually see each other on the weekends when my children are with their dad. At what point should I introduce my kids to the new man in my life?Q: I have been divorced for several years and have two children, six and nine. They live with me during the week and with their father most weekends. I have been dating Chris for three months. We usually see each other on the weekends when my children are with their dad. At what point should I introduce my kids to the new man in my life?

    A: While I believe that parents have every right to a social life, I do take a conservative view on when to introduce a new, prospective partner to your kids. For me, waiting until the time when you believe that this relationship is moving toward a serious commitment is in everyone’s best interest. Your children may harbor the fantasy that you and their dad might get back together and could be resentful of Chris or see him as a threat. Another scenario is that your children become attached to this new adult in their lives, and if the relationship does not work out, they experience yet another loss. Children can sustain only so much loss before they stop attaching. This can lead to problems forming close bonds well into adulthood.

    Even when you feel that the relationship has a good chance of permanence, I still recommend proceeding with caution. Some casual outings together at a park or movie would be the best way to begin. Introduce Chris as a friend whom you care for very much. Avoid displaying too much affection in front of the children in the early months of this getting to know you period. Give Chris and your children time to get to know and feel comfortable with one another without pressure. The mistake I see parents make most often is in trying to rush things. This is a big adjustment on everyone’s part and going slowly pays off in more ways than I can express.

     

    Q: My niece has a new baby and this little one is constantly on his back. I know it’s doctor-recommended and safer for infants to be put to sleep on their backs, but is anyone telling parents that babies need tummy time when they’re awake? I can see his little head getting flatter by the week.

    A: Some years ago a study was released that suggested babies who slept on their backs were at less risk of dying of SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome) than those who were placed on their tummies to sleep. Since then, the American Academy of Pediatrics has strongly indorsed the “back to sleep” initiative and all evidence shows that this effort is working to reduces SIDS.

    One drawback to this sleeping arrangement is, as you have noted, babies with flattened heads. While this flattening is not unhealthy, it can be unattractive. Some babies with severe flattening may be given a helmet to wear which counteracts this effect, but these helmets have fallen out of favor. The real concern is baby’s ability to exercise his neck and upper body muscles when he spends so much time on his back. It is very important for young infants to have lots of tummy time. This should happen whenever the baby is awake and adults are nearby.

    As babies learn to roll over, this issue resolves itself. While babies need to sort this out for themselves, you can play little rolling games that give him the idea, but even if you do nothing, he will figure it out. I bet he will be rolling over any day now.