Each baby and every toddler is different – and yet, in some ways, they are all the same. They laugh, they cry, they squeal when tickled, they like to cuddle, they don’t want to go to bed. Sometimes they’re angels and sometimes they’re devils. And it’s just the same with deaf babies and toddlers!
Children grow up so quickly: do get as much pleasure as you can in watching your child as she develops. A child who is hearing impaired goes through exactly the same stages of development as a hearing child. All children go through difficult stages – not just yours because she is hearing impaired. The most important thing for you and all your family to remember is that your child is still the same child, whatever anyone said about her hearing. She needs you to be the same too and the rest of the members of the family. Don’t look at her with long faces or let her break family rules. She will worry and not feel secure. Wait until she is in bed and then talk about any problems. Treat her as before.
The most trying time for many parents can be “the terrible two’s” when temper tantrums can come to dominate your relationship with your child. These may occur when the child is frustrated, thwarted or when his demands clash with those of his mother or father. Initially he may be easily distracted by another toy or event but later his attention is less easy to distract. Sudden changes of mood and flashes of temper characterise a two year old so that the child may be very loving and then irritable, or playing happily alone and then suddenly clinging to his mother for reassurance. The two year old can be constantly demanding his mother’s attention and may be very jealous if this attention is given to other children.
If your child goes through a tantrum stage, take comfort and remind yourself that she is learning a lot about herself, the rest of her family and where her boundaries are, that is, how far she can ‘push you’. All homes have rules and all children try to break them, this is their way of finding out how the rules work. Don’t bend the rules. If you do your hearing impaired child will be less secure about where she stands and she will push you more to see how far you will go.
You can’t avoid all clashes of will but, if you can, think out the rules of the family. Keep them simple. Make them clear. Apply them to everyone. Apply them right away and wherever you are.
Easier said than done as we all know. But it is worth saying because, having a child with a hearing loss, you are bound to meet the attitude “Oh, but you ought to give in to him, he doesn’t understand what you say”, even within the family. All children take notice of how you look, breath, move and sound rather than the words you are saying. Lacking some of the clues given by your voice, your deaf child needs the rules even more than a hearing child. What you can’t do is mutter “wait till I get you home” or “I won’t take you to …. again if you behave like this”. Whatever you do has to be immediate. She will be watching for your reactions so they need to be clear. Life becomes more comfortable when he reacts to your cross look or wagging finger and he will do this all the quicker if you never forget to look pleased the moment he stops doing what you disapprove of.
Sleeping can sometimes be a problem too. The results of a Study of Sleeping Habits of Hearing and Hearing Impaired Children show that :
- On average hearing impaired children go to bed at the same time as hearing children.
- Hearing impaired children take longer to go to sleep once in bed.
- On average hearing impaired children do not wake in the night more frequently than hearing children but, probably, once awake, they stay awake longer.
- On average the total time asleep is the same for hearing impaired children as for hearing children, i.e. hearing impaired children may go to sleep a little later but they make up for it by sleeping a bit later in the morning.
Having a clear routine before bed seems to help. It is useful to have a winding down period, where quiet games are played or books read or songs are sung. Children seem to react favourably to a routine they can rely on and also to attempts by parents to build in the continuity of today and tomorrow, e.g. choosing clothes today which they will wear tomorrow, telling or showing them what they will do tomorrow. Many parents spoke about being firm without being rushed. Certainly allowing plenty of time for bedtime routine seems to be important.
So we can tell you that if your child gives you a hard time about sleeping:
- it may not be your fault
- it is probably not due to his hearing impairment
- there are a good number of children like yours, both hearing impaired and not!