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From Baby to Big Kid

An e-newsletter that showcases how children learn and grow each month from birth to 3 years. From Baby to Big Kid translates the science of early childhood and offers strategies parents can tailor to their unique family situation and to the needs of their child.
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Coming Together Around Military Families: An online newsletter
from Military Projects at ZERO TO THREE

> Check It Out > Spotlight  
> News You Can Use >Grab and Go Resources


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Check It Out: Month of the Military Child

April is the Month of the Military Child. As military installations and communities nationwide plan events to recognize children whose parents serve, it can be difficult to identify activities that are appropriate for infants and toddlers. To engage families with very young children, consider the Talk to Me activity—in which deploying parents are encouraged to record messages for their infants, toddlers, and expectant partners. This experience provides an easy way to nurture connections between service member parents and their very young children.

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Spotlight on: Supporting Infants Following the Deployment of a Parent

Mabel Rosa Alvarez, of Brewster Child Development Center Annex in Camp LeJeune, North Carolina, was the primary caregiver for a 5-month-old baby whose mother had recently deployed. Following the mother’s deployment, the baby's father shared with Mabel that the baby had become increasingly restless and fussy and was not sleeping well. Mabel had observed these same behaviors in the child care setting. The father added that, with his wife gone, he was having difficulty coping with this change in his son's temperament and behavior. 

Mabel suggested using one of the mother’s t-shirts (unwashed, with her scent) as a transitional object for the baby at drop-off. Mabel would greet the father and son while holding the t-shirt so that the baby, when transferred to Mabel’s arms, smelled his mother immediately. This seemed to result in fewer periods of fussiness and crying. The t-shirt was also used as part of the naptime routine. Mabel let the baby cuddle with the t-shirt as she rocked him and fed him a bottle prior to naptime. This seemed to calm him, and when he was placed in his crib, he fell asleep faster and no longer showed signs of hypervigilance, constantly looking toward the door, as he had been. (Note:  Recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics and American Academy of Family Physicians state that no blankets or stuffed animals should be placed in a baby’s crib until after 1 year of age due to the risk of suffocation.) 

When the first t-shirt had been at the center for 2-3 months, Mabel asked the father for another, even suggesting that the mother could send one from overseas so that her son could continue this important sensory contact. Mabel also talked to the baby about his mother, regularly showed him photos of his mother, and read the story Over There to him as part of his daily routine. Finally, she suggested to the father that, when the mother called home, he hold the receiver to his infant’s ear so that he could hear his mother’s voice. Helping the father understand that there were things he could do to comfort his baby and soothe him during this separation supported him as he made the shift to serving as his son’s primary caregiver. Best of all—when the baby’s mother returned close to his 1-year birthday, it was clear that he remembered her and their relationship soon returned "back to normal."

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News You Can Use

Does it make a difference to very young children what type of injury their service member parent sustains? A recent literature review finds that it does. The nature of the injury (visible or invisible) not only determined the course of treatment for the service member but also dramatically shaped patterns of interaction in the family, family function and adjustment, the parent-child relationship, and child development outcomes. A "visible" injury is one in which a young child can see bandages, loss of a limb, scarring, or a prosthetic. An "invisible" injury, such as a traumatic brain injury (TBI), posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), or depression, is one in which a parent’s outward appearance remains unchanged to the child. 

In addition to summarizing how parental injury (either visible or invisible) can impact young children’s development in distinct ways, this literature review also provides a range of recommendations for supporting service members and their families who are affected by conflict-related injuries. For more information, check out:
Gorman, L. A., Fitzgerald, H. E., & Blow, A. J.  (2009 November). Parental combat injury and early child development: A conceptual model for differentiating effects of visible and invisible injuries. Psychiatric Quarterly, 81, 1-21.

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 Grab & Go Resources

Children whose parents have deployed, who have been recently reunited with a parent, or who have a service member parent who has sustained an injury are likely experiencing a range of feelings. For a baby or toddler, however, it can be very difficult to express these complicated emotions using words. The process of learning about emotions and how to share feelings with others is an important life skill. This parent resource, Teaching Your Child About Feelings From Birth to 2, has been developed by the Center on the Social and Emotional Foundations of Early Learning and suggests ways parents can promote healthy social-emotional development in their very young children.

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ZERO TO THREE: National Center for Infants, Toddlers, and Families
2000 M St., NW | Suite 200 | Washington, DC | 20036 |(800) 899-4301 |(703) 661-1577  

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