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Are you feeling like you don’t even remember who you are? How to keep your sense of self after becoming a parent: YOU MATTER

May 27, 2020

Good Morning! Today I want to talk to you about a topic that is very important. I am a parent, wife, a pediatrician and I am also myself. What I mean by that is that before I was any of those other titles, I was a person with interests, likes and dislikes, dreams and fears.

It seems that more often than not when people become parents many of these things get shoved to the side to make room for this amazing new person that has come into your life…your baby. As a new parent, it is easy to be mesmerized by the soft, perfect features you see in your baby. You spend hours analyzing their face, their hands, their feet, caressing the softest skin you have ever touched. You marvel at the reality that this baby was created by you. It is truly a miracle.

When first time parents come into the office, they are nervous and are almost in a state of bliss; albeit exhausted! They want to do everything right. They come in with lists and ask many questions (the funny thing is that parents all have the same questions regardless of culture or race). They listen intently when I recommend something for the baby and take notes. They carefully take turns holding the baby and feeding him or her. Their entire focus is now on this baby. It has become a 24/7 “job” that we are immediately immersed in. It is the most important job you will ever have….

By the second or third week of parenting, the visits are a little different. Parents come in looking for tips to get their baby to sleep the entire night. They come in with bags under their eyes and forget to bring extra diapers and wipes (and of course the baby decides to poop in the office..). I remember those days of early parenting. They are difficult. You feel exhausted. Crying sometimes just comes naturally as you repeat your day over and over again with feeding schedules and diaper changes. It is over-whelming, but you push through and you keep trying to be the “perfect parent”.

I want you to know that there is no “perfect parent”. Be kind to yourself when you parent. Take care of YOURSELF too. In the beginning the idea of ME time is elusive but it is possible. If you are lucky enough to have someone other than yourself in the home, take 10/15 minutes to take a shower without a worry or simply just go for a walk alone to clear your mind. Don’t spend all day in pajamas day after day.. and don’t feel guilty about wanting time for yourself. Make time to talk to friends and friends even if it’s just a few minutes per day. Write down ideas about things you are interested in or dream about.

Make a promise to yourself that you will not lose yourself in this parenting journey. When you take care of yourself, spend time with those that you love, cultivate your interests and continue to dream, you will be happier. Being a good parent does not mean forgetting about yourself. In fact, the happiest moms that I see in the office are the ones that have their own interests outside of parenting.

I truly believe that one of the primary reasons women are depressed as their children get older is that they have lost themselves in the world of parenting. You don’t know who you are anymore. You sometimes lose your identity all together. Your days, weeks, months and years consist of playdates, school responsibilities and day to day parenting.

Please do not lose yourself to parenting. Make a conscious effort every day to do something that is important to YOU that is independent of your parenting responsibilities. Make it a priority. Schedule it into your calendar. It can be a short walk, meditation, practicing a hobby, reading, exercising…the possibilities are endless. Taking the time to take care of yourself will in turn make you a better parent. You will feel happier.

Parenting should enhance your life not stifle it. Keep dreaming and becoming the best version of yourself. It is truly the best gift you can give your children. It will teach them to keep dreaming, to take care of themselves and to nurture their friendships and relationships. Grow with your children. Life is about  becoming the best version of yourself, and this includes YOU.

Elizabeth Vainder, M.D.

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Are you tired of trying to keep your child on a schedule? The importance of play.

May 20, 2020

As pediatricians, we frequently receive updates regarding topics of interest that the Academy of Pediatrics finds important for us to be aware of. Recently, a new clinical report from the American Academy of Pediatrics caught my attention. They are recommending that doctors write a “PRESCRIPTION FOR PLAY!”.

Yes, a prescription to play. It sounds so simple. Yet, from 1981 to 1997, children’s playtime decreased by 25 %. Children ages 3 to 11 have lost 12  hours per week of free time due to academic pressures and organized after-school activities. The pressures felt from parents to keep up with the daily-changing electronic games and digital devices is real.

Kids whose parents cannot afford the expensive digital toys may feel left out and kids whose parents CAN afford them, think that allowing their kids unlimited access to these objects is healthy and promotes learning. New games and apps come in the guise of claiming to help your child learn his or her ABC’s, math skills and or other didactic academic skills. Yet, studies show that the truth is actually that the opposite of this is true.

Children’s creativity and play is actually improved with inexpensive objects that are found in any household…boxes, spoons, balls, puzzles, crayons, boxes, pots and pans, etc.

The importance of play, it seems, has been lost. Sometimes play is viewed as frivolous or a waste of time. Parents are spending a small fortune and endless hours in a child’s life in organized sports and/or activities. The competition in the academic world is real. Parent’s want their children to be the best and this sometimes comes with the loss of free play.

Yet the studies show that play actually leads to changes in the brain in the molecular, cellular and behavioral levels. It is believed that play can have lasting changes in the brain that help to improve execute functioning and help in processing social interaction.

Executive functioning is the process of learning rather that the actual content.  It has been shown to help children with improved self-regulation and self-control, better problem solving skills, filtering of distracting details, and mental flexibility. In fact, countries that offer more free play see greater academic success among children as they mature.

It has even been shown that children have lower levels of cortisol (which indicate lower stress levels) when involved in active play. This is especially important for children dealing with significant toxic stress and adversity in their daily lives, but is also important for decreasing anxiety as well. In fact, countries that offer more free play see greater academic success among children as they mature.

So what can we do? What can we as parents do to help change this? The recommendations are clear.

  • Encourage free play in your day to day life with your children. You do not necessarily need extra time to play. Incorporate play in your day to day life. Engage your children in helping at home with chores, which can in turn result in role playing or fun games.
  • Let your child lead with their creativity. If your child gets a new toy resist the temptation to show them how to use it. Let them try to figure it our for themselves. They may actually teach you something you had not even thought about!
  • Make free play a priority instead of viewing it as a waste of time. Relax and enjoy in watching your child run around yelling “I am a pirate” or “let’s play school”

Free play, without constant supervision, helps children come together. It often brings children from diverse backgrounds together as they make up rules to a game, role-play and learn empathy. Through play,  children learn what its like to lose and  they are encouraged to come up with strategies to improve their outcomes in up-coming challenges. These interaction help to evolve independent thinking and creativity.

Some of my happiest moments as a mom, was watching my kids build a fort and create their own stories and/or games. It makes me smile just to think about it.

It is up to us as parents to bring free play back into the lives of our children. Our world is changing and our children need the skills necessary to compete in the 21st Century world. We need them to be creative, innovative and problem-solvers. These are the very skills that free-play encourages through the development of executive functioning.
Stop and look around you. Take a long hard look at your child’s life and what his/her daily activities involve. Perhaps you have been feeling over scheduled and stressed with parenting and “keeping up with the jonses”.

Play with your kids. Act silly sometimes and laugh. Enjoy games you played as a child and help your child discover their interpretation of the world around them, free from  your interpretation. The truth is that free play will not only help your child but you as well.

Below are age-specific recommendations :

  1. 2-3 months-  Respond to your infants emergence of a social smile by smiling in response. It helps an infant learn the effects of their behaviors. (making a parent smile when they smile).
  2. 4-6 months- Encourage games of peek-a-boo, laughing, and encourage your infant to discover new objects on their own. Instead of teaching an infant how to use a toy, watch them discover it!
  3. 9 months- At nine months is when babies begin to develop separation anxiety and stranger anxiety. It is a time when infants begin to learn self-regulation as they begin to use their parents for social refrencing. Your baby is looking at you for guidance. Make sure your facial expressions are encouraging instead of fearful as your baby begins exploring the world.
  4. 12 months- At this age, infants really begin to lay the foundation of the development of social skills/interactions. They love the feeling of accomplishment and true joy as they take their first steps or say a new word. Encourage your child taking those baby steps in self-discovery. Again, remember that your facial expression is what your baby is looking for.
  5. 2 year olds- Everyone talks about the “terrible twos”. I believe that the reason this is a belief is that this is a difficult time for a toddler. It is a time of emerging independence and they undertand usually a lot more than they are able to communicate. This leads to frustration and tantrums. Try to provide your child with some independence while staying close by providing words of encouragement when they fail or fall. Resist the temptation to scoop them up when they fall. Watch to see what they do and how they begin to problem solve.
  6. 3 year olds- By 3 years of age, most children have begun to communicate more effectively and can understand  cause and effect. This is when it is critically important to model behavior for your child. Help your child deal with emotionally challenging situations. Guide and lead but do not be so quick to offer solutions. Let them come up with their own ways and help them learn why some solutions may be better than others. Encourage drawing, coloring and creating. Sit back and discuss how wonderful that their elephant is purple and flies, just because… Encourage creativity and take them to the park, beach or outside with no agenda.
  7. 4-6 year olds- By 4-6 years of age, most children have started some form of formal teaching in an academic setting. If possible, try to select programs that prioritize free play and recess in these early years. If your income is limiting take the time when possible to find local parks or community centers where your child can simply just play…
  8. 7-9 year olds- By 7-9 years of age, many parents are focusing their child’s talents on one sport or another form of specific after-school activity. Many children this age spend sometimes 10-12 hours a week practicing and developing a skill. The pressures to be the best are beginning to become real and many parents with lower means begin to feel that their children are not able to keep up with their more “economically-advantaged” peers. The increase in the use of electronic devices increases significantly in this age group. Yet, studies show that active play for 1 hour per day, allowed kids in this age group to think more creatively and multi-task. These kids were also found to improved social-emotional skills that later are found to correlate with improved academic and economic success. Third grade prosocial behaviors correlated with eighth grade reading and math better than with third grade math and reading levels. So, set up play dates at the park. Set up no-electronic times in your child’s schedule and let them be “bored”. Boredom sparks creativity and taps into their imagination. Do not over-schedule them.
  9. 10 and beyond-  After the age of 10, most kids are playing electronic games and or watching more TV and videos than interacting in free play. Make a point to go outside (with no electronics) whenever possible. Find activities in your community that encourage free play. Play decreases stress, fatigue, injury and depression. In fact, adult success in later life can be related to the experience of childhood play that cultivated creativity, problem solving, teamwork, flexibility and innovations.
  10. Parents-  The benefits of play for parents are too many to  list. If your child asks you to play, do it. Enjoy the joy in your child’s face when he/she discovers the world. Go back to childhood, when life was simple, days were long and troubles were few. Create a bond with your child that will only strengthen with time, and have fun doing it!

Elizabeth Vainder, M.D.

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How to help kids find their voice

May 13, 2020

“It’s kind of fun to do the impossible”-Walt Disney

Perhaps you have been there. You are in a board meeting or a classroom and an idea pops into your head. Your thoughts are elaborate. You are imagining something so amazing it has your head spinning. Suddenly you stop, look around, realize that you are in a room full of people and your thoughts begin to go in a different direction. “What would they think of me?” “What would they say?” “They will think it’s dumb” “They will laugh at me.” Just like that, your thoughts stop and you again focus on the discussion in the room. You listen and participate in the topic of the day and are careful to chose your words carefully and keep your seemingly crazy ideas to yourself…

It is situations like this that are all too familiar. I am certain your child has felt it too. Perhaps in school, in a meeting, collaborating with friends, or maybe even at home. Yet, we are surrounded by amazing inventions and technology that if you really stop to think about it, I’m sure at some point seemed absurd. An airplane, a telephone,  a car, a computer, a cruise ship, a smart phone, face time…the list is endless. Stop and think about that.

Imagine when the inventors of these amazing things we take for granted first said they had an idea. I imagine the laughter in the room, the finger pointing, the discouraging words and the whispers. Yet, for some reason these inventors continued to look ahead and imagined the impossible with perseverance. We know many of these inventions are the result of persistent failures. It makes me wonder what instills that drive in someone to continue to work on the impossible? What determines the person that will succeed?

I invite you to ask these same questions of yourself and your children. Push yourself in your next meeting to say what you are truly thinking about. Express your ideas and see where they go. Sit down with your children and role play. Give them a scenario like the one I described and encourage them to speak their mind. Embolden them to raise their hand. Remind them that usually those that ridicule or laugh are too afraid to speak up. The laughter is often a result of nervousness, personal doubt and “fitting in”.

It is exciting to imagine the impossible. It is intriguing to see where your child will go with his/her ideas. As parents, we need to be reminded that our dreams may not be those of our children. Listen to what your children are interested in or not interested in! Imagine the possibilities…they are endless.

Elizabeth Vainder, M.D.

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How to help your child find out who they want to be: Finding your child’s super power

May 6, 2020

The question of who am I is one that we have all struggled with and perhaps may still be struggling with….Small children look to their parents for approval and sometimes are encouraged or discouraged by the comments of their peers to act a certain way, dress a certain way, and behave a certain way.In the tween years of course this becomes even more evident.

As parents,  what can we do to help foster the development of the true self? It seems that most parents start off strong in this commitment when kids are very small. It is easy to let a small child chose their clothes, wear rain boots on a sunny day, wear plaid with stripes and pants that are too small. In fact, society encourages these behaviors as on lookers often smile and wave at your enthusiastic child as he/she runs the halls of the grocery store with a super cape on.

However, once kids reach the tween years, that once confident happy go lucky child you remember can begin to feel self conscious about their hair, their size, their clothes, their background, their identity…Perhaps even YOU remember those feelings of self doubt.

This is where I believe parents can play an important role in developing the true self.

  1. Encourage your child to explore new fashion, new friends, new hobbies.
  2. Give them encouragement and affirmation.
  3. Tell them the beauty that you see.
  4. Tell them the talents that you see.

Even if your tweens/teen seems as though they really don’t want to hear it and you get the eye roll in response, keep doing it. We all want to feel beautiful and loved. Remind them that what truly makes someone beautiful is who they are. Tell them to trust the voice inside them telling them if something is right or wrong. Build up their confidence with true unconditional love.

As your child grows, encourage them to volunteer and give back. Help them find a cause that has a special meaning for them. Putting forth effort into giving and volunteering can feel so good. It can give your child a sense of purpose. Often when volunteering, kids become aware of the situation that others are in (perhaps even their same age). This can help kids develop empathy towards others. Volunteering can also help your child realize that you are never too small to make a difference.

Lastly, help your child set a few goals, even if they seem completely out of reach. Have them try to do something that is not in their comfort zone. If they fail, remind them that most successful people fail many times along the way. True success is not obtained over night and requires hard work and dedication. No one posts on instagram and facebook the training that they do or the hours that they put into studying to get to where they want to go. Most people just post the trophy, the graduation, and their successes. The real secret is that with failure is when we truly learn the most. It’s what you do when you fall that will determine your outcome.

Life is full of choices. Help your child make the ones that  feel true. The world needs new ideas and confident people leading the way. We all have something to offer and the journey of life is finding what that is. No one can be YOU. Real beauty is found in our differences. Help your child notice and develop those differences. The possibilities are endless.

Elizabeth Vainder, M.D.

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How to stop worrying and start making decisions

April 29, 2020

I think my tendency to worry grew 100 fold when I became a parent. Deciding on a doctor, how and what to feed the baby, what to buy, understanding what is harmful and what isn’t. There are so many decisions to make as a parent and you want to make sure that your baby not only has the best of everything but that you don’t mess anything up. The internet doesn’t help. It provides an endless display of options from diapers, lotions, soaps, clothes, schools, shoes, etc….It is easy to get lost in the millions of opinions  and options available.

A few years ago, in the middle of parenting my 3 kids, I felt as though all I ever did was worry. I approached each decision with trepidation and fear and worried about making the wrong decisions all of the time. Even after I finally made a decision, the worrying just wouldn’t stop. I was trapped in a sea of thoughts going nowhere. One day I sat down to really thing about what good it did to worry anyway.

The first thing I realized is that worrying is exhausting and time consuming. It literally will eat up hours in your day and keep you up at night.  Some thoughts become repetitive and you can find yourself trying  to analyze the same situation in a million different ways. Sometimes too many options can literally paralyze you. You don’t even know where to start! In the end, I learned several lessons about worrying. 

  1. Worry doesn’t make anything happen. 
  2. Worrying is exhausting.
  3. Worrying disrupts my sleep.
  4. Worrying does not make problems disappear. 
  5. Worry is the synonym of inaction.
  6. Worry doesn’t make anything happen.

It is really only useful if it leads to action. Otherwise it is a waste of time. 

This time in quarantine, is making it even harder to make decisions and move forward. This unfortunately leaves too much room for worry. 

Here are some ways to decrease the amount of time that you spend worrying:

  1. When you are feeling worried, write down your thoughts and try to get to the core of your concerns. Just write everything that’s in your mind on a paper and try not to think too much as you write. Put the paper aside and read it a few minutes later. Seeing your thoughts on paper can sometimes help you to understand why you are actually worried. -What you write may surprise you!
  2. Try to focus on what you want as your end result and write a plan on how to get there.
  3. When a thought enters your mind reminding you to worry, acknowledge it as a thought and move on. Do not dwell on those thoughts/worries.
  4. If you are worried about something specific, try to learn as much as you can about the subject. Understanding something can help you make decisions.
  5. Find friends or people that can help you make objective decisions. Ask questions and listen with an open mind. Sometimes talking about something and listening to others opinions can help you feel that you are not alone.
  6. Limit how much news you listen to or watch. The news has a way of playing on repeat the same extreme circumstances over and over. The truth is that for every bad news broadcast, there is probably 10 times the amount of good news, it’s just rarely shared.
  7. Find the good news and read about it. 
  8. Reach out to a friend, even it is someone you haven’t spoken to in a while. This will not only help you, but it will help them too.

So instead of spending so many hours worrying,  try to focus on the present and make small decisions every day. The truth is that we are no more certain of tomorrow today than we were before this pandemic started. We just felt more confident. So as the next few days unfold, begin making decisions that will move you forward. Don’t let your mind stay stuck just worrying, it’s getting you nowhere.

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Elizabeth Vainder, M.D.

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What kinds of chores can kids do during quarantine?

April 23, 2020

So you’re stuck at home and you’re running around getting everything done. It’s exhausting!

As a parent it’s easy to get caught up in the daily chores necessary to get through the day. You walk around the house doing everything that needs to be done and you sometimes don’t even stop to think about it! You’re on auto-pilot. I am writing this to tell you to STOP! Stop trying to be superman/woman. Stop doing it all. Trying to do everything only leads to resentment and anger…and quite frankly exhaustion.

Engage even your smallest of children in your day to day chores. Small children as young as 3 can help with sorting laundry,  put their dirty dishes in the sink, put their dirty clothes in the hamper and sort of make their beds. By four and five, children can absolutely begin to set the table, help with cleaning up after eating and make their beds. Creating good habits such as cleaning up after play should really begin very early. Encouraging them to take those extra 2-3 minutes that is needed after play to just clean up! (pointer: Don’t criticize what they do, even if the bed or playroom isn’t perfect, try to thank them for helping. Criticizing how kids make their beds or clean up is the perfect way to get them to not want to do it again!) If you give positive feedback they will be willing to do it again tomorrow! If you think they need some help, try helping them out the first few times and then encourage them to do it alone. 

By 6-7 years, kids can begin helping to organize a playroom, begin putting their clothes away after being washed and they can even begin helping to wash dishes! You can even start to teach kids this age some cooking basics. It’s never too early to learn to crack an egg, mix batter and prepare a salad.  It’s wonderful to see a child’s face light up when they successfully crack that first egg! It can also be a fun way to enjoy some time with your child and help them to feel like a contributing member of the family. Try looking for fun, easy recipes and make something new every week!  

Between 8-10 years old, children can be extremely helpful! They can absolutely begin to help with cooking, organizing their closet, replacing toilet paper rolls, putting away groceries, making their beds, preparing a simple lunch or dinner and writing out a to-go list for the following day. This is a great age to start learning about time management and getting things done. Give them a voice. Let them have some say in what they want to wear, eat (with guidance of course!), etc. If they have an idea, encourage them to send an email to the teacher and share their ideas. This is the beginning of “independence”…..children can really do a lot of  things for themselves with guidance. (and they love to learn!)

In the tween years, teach kids some of the basics such as cooking some meals, learning to do laundry, making a bed, helping with dishes, folding clothes, sewing a button,  taking out the garbage, etc. These are just some of the many things that tweens can do!

By the time your kids reach their teens, it is important to look ahead to the future and begin thinking about the skills your child will need that are NOT taught in the classroom. The truth is that by 18 or 19 years old many kids are living on their own and sometimes find themselves lost because their parents have done everything for them! Now is the perfect time to teach them some of these life skills! Consider teaching your child  about money management. Talk about insurance, house expenses, everyday expenses, etc. Get into details. Go over the amount of money you need to earn in order to buy the things they want and need. Consider getting them a bank account so they can start saving some of the money they may earn from doing jobs here and there. Now is a great time to talk a little about the stock market and begin looking at making possible predictions about what will happen in the market. It is also a great time to sit down with your teens and talk about investing. 

Teach them about time management. Help them write down short and long term goals and create a plan for how to get there. This will serve them well in all aspects of their life and will help them resist being “bored” and wasting hours and hours playing video games or scrolling through social media. Make sure that chores are a priority in your house. Most responsibilities do not take much time and it is really about time management and team work. 

Now that we are in quarantine, there is no reason that your teens can’t help around the house! Remember once your children go off on their own they really should be able to:

  1. Cook some meals 
  2. Do laundry 
  3. Self-hygiene (very important!) 
  4. Time management skills (writing down goals and weekly to-do lists) -Figuring out a system that works for them. Try Google calendar to start. It’s free and it syncs automatically with their phone. They can learn to set up reminders and alerts about important events and/or meetings. 
  5. Make a bed 
  6. Basic cleaning skills- cleaning a bathroom, vacuuming, mopping, and washing dishes
  7. Sew a button 
  8. Iron a shirt
  9. Learn how to shop for groceries with a budget
  10. Money Management

This list is by no means comprehensive, but it’s a good place to start. Start thinking about all the skills they will need beyond academics once they live on their own.  Parents often want to do everything for their kids. What they don’t realize is that kids are more capable than most parents give them credit for! 

I’ve seen that in many affluent families most of the household responsibilities are outsourced. This leaves very few chores (if any) for the kids to do. Now that we are in quarantine, and maybe you don’t have as much help as you used to, it’s the perfect time to get started on teaching some of these skills! Consider that making the extra effort to teach kids some of these skills is worth it!  Any skill that a child learns will help them in the future!

The opposite is also true, with poverty comes need and I have seen that in families with less wealth the children are taught early on that they need to help in the home with basic chores and household duties.  They help out of necessity but grow up with more basic skills than those than never help around the house. 

Regardless of your background or means, kids are kids and kids will grow up to be adults. As parents our job is to raise them to be contributing members of society, that are self-sufficient, hard-working, and kind. Helping around the house can teach all of these skills and also bring you closer. So parents, please stop trying to do it all! Ask for a hand and enjoy the extra time that you have to share a special experience with your child instead of spending all day cooking and cleaning up alone! Trust me!

Elizabeth Vainder, M.D., F.A.A.P.

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An opportunity to boost self-esteem & have difficult conversations with your kids

April 15, 2020

You are home with your kids. They are not running off to school or to playdates or sports games. They are in their room or sitting somewhere in your house, day in and day out.

So here is your chance. I know you’ve been wanting to talk to your son or daughter about lots of things. Maybe you’ve been wanting to have a talk about sex, drugs, relationships, smoking, money… The point is that there may not be a better time to talk about these things than now.

For some it’s harder than for others to initiate these conversations. You think maybe your child isn’t going to listen or maybe they already know everything they need to know. Chances are that they don’t. Most kids find out about information from social media, videos or friends. This can obviously lead to a lot of misinformation. Misinformation can often lead to increased anxiety and fear. Many times these fears are unwarranted and a simple heart to heart conversation can help.

Parents often ask what is the best way to initiate these conversations. Here are some ideas to get you started.

  1. Speak to your child 1 on 1. Bringing up sensitive topics in front of siblings or other family members will likely result in your child not being honest, defensive or embarrassed.
  2. Start a conversation maybe after watching a movie together that brings up these difficult topics.
  3. Try to do more listening than talking when your child begins to open up.
  4. Answer their questions truthfully. Your child needs to know that if they come to you for answers that you will tell them the truth, even if the truth is hard.
  5. If your child becomes defensive or simply doesn’t want to talk about it. Just remind them that you are there if they need you.

This is also a wonderful opportunity to share with your child all of the things that you admire or love about them. This is your chance to boost your child’s self esteem. Did you know that 95 % of teens report having a low self esteem at some point? Also, close to 46% of teens feel a low self esteem overall. A low self esteem can lead to increased addiction, mental health issues, violence, poor academic performance and suicide. Here are some ways to recognize if your child is suffering from a low self esteem.

  1. Blames others instead of self when they do something wrong.
  2. Feeling of hopelessness and negative comments
  3. Can not handle criticism – take things personally.
  4. Tend to avoid new circumstances for fear of failure
  5. Physical problems such as headaches and stomach aches
  6. Focusing on themselves instead of others when dealing with difficult situations.
  7. Social withdrawal. Not wanting to participate in social events with their peers or loved ones.

What can you do now that your child is at home to help build his/her self-confidence?

  1. Give them specific praise when they do something right. Telling them that they are “awesome” “perfect” or just “amazing” does nothing to boost their self esteem. Instead praise specific behaviors such as “Thank you for being such a great helper when I needed help cleaning up the kitchen.””I love how you went and helped your brother when he needed your help.”
  2. Do not constantly tell them what they are doing wrong. Spend the day finding what they are doing right and point it out. Give praise for what they are doing right instead of criticizing them for what they are doing wrong.
  3. We all tend to internalize what others say to us and this becomes the thoughts we hear in our heads over and over. Make a conscious effort to give your child positive thoughts about themselves. Maybe write them a note with an affirmation or help them to find something positive about themselves when they are feeling down.
  4. Help them to find ways to help others. When we shift our focus to helping others, we stop focusing all of our attention on ourselves and we feel a sense of pride in helping others.
  5. Help your child to write down what they think they are good at. Help them to come up with at least 5 things that are their strengths and passions. You can definitely help them with this!
  6. Limit comparison. If you have multiple children, do your best not to compare your kids to each other. Do not compare them to their family members or peers either. Comparison can lead to feelings of inadequacy and can result in kids trying to do things to change who they are for what they think is “socially” acceptable.
  7. Try to resist doing everything for them. The more they learn to do for themselves the more confident they feel.

Over the next few weeks you can implement these simple tools in your day to day life. Use words that encourage your child to come out of their comfort zone and perhaps try something new. Help them to recognize their individual talents and gifts. Remind them that these talents and gifts are what make them who they are. We all have to learn to believe in ourselves instead of trying to conform to what society is trying to tell us we should be. We were not meant to fit in, we were born to stand out.

Share with a friend so that they can help their kids too!

Have a wonderful week!

Elizabeth Vainder, M.D.

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5 Effective & Proven Ways to decrease stress and anxiety

“Anxiety does not empty tomorrow of its sorrows, but only empties today of its strength. ” – Charles Spurgeon

April 8, 2020

At the first of every month, I sit with my monthly dry erase marker and plan out my family’s month. In the calendar I include birthdays, special events, work schedules, sports games, doctors appointments, meetings, and special dates. Everyone in the house can see it. We frequently check it to make sure there are no conflicts before we make plans. It is always filled with all of the things important enough to make it to the calendar. This month when I sat down to make the calendar, the only thing I wrote were birthdays and anniversaries. With a future so uncertain, there was not much else to write and the blank calendar was serving as a reminder. The truth is it’s hard to live day to day without thinking about tomorrow. It’s weird. We all feel it. Listening to the news and scrolling through social media doesn’t help – in fact it makes it worse! 

I wanted to share with you some proven ways that we can manage the days ahead. 

In 2016, Neuroscientists from the University of Pittsburgh found pathways that connected the cerebral cortex (where all of our thoughts are) with the adrenal medulla (which is what dictates how our bodies respond to perceived stress). Their studies proved that there is indeed a mind-body connection. Not only that, but they also realized the reason that meditation and certain exercises like yoga and pilates can alter the way our bodies respond to stress. They also found that many areas of the cerebral cortex controlled the adrenal medulla, but the most important ones were the ones that came from the motor areas of the cortex and the ones that were involved in awareness and affect. Another interesting finding was that when people were asked to re-imagine or think about a stressful event, the messages sent to the adrenal medulla were just as powerful as the actual events. 

So, why am I telling you all of this? Well, I am worried. This is the first time in history that we are living through such a tragic event with 24/7 news coming at us in all directions. If what these scientists found in their studies is true, every time we read, listen to or experience the stress of the current situation, our bodies are sent into a state of fight or flight mode and this in turn affects not only how we feel but our physical state as well. 

The great news is that because we know all of this, we actually have real ways that we can deal with stress, not only today but always. 

  1. We need to manage how much time we allow our thoughts to be focused on a stressful situation. Worrying about every news story or every facebook post is not changing the future or helping anyone. In fact as the scientists in the study showed, each time you think about it, you are hurting yourself with the same intensity as the first time. So while you want to stay informed, limiting the amount to time worrying is most important. 
  2. If you change your thoughts about the situation, you will change your body’s response. Start your day with gratitude. I know it sounds corny, but when you stop to be thankful for the things you do have, you remind your mind and your body that not everything around you is negative or scary. Take the time to write down 3 things you are grateful for and be as specific as possible. 
  3. Meditate for at least 10 minutes a day everyday. If you have never meditated or think it sounds crazy, I challenge you to try it for 7 days, every day and see how you feel. My favorite apps are Headspace and Calm. 
  4. Move! Movements like Yoga and Pilates, or anything that relaxes you can send positive messages to your body too! So make a commitment to yourself to move everyday. Do not be rigid with your schedule, just do something that makes you feel good that day. Just do it, even when you don’t want to. Get your kids to join too!
  5. Write down 3 things every night that you want to accomplish tomorrow. When you wake up in the morning, take a look at your list and just get those things done. Simple things are important. 

The little things you do every day will help to keep you healthy. You are in control of what you chose to think about or not think about. Pretending to be happy is not the answer. Shifting your thinking to other things, is. Moving your body in a relaxing way will not only help your body but it will also help your mind. 

So there you have it, real scientific proof that we can control more than we think. Please take care of yourselves, remember that you matter, what you do everyday matters not only to you but to your kids too. 

Share with a friend – We are stronger together!

A day at a time! 

-Elizabeth Vainder, M.D. 


*Richard P. Dum, David J. Levinthal, Peter L. Strick. Motor, cognitive, and affective areas of the cerebral cortex influence the adrenal medulla. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2016.