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.

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.

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.

The simple way to find out what your child is worried about

April 1, 2020

“Can you read me one more story?” “I’m thirsty”, “Can I go to the bathroom?”

Parents all around the world have heard these same questions right around the time that their kids should really be going to sleep! It can seem frustrating as you struggle to get your little one down and they get that second wind. 

The idea of having a few minutes to yourself seems so appealing yet your little one keeps on talking and asking for more. 

Tonight I’m encouraging you to stay a little longer and listen. 

There is something magical about that time just before bedtime. Kids will talk about so many things jumping from one topic to another. But – if you really listen closely, you will catch a glimpse into what their little minds are actually thinking about. 

Over the last few weeks, life has changed in ways that many of us could never have imagined. It has changed for our kids too and they feel it. Everything is different. No one is going to school, they can’t see their friends, school is perhaps on a computer now and there are no more playdates or get-togethers with friends. It is hard. Change is hard. 

Kids are not very good at expressing what they are feeling. (some adults aren’t either!)

They will complain of physical symptoms when they feel anxious or afraid. Other times they will misbehave or have tantrums. Pay attention to all of it. 

Kids are very good at eavesdropping on adult conversations and listening to the media. They make their own interpretations of what they hear. This can bring about feelings of worry or overwhelm. Sometimes they create ideas in their head that are not even real. Pay attention to what you say in front of your kids. They are listening. 

So tonight, when it’s time for your little one to go to bed, snuggle with them a little longer and lay down to listen. Listen with an open heart and validate their concerns and feelings. You don’t need to have all of the answers. Help them to understand what they are feeling and what they have seen and heard. You will learn a lot about your child in these few minutes before they fall asleep and they will know that you cared. You cared enough to listen. That is the greatest gift of all.

Share with a friend that can use this!

Have a wonderful Wednesday and stay safe and healthy

Elizabeth Vainder, M.D. 

The only thing guaranteed is change…

March 27, 2020

“In the light of the moon, a little egg lay on a leaf….” -Eric Carle 

The Little Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle is one of the books that I loved reading to my kids when they were little. 

One sunday morning the warm sun came up and -pop! – out of the egg came a tiny and very hungry caterpillar.” 

The caterpillar in the story is so simple and has no idea of what the future will bring. It is born hungry and spends most of its time eating and crawling around. A simple life. One would argue maybe even insignificant. You wonder if it even thinks about the future. It just goes through life until one day….

He built a small house, called a cocoon, around himself. He stayed inside for more than two weeks. “

You wonder what goes on in the mind of a caterpillar in this moment. Is it scared? Does it think that life is over? Does it think that it is dead? I imagine that all of these uncertainties and fears can be extraordinarily frightening for a little caterpillar. Yet, we all know how the story ends, 

Then he nibbled a hole in the cocoon, pushed his way out and… he was a beautiful butterfly!”

The story of the Little Caterpillar is a story of change and of hope. The only thing ever guaranteed in this life is change. Nothing ever stays the same. This is true for all of us. Most of us, like the little caterpillar, go through life hungry for a deeper meaning of why but all the while feeling small or insignificant. A small voice in the howling winds. Perhaps afraid to take chances on becoming who we know in our hearts we want to be. 

So we build walls around us and we stay in there for weeks, months or even years, afraid. Comfortable in our cocoon.  Afraid to evolve, and frightened of the unknown. What a shame to be the caterpillar that stays in the cocoon. It will never know how beautiful it can be. 

So as we face the coming days of uncertainty and fear in our cocoons, I hope that we will use this time like the caterpillar and transform into our best selves with hope for better tomorrows. I hope that we can all become the butterflies we were always meant to be. 

Share with a friend! Together we are stronger!

Elizabeth Vainder, M.D.