#51: The Secret to Getting More Done! Parents & Students!

August 12, 2020

Did you know that getting organized can actually help you get more done?

I know this now, but I didn’t always know this! Trust me when I tell you, it’s a game changer!

I think I must have been about 15 when the floor in my room was barely visible. I had so many things thrown around that it was hard to even know what was actually in there! Being messy was just the way I was and in my teen years it was worse than ever! Between school, chores, sleeping in, babysitting and hanging out with friends, there was little time for really cleaning up my room….or so I lead myself to believe!

School was a different story, I was always a good student and was extremely organized when it came to my school work. Most of my work was color coded and neat. I loved getting all my new school supplies when the first day of school came. There is just something about a brand new notebook and freshly sharpened pencils..those #2 pencils!

Of course, when I was in school there were no computers so pencils and pens were very important! We all had our favorites and traded at school with friends.  I remember writing down a list of all the homework I had in a little memo book that I carried everywhere. Crossing things out is a very gratifying experience! 

Fast forward to college and medical school and things weren’t any different, my room was a mess but my work and my outside responsibilities were always organized. Looking back I wish someone would have sat me down to explain to me that if I actually made an effort to organize my time, I actually would have gotten so much more done!  

The truth is the old me probably wouldn’t have listened! In medical school you’re kind of in survival mode. The days and nights are long, there is no set schedule since every few weeks your schedule changes. So I’m going to forgive myself for those 7 years (medical school and residency) when I didn’t prioritize time management.

Whether you’re a mom at home with your kids, a working mom, a student or a teen, everyone needs to learn about time management! 

I wish someone would have told me how thirty minutes once a week would help me:

  1. Feel more in control
  2. Get more done
  3. Actually feel happier
  4. Clear my mind 

All of the things I really needed not only then, but now too. About two years ago, I stumbled across a podcast that was talking about time management. I listened to the episode and decided to give it a try. For the next 2 weeks I spent 30 minutes each week getting organized and I can’t tell you how productive I was in the weeks that followed! 

Somehow, I had time for everything I needed to do, my mind was clearer, I felt more in control and I actually felt happier. In the end, this simple exercise even helped me to sleep better. I’m convinced that most of a mom’s insomnia is because of their never-ending “to-do” list circling in their head! 

It was such a simple exercise that I decided to tweak it for use by teens and their parents of course! If you click below, you can download the simple PDF “Survival Kit for Parents of Middle Schoolers” with exactly what I do on Sundays and what a difference it’s made for me in my life! For teens I suggest Fridays, only because their weekends are really the only “free time” many of them have, so they really need to maximize the use of their time on the weekends (relaxing of course included!)

I truly hope this helps you and feel free to share it with a friend who might need it too! 


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#45: 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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#43: 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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#30: 5 Ways to Give the Gift of Reading to your Child

February 5, 2020
“Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world.”-Albert Einstein
It is uncertain when babies understand language. We see two month old infants smiling in response to a smile and cooing as they try to communicate. We observe babies as young as 6 months old respond to certain words or songs that are familiar.
I do not think we will ever know when the exact moment comes when a baby understands what you are actually saying. Experts call it baby ease and it is almost instinctual that when you speak to a small baby you speak softly and with a high pitched voice. They seem to love it as they smile and coo in response. It is awesome!
To a baby, it isn’t so much what you say but how you say it. As your child grows what you say becomes more important so pay attention to your words! How lucky are we that we can share the gift of reading with our kids? Endless possibilities lie between the pages of a book. Encourage this always.
1.Read daily – If the idea of reading daily seems daunting, you are not alone. However, establishing routines with your baby from day one is the best way to ensure that you will continue to do so. Reading then becomes automatic and also a special time that your baby/child looks forward to. It doesn’t have to be long either. A simple book or poem can bring with it deep meaning and just the act of sitting down with your child uninterrupted speaks volumes of what you deem important.
2. Read aloud- It is recommended that you read higher level books to your child aloud. Listening to a story without having to focus on the words on the page can be magical. A story can transport you to a different time or place and create new and creative conversations  between you and your child. Ask questions when you read to encourage engagement and see if your child felt the same way you did about the story (you might be surprised!)
3. Escaping into a story – It is no secret that books and stories can take you from your away from the routines of every day life. Those books that are hard to put down sometimes leave you confused between reality and the words in the book. It is powerful. Allow yourself and encourage your child to place themselves in the place of the main character and question the decisions that the characters made and ask if they would have done the same. This exercise is the beginning of understanding empathy and its importance.
4. Choose different types of books – When selecting books to share with your child do some research. Find books that you think your child would enjoy but also get their input! Ask them what they would like to learn about or maybe there is an author that they have enjoyed in the past and would like to read more of their books. If you can sign up for notifications on when your child’s favorite author is in town, do it! One of my favorite memories was taking my boys to listen to Rick Riordan. Listening to how the author created the stories and the reason behind his decision to write stories was magical. I highly recommend this experience if you can make it happen!
5. Encourage creativity and writing – Encourage your child to write his/her story. As we grow, our ideas about life and our perception of the world changes. Imagine if you had written a story through each of these stages. Looking back is a gift in and of itself and you do not need to be a New York Times Best Seller to write a story.  Writing is also a form of therapy and we see in journaling. Teaching your child to express themselves in their writing will help them understand their thoughts and their mind more than anything else.
I am sure there are many other creative ways to encourage reading in your home and I hope that whether you are a new parent or a seasoned parent that you know that it is never too late to start. The gift of imagination is better than any money you spend on material things. The gift of your time will be remembered always. 
Elizabeth Vainder, M.D.

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