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.
- 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.
- Start a conversation maybe after watching a movie together that brings up these difficult topics.
- Try to do more listening than talking when your child begins to open up.
- 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.
- 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.
- Blames others instead of self when they do something wrong.
- Feeling of hopelessness and negative comments
- Can not handle criticism – take things personally.
- Tend to avoid new circumstances for fear of failure
- Physical problems such as headaches and stomach aches
- Focusing on themselves instead of others when dealing with difficult situations.
- 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?
- 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.”
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!
- 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.
- 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.
January 29, 2020
It was a regular well visit for a young girl. She was 14 and there was clearly some tension in the room between mother and daughter. It is nothing unusual. The teen years often come with a lot of eye-rolling and resistance as the battle for independence is in full gear. This young girl was a little over weight and had some acne on her face. The mother pointed out that she was concerned about her acne, her weight and said her hair was brittle and thin. We proceeded with the physical exam and then I was able to speak to the young girl alone. In the office, I have the opportunity to speak to both parents and teens separately which is always something I find insightful. Usually the parents and the child are worried about very different things. It is frustrating. It is normal.
If you have a teen, you have experienced the eye-rolls, the quick short answer responses to your questions and the seemingly aloof attitude. It is as if nothing that you say really means anything or matters. I suppose over time this frustration can lead to a sort of “giving up” on talking or giving advice. These feelings can leave a parent worried about their teen and what he/she may not be telling them. Battles for even the silliest of things ensue and the distance grows larger.
The sad thing is that most teens feel alone as they navigate what can be a new and scary world. They are trying so hard to fit in and they are not sure of who they are and what they stand for. Some seem to cruise through the teen years without a bump and others struggle. It is a time of self-doubt and self-exploration. Who am I? Who are my real friends? What is life really about? Teens live in the now. The present consumes them and they think if a certain group of kids doesn’t like them or they are not cool their world is essentially over. Some become obsessed with how they look, their weight or their “persona” on social media.
Parents on the other hand are looking at the overall picture. They have experienced life and want so desperately to protect their teens from the evils in the world. It can become all-consuming. The internet has become a quick resource for teens and they have access to much more information (with videos and images) than most parents have ever had in their lifetime. It is hard to keep up. It is also hard for some parents to remember what it is really like to be a teen. They are so focused on their role as a parent that they do not really stop to put themselves in the place of their teen. This is exactly what was happening with my patient.
When I sat in the room with the young girl, the first thing she said to me was, “my mom hates me”. I paused. She continued and explained that her mother was always telling her that she needed to lose weight, that her skin looked horrible and that her hair looked awful and thin. She told me that her mother was always yelling at her and proceeded to cry.
In the next room the mother was waiting. When I went into the room she started to cry. She explained that she was a single mom and was trying her best to work and provide for her family. She felt alone and worried and didn’t know what to do. She went on to tell me that she was worried about her daughter who was often crying and refusing to leave her room.
This scenario is not uncommon. This the perfect time to bring up the possibility of therapy. Explaining to a family that sometimes what we really need is a neutral person to talk to. Someone that will not judge you and will provide a safe place to speak your mind. I try to explain to teens that there is nothing wrong with them if they see a therapist. There are times in life when we can all use a person to really talk to without the worry of being judged or yelled at. It is also a wonderful time to learn about coping skills and how to find productive and useful ways to manage stress and difficult situations. Often these therapy sessions can also involve the parents when the teen is ready and can prove very useful in helping communication. The earlier intervention begins the better. Studies show that the earlier we provide help the better the outcome.
Do not be afraid to ask for help and do not let your teens lack of attention to your advice stop you from giving it. This is when they need it the most. Even though it seems that they are not listening, they are. Be careful of the words you use and remind your teen that the best way to get through the teen years is to stay true to themselves. Encourage them to find friends that are like them (even if it is only one) and to focus their energy on what makes them truly happy and feels genuine to them.
However, more often than not the best approach is just listening. When you feel like you just can’t find the right words to say, say nothing. When you are considering giving advice but feel that the moment just is not right, say nothing. Many times in life what we all need is just to know that someone really cares. Be that one person for your child.
Have a wonderful week!
Elizabeth Vainder, M.D.
10 Ways to help your baby sleep through the night.
January 22, 2020
Good morning! If you just had a baby and you’re wondering how you are ever going to make it through this parenting thing on such little sleep, you are not alone! Having a baby can bring with it so much joy but as the initial stage of bliss begins to wear off, the extreme lack of sleep really starts to break you down. Before you start thinking that you will never sleep again, I am writing 10 strategies to help you get your baby sleeping through the night when he/she is ready.
I will add that newborns need to eat small amounts frequently. It is not appropriate to think that your baby will be sleeping through the night from Day 1, and if they are then something is wrong. So the strategies I am listing below are to help you approach sleep with your baby from Day 1, keeping in mind that you and your baby will change along the way and you need to be willing. Just when you think you found the best way, the baby will do something different. As baby’s grow, their needs change and as they become more and more aware of their surroundings, so do their reactions to what we do in response. This is especially important to understand as it related to sleep.
1. Less is more. When you are setting up a bedtime routine, remember less is more. I know there are many gadgets, sound machines, lullabies, etc out there to get your baby to fall asleep but you need to make it simple. You may not have that gadget when you travel or as your baby grows so remember less is more
2. Establish routines from Day 1. Babies thrive in routines and sleep is no different. Although it is difficult with a newborn it is not impossible. Try to create a pattern that the baby can recognize. For example: Bath, Story, Bed.
3. Create a quiet time 1 hour before bed. Studies show that it is more difficult to fall asleep and stay asleep when you use computers or electronics before going to bed. Establish this as a rule in your house from Day 1. This is the perfect time for reading and engaging your baby. (This means YOUR phone too…put it down)
4. Help your baby to fall asleep but do not put them to sleep. In other words, you can help your baby relax if he/she is upset but once they appear relaxed, just lay them down. Let them learn from the beginning how to fall asleep without you.
5. Once a baby is between 3-4 months old try to separate feeding from sleeping. You do not want your baby to associate falling asleep with breast feeding or even bottle feeding. Not only does this create a bad habit, but once a baby has teeth, you increase their risk of cavities if they fall asleep drinking milk.
6. Try to create a clear difference between day and night in your home. Daytime is when we speak freely, sing, dance and our lights are on. In the middle of the night we do not sing and dance! (at least not with a newborn).
7. Do your best to not run to your baby with every little sound. Newborns make lots of sounds and even a slight cry when they are settling in or trying to fall asleep. Let them try to get to sleep without your help after you have checked all your boxes: a.full tummy b. clean diaper. (you will begin to recognize your baby’s cries as you get to know them).
8. It’s never to early to introduce a “lovey” or a special blanket. While newborns can not sleep with blankets in their crib, older kids can. However, you can place a lovey or special blanket near your baby while you are helping them transition from day to night with your bedtime routine. Just don’t put it in the crib.
9. Say goodnight. Sneaking away from a baby will create anxiety. The earlier a baby learns that he/she is going to sleep alone the less anxious they will be about going to sleep. (imagine if you’re a baby and you fall asleep in your mother’s arms, thinking you are there all night, only to find yourself alone in your crib at 2 am!-ANXIETY!)
10. Setbacks will happen when a baby is sick or you travel. It is totally fine! Somedays you just have to do what you have to do to make it through. Just try to get back into your original routine as soon as you and your baby are ready!
Sleep is one of the most overlooked aspects of health that many of us take for granted. Our bodies need to sleep. Being proactive in creating healthy sleeping habits will not only help your baby but it will also help you. You will be a better parent with a good night’s sleep and it’s never too early to begin preparing for it with your new baby!
Elizabeth Vainder, M.D.
January 17, 2020
What makes a super parent? What is a super parent?
I have had the privilege in my 20 years of practice to meet many super parents. I have seen parents at their lowest points. I have seen couples come in excited to start a family only to find that their spouse is cheating and now find themselves as a single parent. I have seen parents dealing with a cancer diagnosis in their child or themselves. I have witnessed a child being abandoned by a parent and left with only one parent to raise them unexpectedly. I have seen parents lose their jobs and find themselves with no health insurance. I have seen parents faced with extremely difficult diagnoses over these years. Some are physical health issues, others are mental health issues and many are facing social issues. I have been their ear when maybe they had no where to turn. Many of the parents I see in the office are living far away from their families and are essentially facing this parenting thing alone. I have watched and observed and I have learned many lessons.
- There is no stronger advocate for a child than a parent that truly loves them.
- Faith and hope is sometimes all you have to hang on to, so hold on tightly and never let go of it.
- Having a child gives your life new meaning and you will make it through anything knowing that he/she depends on you.
- Your child thinks you are amazing and loves you unconditionally. They do not see the extra pounds or the messy hair. They just see you and that’s enough for them.
- Sometimes when someone walks out of your life, they did you a favor. It may be hard to see in the beginning but I’ve seen this in many families and the one left behind always come out stronger and happier in the end.
- There are good people in the world. It doesn’t matter what someone looks like on the outside. On the inside we all want the same things, especially when it comes to our children. We want them to be happy and healthy.
- What can seem like an impossible obstacle to tackle can be taken down one brick at at time. Just ask a mom whose child has completed a cancer treatment.
- Internal guilt serves no one and I spend a lot of my time reminding parents of this. So many times accidents happen and parents blame themselves over and over and replay scenes in their minds of how it could have been different. This is so destructive. It serves no one. Accidents happen and all we can do is look ahead and face the results however difficult they may be.
- A diagnosis does not define you. In fact it may be what you need to make a life change or change your perspective.
- Sometimes you will feel like you don’t have the strength to make it through. Trust me, you do.
- Never give up on your child. No matter how hard some days may be, wake up and do it all over again.
We can all be super parents. It can happen as quickly as a change of mindset. Only you have the ability to change your perspective. Try your hardest to acknowledge feelings of self doubt and worry but never let them control you. Focus on the amazing unique child that you have and love them unconditionally. Success and achievement is not for the select few. It is for those that are open to believing they can happen.
Have a wonderful weekend!
Elizabeth Vainder, M.D.
January 8, 2020
The end of a year always brings with it mixed emotions. It often makes you pause and reflect on the year that passed. It is interesting how certain moments or specific events seem to stand out. I’ve always wondered why some things are given more meaning in my mind than others. I can experience something with someone and they may focus on completely different emotions and remember entirely different things. So the reality is that a moment in time and the memories of the year that passed are created by the thoughts in our minds. It plays like a movie in your mind, but who is the director of that movie? Are you living your life or are you just going through the motions?
Sometimes, the thoughts are there and we barely take notice, and other times the ideas are all consuming. One thing I know for certain is that once you become a parent, the thoughts and ideas you play over and over in your head are almost replaced or overpowered by thoughts of your children.
This coming year, I challenge you to pause and try to live your life with intention.
1. Identify the moments in 2019 that made you happy.
2. Focus on the people that loved you and were there for you and seem to always be.
3. Think about what brings you a feeling of fulfillment and consider spending some time on whatever that may be.
4. Glance at your screen time (that your phone just loves to remind you of) and think of that the next time you say you don’t have time to do something.
5. Find 3 things you want to work on in the coming year and make a commitment to yourself to honor those promises you make to yourself.
Parenting can be overwhelming and all-consuming. It’s easy to get lost in the world of diaper changes, sick kids, feeding kids the perfect foods, school, homework, projects, setting up playdates and sleepless nights. I am encouraging you to dedicate 5 min, 10 min, 30 min, an hour every day…whatever you can to spend time nurturing YOU.
Your baby and your kids will benefit much more from a happy parent than a perfect one, so do things that make you happy and try to take life a little less seriously in 2020.
Try to repeat more of the moments that made you happy in 2019. Appreciate the people that love you and care for you (send a simple text – it’s better than nothing). Find things that bring you a sense of fulfillment outside of parenting and make the time to do this several times a week. You always show up when your kids need you. Start showing up for yourself and begin living your life with intention.
Happy New Year!
Elizabeth Vainder, M.D.