#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! 


Tagged : /

#50: 4 Ways to create long lasting friendships & how to know if your child is just shy or is struggling with social anxiety

“In poverty and other misfortunes of life, true friends are a sure refuge. They keep the young out of mischief; they comfort the old in their weakness, and they incite those in the prime of life to noble deeds. “ -Aristotle

August 6, 2020

Hey there! I hope you’re doing well! It’s no secret that one of the most important parts of life and it’s enjoyment are the people you choose to surround yourself with. Sometimes you get lucky and you have a family member you grow up with that’s close to your age, like a cousin or family friend, but sometimes it seems like real friends are just hard to come by…but are they?

When I look back to my childhood, I remember distinctly the first day of school jitters and the uncertainty that comes with a new situation. This year more than ever it will be a challenge, especially for those kids that are a little “shy”.

Even as adults it’s sometimes hard to make friends. It’s easy to get caught up in the day to day craziness of work and kids and forget to make time for friends and relationships. We really need to make this a priority. Here are 4 simple ways to not only make new friends but nurture the ones you already have!

Here are 4 real ways to make friends  that I wish I would have known when I was a kid. (Works for adults too!)

  1. Listening – The first one is listening. Maybe it’s just me but when I’m put in a difficult situation, I tend to talk more and this is absolutely the WRONG way to go. The reality is that we all want someone to really listen to us. I mean really listen, not the kind of listening that involves checking your phone while you’re pretending to listen. A sure way to feel ignored and feel like your opinion and what you say doesn’t matter to the other person, is when their eyes and their thoughts are focused on something else. 

The truth is that nowadays it’s a rare conversation that you feel like you have the other person’s undivided attention. So, be that person. Be the person that really listens, not the person that is thinking about what to say as soon as the other person stops talking. Be genuine. Listen with the intention to show the other person that you’re listening and that their thoughts and feelings are important. 

  1. Ask questions. The second is asking questions. Let’s face it, most people love to talk about themselves and what they like to do. Asking someone else questions about themselves is a wonderful way to not only learn about someone else, but to take away the attention from yourself. When you’re nervous about a new situation, taking the attention away from you and onto others is a wonderful way to learn about someone else. You never know, you may find that you have more in common than you think!
  1. Be yourself. The last and most important way to make long lasting friendships is to find the people that you feel most free to be yourself. If you find yourself in a group where you are trying to be someone that you’re not, or trying to say things or do things to fit in to that don’t feel right to you, chances are this friendship or group is not something you should pursue. Knowing who is not a real friend is almost more important than figuring out who is. Remember it’s not the quantity of friends you have it’s always the quality. 
  1. Be generous- I don’t mean be monetarily generous. I mean generous with your time. If a friend extends an invitation, don’t just show up, show up on time and plan for the next time! If your friend is going through a difficult life circumstance, show up, send a note and be there when they need you. Life has a funny way of going in all different directions, and sometimes you only get one chance to show up, so SHOW UP! 

Many of the problems in the modern world are traced to unhappiness.  Research suggests that we are overlooking the importance of friendship in these real world problems.

In fact, studies show that adults with strong social support have a reduced risk of health problems such as depression, high blood pressure and elevate BMI (obesity). Studies have even shown that adults with strong social support, live longer than those who don’t. 

So whether you’re a child or an adult, the importance of friendship is universal. Make it a priority in your life. Nurture your friendships, put yourself in situations to meet new people and make the effort to reach out to people that you are interested in getting to know better. 

Be open minded too!! Try to meet different kinds of people! Don’t limit your reach to people that look and think like you! Your life will be richer if you broaden your circle and your choice of friends!

Remember sitting at home waiting for someone to call you or invite you somewhere is not going to work!

I know for a fact that you have so much to offer, the secret is believing this for yourself. Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there for fear of rejection. Be more afraid of not doing so and finding yourself alone. 

Have a wonderful week!!

Elizabeth Vainder, M.D

If you are having significant trouble making friends, or maybe your child is, here are some signs and symptoms of Social Anxiety Disorder:

-Blush, sweat, tremble, rapid heart rate or mind turning blank

-feeling nauseous or sick to their stomach

-rigid body posture, little eye contact or speaking with an overly soft voice

-find it scary to talk to people you don’t know even if you want to 

-feeling self conscious and awkward in front of others

-being afraid that others will judge you

-staying away from places where others are

If you or someone you love has some of the above symptoms, it would be worth discussing this with your doctor. Studies show that with early intervention, many have been able to overcome these feelings and find meaningful relationships and friendships in their life. 

P.S- As always share this with a friend or someone you know! You never know who needs to read this too! Thank you for reading!

#49: A Story of Two Sisters: The Good Student and the “bad”: Recognizing Anxiety Early

July 29, 2020

In the summer kids usually come in for their check-ups. This is an opportunity for doctors to touch base with families and see how their kids are doing. This day was no different than others, and the next family hurried in. A 14 year old girl, tall and lean, walked in with her little sister. The young girl, turning 12 in a few days, followed closely behind and sat herself on the exam table. The mother followed. 

I love seeing families in the summer. Usually the kids and the parents are more relaxed than during the school year, when they are busy with school, sports and other extracurricular activities. I get to hear about summer vacations and camp. I also get to learn about how things are at school and if there will be any changes in the coming year for the kids. 

The little girl was sitting on the exam table with her head down, fidgeting with her fingers. I smiled at her and asked her about her summer and what she had been doing. She went on to tell me that she had been spending her days cooking and practicing basketball, which she loved. 

I asked her to give me more details about what exactly she was cooking and what kinds of foods she enjoyed the most. Her eyes lit up and she went on and on about how she loved finding new recipes to try on the internet and looked for you-tube videos showing people making different dishes. 

Then I asked her about basketball and she explained how this was her favorite sport. She was enjoying a summer camp that focused on helping kids perfect their skills and she “LOVED IT!”. This year, she was excited because she was trying out for the basketball team at school and she couldn’t wait. 

Finally, I asked her about school. This is when her face quickly changed and her eyes hit the floor. Her mom jumped in. “She isn’t trying very hard in school”, “We know that she can do better, but she doesn’t have any interest in school.” The little girl didn’t say a word. I tried to change her focus and asked her what her favorite subject was. She told me it was Science. 

Ah! A girl after my own heart! She explained to me how she had an amazing Science teacher that loved to teach them about their bodies, nature and the ocean. She told me that this teacher was her absolute favorite teacher ever! 

As we finished her exam and discussed healthy habits, I reminded her to read over the summer and keep her math skill sharp so that when the new school year began, she would be ready. She nodded and jumped off the exam table. 

Her older sister was next and we began her exam in the usual way. Her interests were different and the mom quickly jumped in to tell me how wonderful she was doing in school and how she had achieved the Honor Roll every semester. She smiled and shrugged her shoulders. 

She told me that her passion was History and English and that she was participating in a writing camp over the summer because she loved to write. The mother beamed. She went on to tell me about how proud she was and how she ALWAYS put forth her maximum effort. She then went on to say that she wished that her younger daughter would have at least half the interest in school that her son had. She told me that she knew that she could do better, if she only applied herself. 

The little girl sat next to her mom, staring at her nails. Her nails were chewed and little was left. Her mom then told me about how she wouldn’t stop biting her nails.  That her hands “looked terrible”. 

The visit ended and I spoke to each child and mother alone. I always like to speak to tweens and teens alone to see if they have any concerns or questions about their health. Sometimes they do and sometimes they don’t, but I think they like when a doctor addresses them directly and gives them the opportunity to talk. Sometimes they do reach out, but even when they don’t, they know that they can if they decide to in the future.

I asked the little girl about school and she started crying. She told me that she did try but that school was hard for her. She told me that her older sister was the smart one and that she was just dumb. We talked about how she wasn’t dumb and discussed a little more about what exactly was happening in school. 

I won’t get into the details but I then went to speak to the mother alone, explaining to her that I was worried about how her daughter was feeling. The mom then began to cry. She told me how she had tried everything and that nothing seemed to work. She agreed that she needed help but that she just didn’t know what to do. 

We discussed some options and I encouraged her to have her daughter have a formal evaluation to rule out possible learning challenges. She agreed. At the end of the visit, I explained to the girl how we all learn differently and that she was not dumb. The secret was finding out how SHE learned best so that she too could succeed in school. She wiped away her tears and smiled a tiny smile. 

These visits sometimes feel so rushed, since we only have a few minutes with each patient, but there are so many things that run through my mind when I see a family like this. It’s actually more common than you think and it pains me when I know kids are suffering in silence and well-intentioned parents just don’t know what to do. It’s impossible to fix these issues in a simple well check up and my hope as a pediatrician is to at least begin the process of healing instead of letting these issues spiral out of control. These circumstances can often lead to anxiety and depression later in adolescence and into adulthood.

The take away from this story I’m sharing with you is that we are all unique. We are all born with talents and as we grow, our focus should always be on learning more about ourselves. Finding out what doesn’t work for us is sometimes even more important than figuring out what does. 

The best gift a parent can give a child is to help them figure out what their unique gifts are and resist the use of labels to describe them. We are so much more than those labels, and those labels are sometimes carried for a lifetime. 

Have a wonderful week! 

Elizabeth Vainder, M.D. 


Some Signs of anxiety in children:

  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Difficulty sleeping, or waking in the night with bad dreams.
  • Not eating properly.
  • Often angry or irritable
  • Constantly worrying or having negative thoughts.
  • Feeling tense and/or fidgety
  • Stomach aches/ Headaches

Symptoms of Generalized Anxiety Disorder:

  • Trouble falling asleep.
  • Fear of being alone.
  • Picking at skin.
  • Nail biting.
  • Strong startle response.
  • Being overly self-critical.
  • OCD-like behaviors (e.g. checking and rechecking the door to make sure it is locked, etc. )
  • Refusing to go to school or having a hard time at school drop-offs
  • Difficulty participating in class and interacting with peers
  • Excessive worry about everyday things
  • Trouble answering questions when called on by the teacher
  • Disruptive behavior
  • Squirming
  • Frequent trips to the nurse (with complaints of headaches, nausea, stomachaches, or even vomiting)
  • Avoiding socializing or group work
  • Not turning in homework

Resources: www.childmind.org

Please remember that like everything, if your child has some of these behaviors, they can be normal ways of managing stress. If you are noticing multiple symptoms or all of the behaviors described above, please talk to you pediatrician.

#42: 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.

#29: Parenting teens

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. 

Tagged : /