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Friday, March 18, 2016
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I thought I had dodged a bullet when my second son was born and my first seemed to fall in love with him right ‘out of the box’, so to speak. The baby was doted on, squeezed, admired, snuggled and generally adored by my older son. I was relieved…I had done something right, clearly! Maybe following all the advice to pay lots of attention to my oldest child, to include him in caring for the baby, to try to be extra empathetic and loving had paid off?
Well, it did to a certain extent. He was prepared to be indulgently kind to this interloper for at least…oh…6 months or so. And then it was time for this fun toy to be returned. Time’s up, guarantee is about to expire — mom, can we return him now and get some Legos instead?
I don’t know if the little one went from ‘baby’ (another species) to ‘actual child’ (direct competition) at around the time the tide turned. My older child would run past where the little one was sitting and attempt a swift kick as he passed by. He got angry a lot, was defiant and generally out of sorts. He was certainly not happy about the baby anymore, and he didn’t seem too happy about anything else, either. I could see that something had changed, and that something different had to be done now.
Here are six steps I took that were the most effective:
REALLY recognize what your older child is experiencing when you bring a new baby into their lives.
I know this is talked about a lot, but it’s not until we slow down and really let ourselves imagine it from our own adult perspective that we can help our children through this. Could we easily reconcile ourselves to the idea of our partners loving another partner as much they love us, with nothing being taken away from us? Would we welcome a new husband or wife for our partner, invite them to share our home and be impressed by their cuteness? Would we feel overjoyed by every new moment of delight they bring to our partner, relishing their joy and not feeling secretly abandoned and vengeful? When we truly recognize what we’re asking our children to handle, it is pretty sobering. Being able to get through the day with a smile on their faces starts to seem impressive.
Understand that the hardest part for your child is that they think you don’t KNOW how they feel about the interloper.
They know you want them to love the baby, but their feelings are mixed. They have some that aren’t so rosy towards the baby, quite frankly, but because you seem to really love this strange new being they think you can’t possibly KNOW about those feelings. The sensation of keeping the darkness all hidden inside is agony for them. Allowing them to release those feelings, to show you and tell you, is a HUGE relief for them.
The best way I found to do that was to take some time while the baby was sleeping and play a game with my oldest son that encouraged him to express it. I used an old teddy bear, but you could use any doll or creature that has ‘human’ qualities. The game was ‘If I had a little brother, I would like to do THIS to him’. My son was not comfortable with ‘If this was YOUR ACTUAL little brother’ (although some kids would be) so I shifted it to be more neutral. Sometimes I would pretend the bear was my real little brother — Uncle Charlie — which also worked. And then you steel yourself for WHATEVER gets done to the bear, and go for it. That bear got drop kicked around the room, pummeled, jumped on, strangled, thrown, yelled at, squashed — and that was just by me. Uncle Charlie was clearly still a thorn in my side. But the idea is that you make it OK that these difficult feelings exist. You laugh, encourage them to show more and more things they might want to do to the bear, enjoy the game…and your child starts to feel the release of the pressure of keeping it all hidden. They will understand instinctively that you are not saying that it’s fine to do this to the baby, but rather that you’re saying ‘I see how upset you feel inside, and I love you and accept you completely’.
I found at first that my child wanted to play this game several times a day, then fewer and fewer times as the feelings all got released. He became happier and calmer pretty quickly, and his need to express his anguish on the actual baby diminished rapidly. The key was not so much the DOING of the violent actions, but the SHOWING them to me and having me love him anyway. His heart was relieved, and so was mine. A relieved heart is a much happier one, and a happier heart is a lot nicer to a baby interloper than a burdened and guilty one.
To that end, if at other times your older child expresses negative feelings towards the baby, try your hardest not to contradict them, or persuade them against it. Saying ‘oh, but you LOVE the baby don’t you?’ is just another moment where they might feel like you can’t possibly know how they really feel. Try to remain neutral and mild in your response…’yeah, it can be hard to share your stuff’, or ‘yeah, I didn’t much like it when my younger brother cried either’, or ‘yeah, it’s funny how we can really like someone sometimes, and then other times not so much’.
Minimize opportunities for problems.
Of course, if your older child still wants to express their feelings physically on the baby once in a while, you keep the baby safe before anything else. Don’t leave them alone together, don’t give your older child any opportunity to experience themselves in that painful way. Watch their interactions carefully, and be ready to step in at a moment’s notice to diffuse a situation. If you miss the moment and something happens, step in unequivocally and remove the baby from harm — but yelling at your older child, lecturing them or admonishing them is counter-productive. It is YOUR job to keep the baby safe, not theirs. Make it clear the action was unacceptable, but be calm and clear, not emotional and angry. Give them many, many opportunities to experience themselves as successful around the baby and cherished by you.
Let them know the things you enjoy about them at the age they are right now.
My son really loved to hear about the ways in which being a big kid was cool. I made a point of saying ‘I’m so glad that you’re old enough to come and do (whatever it was) with me now,’ or ‘I’m really happy you’re not a baby anymore and we can chat about things and understand each other!’ All little reminders that he had value to me just as he was, and in ways the baby couldn’t even begin to compete with.
Do not require your older child to share their stuff or their space.
Obviously everybody has a different living environment, but even in a tiny one-bedroom house I was able to make sure my older son had an area that was just HIS. He didn’t ask to have this other person in his life, so I never required him to act like he did. If he had toys he didn’t want the baby to touch, we put them in his special zone. In fact, we had one of those baby containment gate things, and we used it to make a play area for my older son. He would sit inside with his things, and the baby was free to roam around outside! Because we were kind with him about this, he became much kinder to the baby, and much more willing to share because he didn’t feel powerless over his things.
My younger son turned out to be very respectful and thoughtful of other people’s possessions as a result, and wouldn’t dream of using something that belonged to someone else without their permission. He wasn’t intimidated into it, he just saw every day that we cared to make sure that everyone got to be in charge of what was theirs, including him. He’s happy to share most of the time because sharing was modeled to him as something that you get to choose when you feel good about it, not because you’re forced to.
Express UNCONDITIONAL love.
Showing and telling your child how much you love them WHEN THEY’RE NOT DOING ANYTHING IN PARTICULAR goes an amazingly far way with them. Letting them know that they’re lovable to you just because they exist is a healing balm. They understand from that that they don’t have to do or be anything other than they are in order to be loved by you, and that, conversely, your love is there no matter what they do. So, take a moment when you’re just hanging out and nothing much is happening to say ‘I am SO glad that I have you in my life!’ or something that feels authentic and true to you. They’ll feel the resonance and it will make both of your hearts sing.
So there we have it. I discovered that by allowing all of my son’s negative feelings towards the baby (in a safe way), he was freed up to have more positive ones. And not forcing him to share made him more willing to. And being unconditionally loving did more than any praise of how ‘nice’ he could be to the baby.
I am happy to report that my sons are now some of the closest siblings I know. People comment on their connection and the fun they have together, and although they occasionally drive each other crazy, they are bonded and happy.
Like any human being, children do best when their hearts are happy – their natural instincts are GOOD, and they desperately want to succeed at this thing called life. Given trust, love and support, we all do a whole lot better.
Terri Landey is co-founder of Bun and Bundle, offering prenatal and postpartum support for the whole family, including baby planning and postpartum doula services.
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Friday, March 18, 2016
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My butt was plastered in the newspaper recently. Talk about a moment to take a deep breath and exercise turning off my inner-critic and practicing self-love. In all honesty, who DOES love having their butt plastered in the newspaper, for school parents to show you and say “Look, it’s you!” They are looking at me — and I am looking at my rear end!
Self-doubt, self-loathe, self-critique — it’s within all of us. It’s like that little devil sitting on one of your shoulders ready to get in your ear the first chance it gets. Well, I’m going to share with you some tricks I use, some pointers, to help you turn it around and shut down that self-doubt. Believe me when I say it’s a constant work in practice and I think it always will be. I was recently told by a fellow body image advocate that “It’s a daily commitment to being better every day. Confidence is something you have to put on and wear. Sometimes we have to touch it up throughout the day like lipstick.”
5 Tips to Shut Off Your Worst Critic (YOU)!
- Shut it down. When you hear that critical self even open it’s mouth, shut it QUICKLY. Don’t even let it get its first breath out. Immediately switch it. E.g. “How cool, I’m in the local newspaper!”
- Tune out. Change of scene, change of topic, whatever. Getting out and about in nature brings you back to a quieter state of mind. Notice the trees, the sky, the birds or whatever you might be surrounded by so you can provide your mind with the necessary space to unwind and get back to the present.
- Good sleep. I have always said that good sleep is absolutely paramount . It’s like a domino effect. You sleep well, you make better choices, you are nicer to your kids (in my case), you eat better (and drink better) and your state of mind is at it’s best.
- Focus on the positives, not the negatives. Ok, time for an actual exercise. Stand in front of the mirror and say three positive things right off the bat. E.g. “I like this color on me” or “I’m proud I got my 8 glasses of water into myself today” or “It felt good to give some food to the homeless man in the park.” Then walk away and get on with your day.
- Learn to take a compliment. Why not practice this in that mirror at the same time as step 4! If someone says something positive about you, they might actually mean it, don’t you think?
What do you do to turn off your critical self?
Melissa Menzies is a Australian Mum to three young ones and lives in Palo Alto. Check out her fashion blog YummoMummo.
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Friday, March 18, 2016
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It seems as if everyone has something negative to say about the younger generation. Critics call today’s kids narcissistic and spoiled, blaming parents for being too permissive and overprotective.They say children don’t have enough grit and determination to get through life, leaving them unprepared for the real world.
But author Alfie Kohn debunks this kind of thinking in his new book, The Myth of the Spoiled Child: Challenging the Conventional Wisdom about Children and Parenting. Kohn has made a name for himself by questioning the origins and scientific accuracy of our cultural assumptions—for example, in his book The Homework Myth, he wrote about the lack of evidence supporting the benefits of assigning homework. Now, he’s taken a similar tack with today’s “youth entitlement” and “permissive parenting” critiques, combing through the social science research and finding virtually nothing to support these claims.
Although Americans seem bent on believing that the current generation is fundamentally “spoiled,” this view is not very different than that of every previous generation, according to Kohn. Writings by prominent authors over the last 150 years and even earlier demonstrate how every generation has had similar perceptions about the youth of their times. In addition, survey results used to suggest kids are more “narcissistic” these days are flawed, writes Kohn, reflecting a bias among researchers and a failure to even distinguish between healthy and unhealthy forms of narcissism.
“The generalizations one chooses to apply to the younger generation seem to depend mostly on the worldview of the person doing the generalizing,” writes Kohn. “Older people have always insisted that children are unusually spoiled, or that young adults are usually egocentric or entitled…one can make the opposite case—that today’s youth are more tolerant than their parents were and admirably committed to making the world a better place.”
The problem, he suggests, does not lie with kids, but with the backlash coming from “traditionalist” quarters that want children to be compliant and under parental control. The traditionalist view is that positive regard toward children should be conditional rather than based on unconditional love, that not everyone deserves to succeed, and that life should include deprivation in order to instill self-discipline. This view currently pervades discussions of education and parenting, as well as politics, argues Kohn, but it is not based on science.
For example, he questions the prevailing wisdom that kids need to learn the benefits of failure. Research shows that kids who fail are less likely to try harder in the future and often just give up, he insists, and that what’s important for progress in kids is having caring mentors and long-term goals they find intrinsically worthy. Not all failure is good; in fact, exposing kids to highly competitive situations, like spelling bees or classes graded on a curve, where failure is inevitable for many, may encourage some kids to work harder at winning; but it often kills intrinsic motivation and leaves a trail of dispirited “losers” in its wake.
“What’s most reliably associated with success are prior experiences of success, not with failure,” he writes. “Although there are exceptions, the most likely consequence of having failed at something is that a child will come to see himself as lacking competence.”
Kohn also takes exception to interpretations of the famous “marshmallow” experiment by Walter Mischel and colleagues, in which children were told that they could eat one marshmallow now or, if they could wait some period of time, they would be given two marshmallows to eat.
The original experiment was meant to study the strategies kids used to stop themselves from eating the one marshmallow immediately. But, according to Kohn, that got lost in the rhetoric, and instead the focus changed to the benefits of “delayed gratification.” In follow up studies, kids who were able to wait were found to have higher SAT scores, among other positive outcomes, making people assume a causal connection between self-control and academic performance.
But Kohn argues that the children’s cognitive ability to come up with strategies for distracting themselves—i.e,. closing their eyes or singing—was what allowed them to wait for a second marshmallow, and would explain why they might score higher on an SAT test.
In fact, in another set of experiments replicating Mischel’s study but with a twist, kids who were first primed to distrust the reliability of the researcher to fulfill promises ate the one marshmallow right away much more often than those who were given reasons to trust the researcher. This suggests that kids having trustworthy adults in their lives may be more important than self-control in delaying gratification.
Kohn goes through several more studies, debunking similar conclusions about the benefits of strict parenting, corporal punishment, having “grit,” and other social theories proposed by education or parenting experts. He makes a compelling case that many of these hypotheses get bandied about freely without careful scrutiny because of the public’s desire to see their own preconceptions justified. And the danger here, he argues, is that parents may end up discounting the robust research showing that unconditional love, positive role-modeling, and working with rather than controlling children is what benefits them most and prepares them for success.
But, despite Kohn’s extensive research and cogent analyses, some of his arguments feel forced and repetitive. Perhaps his relentless critique is necessary to counter the prevailing narrative, though I found if off-putting at times.
Still, we need voices like his—even if they are occasionally strident—to remind us why we can’t blindly trust our instincts. The kids are actually all right, writes Kohn, and parents don’t need to be harsher. Unless we want to raise a generation of unhappy, unmotivated kids, who don’t know how to think for themselves, we should probably try less name-calling and more kindness toward our youth.
And perhaps we all need to question the authority of those who suggest otherwise.
This article originally appeared on Greater Good, the online magazine of UC Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center. To view the original article, click here.
Jill Suttie, Psy.D., is Greater Good‘s book review editor and a frequent contributor to the magazine
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Wednesday, March 16, 2016
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If you’re breastfeeding a new baby, chances are at some point you’ll need to have someone else feed your baby. If you’re like millions of other moms, you may be wondering about how to pump and store milk, whether you’re going back to work or would like to be able to be away from the baby for a few hours without them starving.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that moms breastfeed or provide their pumped breast milk to their babies exclusively for at least six to twelve months. Each mom’s situation is unique and one size definitely does not fit all. I like this to be a guilt free zone because everyone is doing the best they can for their little ones.
Some moms offer one feeding of pumped milk or formula each day while breastfeeding at all other times. Others are only able to breastfeed or use pumped breast milk once each day and use formula the rest of the time. No matter what your situation is, there’s information here to help you navigate the world of pumping and breastfeeding.
There are a few babies who are models of flexibility and will take a bottle anytime you offer it, no matter when or how often. If you have one of these babies, you may be able to offer a bottle of pumped milk once a week and not worry that your baby will eat. If this is your situation, you’re lucky. However, if you’re like many moms with a baby who prefers to stick with their routine, you may find it difficult to switch from breast to bottle unless you also develop a consistent pattern.
Most babies develop the flexibility to nurse at the breast and drink pumped breast milk or formula from a bottle if the bottle is introduced at the right time and provided at least once each day. Some babies tend to be just like Goldilocks in the story of the three bears. You can’t introduce the bottle too early. And you can’t introduce the bottle too late. The timing has to be just right!
- Too early
If you introduce a bottle of pumped milk before your baby is three weeks old, it may lead to nipple confusion, with the baby seeming to wonder what this new thing is and refusing to drink from the bottle.
- Too late
If you introduce a bottle of pumped milk after six weeks, your baby may be set in her routine and be unwilling to try something new. This often leads to the baby refusing to drink and lots of tears from both mom and baby.
If you know that you have to return to work and will be offering bottles while you’re away from your little one, it’s best to introduce the bottle prior to the six-week birthday. If you’re reading this and your baby is older than six weeks, don’t give up; try anyway and offer pumped milk or formula in a bottle every day. Sometimes babies take the pumped milk or formula better from someone other than mom, so do get help from your partner or family.
Getting Ready to Pump: Tips and Techniques
• Pump in the morning. You’re likely to have more milk in the morning as a result of your rest throughout the night. Even if you were up multiple times, any rest will help you make more milk.
• To build up your supply and help your body get used to producing more milk, try to pump thirty minutes to one hour after the first morning feeding and at about the same time each day. This may not produce much milk for the first few days, so don’t worry. What this does is stimulate more supply in the next three to four days.
• Regular pumping each day at the same times stimulates more supply. Remember that producing breast milk is all about demand first, and then supply.
• The percentage of fat is usually higher with early morning milk. Even a little sleep helps moms make richer milk with more fat. If you’ve noticed that your baby takes a longer morning nap and goes longer between feedings in the morning, it’s a result of the added fat content in your morning milk.
• By the end of day, many babies nurse frequently and may be a little fussy. They may want to eat every hour. If you’re able to provide a bottle of the pumped milk, with lots of nutritious fat from the morning, around dinnertime you may be able to alleviate some of your baby’s hunger and need to eat frequently. This also gives you a little break, especially if someone else provides the bottle.
• Try to offer one bottle each day. Babies are more likely to stick with their routine and are less likely to refuse the bottle if they have a consistent experience. Some babies get out of practice if they go more than three days without a bottle.
• Encourage your partner or other family members to feed the baby with your pumped milk. Feeding a baby is a wonderful opportunity to connect and gives mom a much needed break from round-the-clock feedings.
• Many babies insist on mom, and they won’t take a bottle of pumped milk if they can smell or sense that she’s nearby. If this is the case, then it’s a good time for you to take a shower, or take time to rest, eat, recharge, care for any other children or get out of the house for a break.
• As you become more comfortable with pumping, you may be able to pump just before or just after breastfeeding and not need to wait thirty or more minutes. Some moms are able to pump, breastfeed and then pump again in the morning to build up their supply.
• Pumped milk may or may not separate into two layers: a thin bluish or white layer on the bottom and a thicker, yellow creamy layer on top.
• Pumped breast milk is like liquid gold. To avoid frustration from having to throw out unused milk, only store two to four ounces in each container.
• Label and date the container.
• It’s safe to store pumped milk in glass or hard plastic containers, milk storage bags or plastic bottle liners. Look for ones that do not contain BPA.
• Only keep a few days supply of milk in the fridge so that it doesn’t go bad.
• Have most of your pumped milk available in the freezer to thaw if needed.
Your breast milk is safe:
• At room temp for six to ten hours.
• In the fridge for five days.
• In the freezer compartment of a refrigerator for two weeks.
• In the freezer for three months.
• In a deep freezer for six months.
When thawing milk:
• Place the container of milk in a pan of hot water that has been removed from the heat, or hold the container under cool water, gradually increasing the temperature of the water to warm.
• Shake well before feeding baby.
• Frozen milk that has been thawed can be stored safely in the fridge for up to twenty-four hours.
• Remember, babies can drink milk or formula that’s at room temperature — it doesn’t have to be warmed up.
• Do not thaw breast milk and then refreeze it.
• Do not thaw or heat breast milk in the microwave.
• Do not place breast milk over a heat source.
• Do not place the container of breast milk in a pan that’s over a direct heat source.
• Never put nipples in the microwave as this can degrade them.
Barbara Dehn RN, MS, NP, is a women’s health nurse practitioner practicing at El Camino Hospital. She is also a television health expert known as Nurse Barb on ABC TV. For more information see www.NurseBarb.com
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Wednesday, March 16, 2016
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It’s a common scene at any daycare, playground or birthday party: a crying child clinging to a parent who is desperately trying to convince the child to let go and join the fun. Almost all children have some aspect of separation anxiety during the first six years of life. Separation anxiety should not be feared or even wished away, as it is an obvious and identifiable sign of your child’s love and trust in you.
It is the grand indicator that your child believes you represent the ultimate in safety and security, above anyone else in this world.
What causes Separation Anxiety?
Separation anxiety is a perfectly normal and important developmental adaptation of a child’s emotional and mental growth. It does not have a particular “cause.” Nothing you have done has “made” your child develop separation anxiety.
Even though separation anxiety has not been caused by any particular action or event, there are caregiver actions that can either heighten or reduce a child’s anxiety. There are many things that can help build a child’s trust and confidence in his relationship with you so that he can transfer these feelings to other trusted adults who will help him feel safe away from his home base.
How common is it?
It makes perfect sense that children experience separation anxiety when pulled apart from their main caregiver. Nearly all children experience some aspect of separation anxiety. For some children the stage begins earlier, even at a few months of age. For some, the effects begin later, and some children have anxiety that lasts for longer spells than others. Some children have very visible, obvious indicators of their feelings, but there are also children who have less apparent reactions. There is no exact pattern or set of symptoms, but almost all children have it to some degree.
Does my child have separation anxiety?Separation anxiety has many different symptoms, but it is often easy for parents to spot in their own child. It helps if you know exactly what to look for. The following are behaviors are most typically used to define normal separation anxiety:
- Crying when a parent is out of sight
- Strong preference for only one parent over all other human beings
- Fear of strangers, or of family and friends who are not frequently seen
- Resistance to separation at bedtime or naptime
- Waking at night crying for a parent
- Regression to an earlier stage of development, such as thumbsucking or babytalk
- Anxiety that is easily eliminated upon a parent’s appearance
How you can help your baby with separation anxiety
- Give your baby lessons in object permanence. As your baby learns that things continue to exist even when she can’t see them, she’ll feel better about letting you out of her sight. Games like peek-a-boo and hide-and-seek will help her understand this phenomenon.
- Practice with quick, safe separations. Throughout the day, create situations of brief separation. When you go into another room, whistle, sing, or talk to your baby so he knows you’re still there, even though he can’t see you.
- Don’t sneak away when you have to leave her. It may seem easier than dealing with a tearful goodbye, but it will just cause her constant worry that you’re going to disappear without warning at any given moment. The result? Even more clinginess, and diminished trust in your relationship.
- Tell your baby what to expect. If you are going to the store and leaving him at home with Grandma, explain where you are going and tell him when you’ll be back. Eventually, he’ll come to understand your explanations.
- Don’t rush the parting, but don’t prolong it, either. Give your baby ample time to process your leave-taking, but don’t drag it out and make it more painful for both of you.
- Invite distractions. If you’re leaving your baby with a caregiver or relative, encourage that person to get your baby involved with playtime as you leave. Say a quick good-bye and let your baby be distracted by an interesting activity.
- Allow your baby the separation that she initiates. If she crawls off to another room, don’t rush after her. Listen and peek, of course, to make sure that she’s safe, but let her know it’s fine for her to go off exploring on her own.
This too shall pass
Separation anxiety doesn’t have a specific beginning nor does it have an exact end. It shows itself in peaks and valleys – good days and bad, good weeks and bad, and even good years followed by bad weeks. It can be bewildering to parents when their child shifts from confidence to anxiety and back again many times during the first six to eight years of life, but this unpredictable behavior is normal. Gaining the maturity and skills to handle separation with confidence is a process, not a single event.
This stage, like so many others in childhood, will pass. In time, your child will learn that she canseparate from you, that you will return, and that everything will be okay between those two points in time. Much of this learning is based on trust and experience, which, just as for every human being young or old, takes time to build.
Excerpted with permission by McGraw-Hill Publishing from The No-Cry Separation Anxiety Solution by Elizabeth Pantley.