Welcome to Heartbreak

As the summer dwindles down, it’s time for a new season to begin.  For many parents, this signifies a new transition in their lives, which has unexpected emotional baggage.

Many parents are now encountering for the first OR tenth time, the pain of letting their child go – be it college, boarding school or even the tentative first steps of nursery school or kindergarten.  Surprising that the pain of letting go doesn’t seem to diminish as your child grows.  It’s always a surprise.

All of these are yet more ‘firsts’ in the parenting journey – the surprising pain of letting your child go off into unchartered waters for the first time.  Some parents have described the pain akin to childbirth pain, ripping them up emotionally as their children depart.

The truth is, parenting is a series of “letting go” experiences, each with an equal tug of pain as childbirth.  Indeed, to be a parent is to learn to —

nurture and then let go,

nurture and then let go,

nurture and then let go,

—in a series of waves that continue on for a long long time down the road to growing up until they gradually recede.

Surprise! The pain of the moment is almost too much to bear.  Surprise! There is almost no one you can share it with.   You feel as if you want to announce to the world with tears, “Leo started ________________ today. “  fill in the blank: nursery, first grade, middle school, high school, first day at college.  You will likely receive a high five or congratulations from your peers, seeing it as a transition for you into liberation.  Oh but what about your aching heart?

For the majority of parents, these transitions can be both gut wrenching and invisible to the outside world as to just how painful this is.

How to cope?

First, know this:

Your paternal or maternal broken heart is utterly normal; this is yet another wave of child rearing.  Indeed, to be a parent is to have your heart broken over and over again – and it’s normal and healthy!  Sometimes, people reduce your despair as “empty nest” syndrome, a term that doesn’t even begin to cover what you’re going through!

Let’s look at your parent brain to understand the transition.  For many years, your parent brain has looked like this:

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As your child grows, your parent brain must slowly fill with other matters, or else each transition leaves literally an empty space in your brain/ heart space.

Here are some tips:

FIRST MORNING:  make sure you plan a comfort filler for your morning.  Know that your heart space needs some comfort today. TAKE THE TIME TO LET YOURSELF BE SAD AND THEN CELEBRATE. Breathe deeply. Practice letting go. Just like Lamaze but this time the contractions are in your heart. Meditation is a strong medium to acknowledge this journey and gain more equanimity.

BEYOND:  know that  it’s temporary in  a way.  For most parents, as soon as they see that their child has cheerfully adjusted, a lot of the pain becomes soothed.

HERE ARE SOME TIPS TO SURVIVE AND THRIVE:

  1. Accept the timing:  it’s time to let your little one (or big one) fly.  Be sure to let them know you are confident that they can do it! or – share your worries with them, just not the actual morning of the separation.  Worries should be discussed well ahead of the actual event.  if you are unsure of how to raise these worries, seeking professional help of a supportive therapist, even for one session, can go a long way.
  2. Create social support:   Social support can be incredibly helpful during times of stress and loneliness, and self-care should be made a priority during difficult transitions. There are practical things you can do to prepare for or manage the transition of children leaving the home. For example, time and energy that you directed toward your child can now be spent on different areas of your life. This might be an opportune time to explore or return to hobbies, leisure activities, or career pursuits.

  1. Adjust to your new role! This also marks a time to adjust to your new role in your child’s life as well as changes in your identity as a parent. Your relationship with your child may become more peer-like, and while you may have to give your child more privacy, you can have more privacy for yourself as well.

  2. Plan ahead! It’s a good idea to prepare for this transition while your children are still completely dependent on you, or before they leave home (depending on the age of the upcoming separation).

  3. Develop yourself: friendships, hobbies, career, and educational opportunities. Make plans with the family while everyone is still under the same roof, such as family vacations, long talks, and taking time off from work to make special memories.

  4. Special memoriestime to make special memories as a parting gift! Be sure to stick something special in their pocket, be it a felt heart with a magic message, or an extra gift card, something that says “I love you”.

5.  Long term: This low mood should go away as the activities of your newfound hours increase.  If not, please, please get some professional help.  Your child wants you to be happy too!!

With a little planning and a little self care, you too will survive this part of the PARENTING JOURNEY process!

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Just How Much Physical Activity Do Your Kids Need?

Let’s be honest: Toddlers are killing it in the zest-for-life department. Take Sophie who animatedly talks about everything, excitedly shriek at every outdoor discovery, or simply run laps around the dining room table. She seemingly never stops — and she does it all with what appears to be joy (or at least a manic state of exhaustion). But what are the guidelines for how active toddlers should be? Sophie plays outside regularly, attends playdates, takes swim class twice a week, goes to ballet on Saturdays, and can have a dance party like no other, but I have no idea if there is some sort of quota we are supposed to be meeting. Our goal is always to just incorporate multiple activities into our day.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, research indicates that 2 to 5-year-olds should engage in two or more hours per day of physical activity. “Many children less than 5 years of age fail to meet the physical activity Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guide of at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity per day​,” the website noted. Sedentary activity for young children has been shown to range from 32.8 to 56.3 minutes per hour.

“Toddlers should be quite active, as young children learn how to navigate the world around them as well as how to regulate their bodies and self-regulate their emotions through the sensory and physical world,” Dr. Rita Eichenstein, a pediatric neuropsychologist who specializes in child development, tells Romper in an email interview. “It is enormously important that toddlers be given as wide a range of sensory experiences as possible.”

Eichenstein says ideas for activities with your toddler include climbing, sand play, water play, playing at the playground, and experiences in the natural world, such as running barefoot in the grass, building a snowman, and nature walks and exploration.

“As our world becomes more constricted, it is important to build in these activities and not to naturally assume that toddlers will find these experiences on their own,” she says. “Many toddlers with an ‘over abundance of energy’ are really toddlers who need more interaction with their physical world, more movement and more sensory experiences.”

Eichenstein says being buckled in car seats, having to sit quietly at restaurants, and other constricted physical experiences are not developmental experiences for toddlers, nor are passive educational iPad apps or television shows. “Only through physical play does the young child begin to build a base for future enrichment,” she notes. “And movement is fun!” Exercising, moving, and playing with your toddler will keep their activity levels in check, Eichenstein says. “Music and props also help encourage dancing, moving, and self expression.”

KidsHealth noted that playgroups are also a solid way to score your toddler some active time. Plus, you’ll reap the benefits of meeting other parents with similarly aged children. And if all else fails, take it from me: Running laps around the dining room table with your kid is a surefire way to tire both of you out.

Adapted from: https://www.romper.com/p/how-active-should-toddlers-be-experts-explain-just-how-much-physical-activity-your-kid-needs-8677308

Do You Feel Sorry for Your Struggling Child?

Feeling sorry for a child who struggles with special needs is a common, understandable reaction from a loving parent. But — it’s not going to help your kid. Here’s how to adopt a new mindset that will.

Nine-year-old Amanda walked into my office, a worried frown on her freckled face. She heaved a heavy backpack off of her shoulders, dropping it with a thud and blurted out, “I’m exhausted!” Her mother agreed, noting, “I feel so bad for her all the time. She is under so much stress!”

As a parent, it’s hard not to feel sorry for your own child sometimes. It’s especially hard if your child has the extra burden of an atypical profile. Children with learning disabilities, physical disabilities, ADHD, autism, or developmental delays are additionally weighed down by the necessities of their diagnosis, whether extra tutoring, multiple therapies, socialization groups or intensive behavior training programs.

Parents may have to let go of typical fun activities, such as sports teams or school plays, in lieu of prescriptive interventions. It’s emotionally draining both for child and parent. No one wants their child to be different, and yet differences seem to drive the weekly calendar, continually reminding everyone of the “special needs” of the child.

A major reason it is so difficult to keep a positive attitude when your child is atypical is because, like all parents, you worry. You worry that your child will be bullied, have no friends, never go to college or get married. That he’ll suffer.

And yet, because children learn by watching their parents, it is critical to adopt a cheerful attitude. The way you see your child ultimately shapes her own self perspective. On top of everything you’re challenged to do, you have to cultivate optimism, resilience and confidence in your child’s outcome.

Is that hard? You bet it is. But if you keep these Dont’s and Do’s in mind, you’ll find it easier.

DON’T:

Don’t Always look through the disability lens

Your kid is a whole person with different gifts and great potential. The special need aspect is just one aspect of your child’s life.

Don’t Project

Sometimes, parents will worry about something that might happen – but it’s stemming from their own experiences or fears. Are you worried that he won’t be popular because you weren’t popular? Take some time to find out what your child is worried about; you might be surprised to find out that he is much more at ease than you thought.

Don’t Overindulge to “compensate”

Extra video games or unlimited treats, for example, do not have anything to do with your child’s disability. Stick to “typical” rules, while allowing for occasional leniency in circumstances that really do relate to her disability.

Don’t Be too tough

Tough love doesn’t work with atypical kids. Atypical kids are more fragile. Get to know your child and work with him consciously and gently.

DO:

DO Step in when necessary

Some atypical kids are prone to social isolation and depression. Teachers, even if unintentionally, can exacerbate the problem. Keep an eye on your child and have open communication so he’ll feel comfortable confiding in you.

You are your child’s advocate, and your child will need assertive intervention at times. This is not “babying” your child. It’s part of your job as a pro-active parent of an atypical child.

DO Encourage participation

Don’t limit your child’s activity options based on what you think she can’t do. If she really wants to join that club or try that sport or take those lessons, chances are there is a way to make it happen.

DO Enjoy the present

Staying in the moment and noticing your amazing child as she unfolds is an important—and joyful—exercise. Take a short break from the everyday jostle to savor small moments of just being together.

DO Express gratitude daily

Before bed, perhaps at tuck-in time, encourage your child to think about what he’s thankful for. Chime in with a few ideas yourself.  Practicing gratitude as a family goes a long way towards ultimate feelings of positivity and happiness.

Looking Forward

Still cleaning up the wrapping paper and tinsel? No time to plan ahead to New Year resolutions? That’s ok!

Sometimes the post holiday blues can take you by surprise- here are some easy tips.

1. Stay with it. Surprised? Trying to avoid your feelings doesn’t help them go away. Acknowledge that it’s ok to be a teeny bit blue after the flurry of holiday excitement – or the lack of it. Acknowledge that this is something that happens to you — and then — visualize the blues drifting away on that sailboat. Visualizing is an actual technique that can send the bad feelings out to sea.

2. Look forward. But not too far forward. Instead of the usual punishing thoughts (lose ten pounds, get in shape), Ask yourself what do I need FOR ME that would truly make me happy, inspire my week and re-set my engine. GO FOR SMALL- no it’s not “win the lottery” but “a nap and time for a good read by the fire”.

3. Gratitude Game: it’s not a cliche. Studies show that we can deliberately increase our sense of well being and happiness by thinking about what we are grateful for.

If all of the above results in a massive family hug- fest — all the better.

I am grateful for the opportunities to have interacted and learned from so many of you in 2017.

HERE’S TO A HAPPY 2018!

How to Avoid Un-Teachable Moments


Un-teachable Moments: those times when you wish your kid didn’t just see or hear that? Ever happen to you? 

How to Protect Kids from the Bad News: 

There is so much disaster, confusion and tragedy in the world right now. 

Exposure to a constant barrage of information about disasters and unstable political leaders flowing into our homes creates unintended consequences in terms of creating anxiety, uncertainty and stress. 

It’s all happening now, in real time, on our phones, on Alexa, in our cars – virtually anywhere. And it can be frightening for small children. 

Brain imprinting on developing brains:

What kind of imprint does all of this leave on children? 

All young children need to feel safe and secure, in order to grow their sense of well-being and their ability to courageously navigate their world. They do not yet have sufficient defenses to protect their innocent brains and imagination against a barrage of images and events. These horrific images create a primary imprint that becomes a future frame of reference for a young child. 

“I saw it and now I can’t un-see it,”

said a girl about a video she had inadvertently seen where somebody was shot and killed. 

Rresearch shows that chronic stress and fear is associated with significant brain changes, and possibly shows that toxic experiences actually re-form the architecture of developing brains. 
How do we protect the kids? It’s no longer 1960 when grown ups waited  until the kids are asleep for the grown ups to “catch up” on the news. 

It’s all around us. 

How to Protect and Convey Information to Young Kids: 

1. First, you can’t “un-teach” horrific images. Images become embedded in the young mind, with few defenses to protect it. Protect children from images that they aren’t equipped to handle. 

2. Limit discussing current events until YOU are emotionally regulated enough to share the information with your child at their level. 

Use my “SALT” method: 

S: SENSITIVE: be sensitive to the environment you want to create around your child. 

A: ATTUNED: become attuned to your child’s emotional state and your own emotional state when talking about issues

L: LOOK AND LISTEN: look at your child’s face carefully for reactions that they may not be able to express. Listen to their questions and reactions – answer their questions at their level. 

T:TRANSLATE: translate what you want to share in bite-size, kid-appropriate sound bites. News can be gruesome and scary.  They don’t need to know everything! 

Also: 

REASSURE: reassure your child that they are safe and you will always take care of them. 

PROTECT: above all, Protect your child from images that they shouldn’t be seeing. Save your frustration and rants over with your friends instead of using your kid as an inadvertent sounding board. 

Hopefully, with added vigilance, there will be less moments that you wish you could “unteach” – 

With wishes for a calmer world in this new year!