Tag Archives: parenting tips

FOR COUPLES: The Secret of Love and Parenting

loving familyKids can be challenging. But so can our adult love relationships. But are they the same relationship? In many ways they are, and what we learn from one kind of relationship, we can apply to the other. The common link is emotional intimacy and the big tug-o-war in every intimate relationship is the struggle between independence and union. While many people have heard of co-dependence, that pop psyche term that means no one can remember whose problem is whose, not many fully understand the feeling of a healthy inter-dependence.

Independence and union are the yin-yang of human connections. Being in union with another fills us up with feelings of security, confidence, and heals our loneliness. And sometimes being together can also feel more like suffocation and imprisonment. Independence can help us feel powerful, free, and proudly self-sufficient. But independence can also bring feelings of isolation, fear, and, with no cheer leader, insecurity.

Every intimate relationship is a live action game, it’s partners on the same team with (hopefully) a common goal. Like basketball, sometimes one partner runs with the ball and scores, and other times is happy to assist or play defense. You steer the parent/child team when you make a firm rule. Your child steers the team when his/her unadulterated insight blurted out at a family dinner, awes and amazes you, and you change your behavior based on it. In an adult relationship, you may choose to lead by instituting firm boundaries between work life, couple-hood, and family life. He leads when you all move to a new city for his job and know that the long-run win will be family harmony.

The biggest difference between parenting and adult love is the direction separation runs. When you meet a stranger and fall in love, your journey together is one where you continue to grow closer and closer to create deep intimacy. A mother/child relationship runs the opposite course. You begin, literally as one body. And your journey is a long, slow separation from womb to dorm room. Both kinds of relationships share this: on their journey together each partner’s needs for closeness and autonomy will wax and wane as emotional needs ride the waves of daily life stresses.

Some people might think that another huge difference is that kids can’t leave. They are wholly dependent on their parents. But I beg to differ. Although kids may be financially dependent on their parents, they can emotionally leave the relationship. They can check out if their well-timed calls for some  autonomy are not heeded. They can check out if they are given too much independence, and feel unprotected by their parents. Lovers can do the same thing. They may leave physically or emotionally.

So, how can we honor the struggle between our desires to be an individual and our desires to be a partner? The answer is always to talk about it. To have empathy for another’s autonomy and not “take it personally.” To voice our own needs for autonomy or closeness in a non-threatening way. The road to intimacy is a prickly path. We will often make mistakes in judgement, or act from a place of fear. But the other wonderful thing about all relationships is that they are alive and growing and there is always room for repair. And in that very process of repair, where we may use empathy and humor, we will feel in union again, that is, until the next time we feel smothered.

For more watch my youtube video on: Why IN-dependence is OUT

FOR PARENTS: How to Forget About Money

Young couple calculating their domestic billsWhen I was in that overwhelming space called new parenthood, I had a giant urge to work more. “Children need a yard. They need a playroom. They need a house,” I rationalized to my therapist. Thankfully, my wise therapist uttered only one sentence to help me surrender to motherhood. “A child’s home is his parent’s body.” With that I exhaled, spent less and focussed on my baby more.

Now new research supports my therapists advice and my own instincts. Elizabeth Dunn and Kostadin Kushlev of the University of British Columbia, staged a ground breaking study where they deliberately distracted parents with thoughts of money and then asked questions relating to parenting and well-being. What they found was a scientific snapshot of what every parent feels when they are taking a business call on their cell phone while caring for children: conflict and frustration. Worst of all, when thinking about money, parents reported few feelings of meaning in parenting. In other words, when we are making money for our children’s well-being, we get decreased feelings of the value of family and children. This effect was more pronounced for women than men.

So, what’s a parents to do? Here are three quick ways to put the love and meaning back in your parenting job:

1. Worry Less. While anxiety about money comes with the territory of parenting, cognitive behavioral therapists teach a kind of “thought stopping” where patients are asked to identify negative thoughts and quickly replace them with a positive thought. For instance, a thought like, “Will I make enough this month for my rent” could be replaced with “We’re so fortunate to be living in such a great apartment.” After a while, the thinking process becomes automatic and is connected with positive mood changes.

2. Put Boundaries on Family Time. It’s important to have time every single day where parents focus on kids and avoid all thoughts of work. Turn off cell phones during those times, so that you won’t get suddenly pulled away from your positive feelings of parenting.

3. Change Your Money Talk. If you find yourself talking about bills, work, stress, and money, change your tune. Children will pick up on that stress and your negative mood will become theirs, and even part of their personality.

Want more? Here’s a video on How Rich Kids Can Appreciate Money:

FOR PARENTS: WHAT EVERY TEEN NEEDS TO SUCCEED

teen-guy-texting-in-bedOkay, I’m going to say this right up front. I’m a sleep whore. I looove my cozy bed and by eight pm every evening, I start to count the minutes left before I hit another dreamy slumber. And if it my nocturnal wonderland comes one minute after ten pm, (preferable 9:30) I can get, ahem, a bit cranky.

My kids have my genes or at least my habits, because they like to go to bed early too. In fact my teenage daughter has been known to be a giant party pooper at girls sleep over parties because she takes an invitation to SLEEP quite literally.

So it was with great delight that I learned that science has proven that I am doing one thing right as a parent — enforcing sleep. A new study in the Journal of Adolescent Health shows that teens with late bed times not only have lower GPA’s but have increased anxiety in their twenties. Particularly harmful, according to the study, were bedtimes past 11:30 pm. Those kids scored much lower on cognitive tests. Duh! They needed a study for that?

If you have an adolescent night owl adolescent, here are three things you can do this week to help them get to bed earlier:

1. Turn off tech. Create a household tech curfew, say eight or nine pm. Be firm with no TV, computers or IPhones in the bedrooms. This will give the brain time to wind down slowly. When all tech goes off, the family can talk or create bedtime rituals. Ours is bath, book, bed.

2. Shut down the whole house. Yes, that includes you. After homework, dinner, and a kitchen clean up, I lock the doors, and turn out all the lights in the “living” areas as we retreat to tech-free bedrooms. If parents want their kids to go to bed early, they have to give the impression that the party is over.

3. Use a nutritional tranquilizer. Disallow any caffeinated beverage after 4 pm, and at bedtime, serve a cup of warm milk or a tablet of valerian root to help soothe those neurotransmitters into  lala-land.

And stick to your guns. Changing a teen’s sleep schedule is tough. In some teens, late nights even have biological underpinnings because of  hormone changes. And the pressure to do well academically can keep kids up with studies and worry. Assure your child that the best way to increase grades isn’t homework, it’s a good night’s sleep.

FOR MOMS: Creating a Village From The Get Go

MDG : Maternal Health : group of women with babies sits outside a clinic in RwandaHumans are wired to bond. We don’t do well in isolation. Neither do new parents. Our hunter/gatherer ancestors had an instant village of people with a biological interest in a new baby — grannies, aunties, uncles, teenaged siblings, and parents. In fact, many anthropologists think that a preverbal infant’s need to decode this network of faces and voices was a big factor in the evolution of our intelligence.

However, with the mobility required for an efficient workforce in modern capitalism, most new parents live away from relatives. But the lack of a granny doesn’t mean you can’t create a village from the very beginning. It can help you and your baby. Isolation has been linked to postpartum depression in new mothers, and babies respond positively to consistent multiple care givers. (I used the word “consistent” on purpose. A revolving door of caregivers and strangers can create attachment problems and anxiety in small children.) Here are three ways that new or expectant mothers can begin to create a nurturing village:

1. Start before you give birth. Collect every email and phone number you can from that pregnancy yoga class, baby CPR training, or labor prep group. You’ll likely be giving birth within weeks of each other and will have an instant group to reach out to when you run into a new mother speed bump.

2. Go online. There are thousands of mommy bloggers and parenting websites (For education, my favorite is KidsInTheHouse.com) and plenty of them have chat groups and real world mom’s groups that meet right in your neighborhood. Don’t be shy. Reach out. I promise, there’s another new mother living very close to you who can help you carry your burden.

3. Create a mommy co-op. This is the single best way to bond with mom’s and find some time for yourself. Post notices at neighborhood playgrounds and on your online social networks and create a baby play group. A reasonable number would be five to eight parents. After, a few weeks, when everyone has gotten to know each other and the babies bond with the other mothers, have two moms leave for some free time each week. That’s your village creating free child care.

Here’s my video on the importance of a mommy village:

FOR PARENTS: Can Twitter Prevent Teen Suicide?

r-IPHONE-ADDICTION-large570We’ve all heard tragic stories about online bullying and teen suicide. But, a new study suggests Twitter can be used to in suicide prevention. Researchers from Brigham Young University created an algorithm that scanned through millions of tweets across the nation looking for terms like suicide, dying, and other key words linked to depression or bullying. What they found was amazing. The suicide talk showed up in state-by-state numbers that closely mirrored each state’s actual suicide rates. In other words, early warning signs are available, if only every person were identifiable on Twitter.

The researchers suggest that, at the very least, suicide hotline groups could use the algorithms to respond via twitter instead of waiting for an old fashioned telephone to ring. Or, schools could have students register their twitter accounts (no privacy concerns, as tweets are public anyway) and the technology would give school counselors a ping when a student’s Tweets become concerning.

In the meantime, it’s important that all parents follow their teen on twitter and friend them on Facebook. Adolescents will write things on social media that they won’t say out loud. Following them as a quiet observer can help parents get inside their kids heads. However, I don’t suggest interacting with them much on social media unless you are prepared for the other kind of suicide — social suicide!