Archives for January 2014

Mother and Nature: Finding Acceptance in the Coexistence of Both

Loving and hating, anxiety and excitement, shame and pride, guilt and confidence, tranquility and rage.

These are some of the most conflicting human feelings that can become magnified and confusing during motherhood, especially for a young, first-time mother of a new baby. How can these emotions coexist so strongly in one person almost at the same time? Is this normal? How do mothers recognize the signs that the intensity of these negative feelings is so strong that she must seek support? How strong is too strong for the emotional ups and downs of mothering/parenting?

Much about these emotions are part of being human. And part of human development and maturity is learning how our emotions affect ourselves and others. As we navigate the intensity and depth of the emotional side of motherhood, it helps to know that other moms of all ages and from a variety of backgrounds experience the same range of emotions. If you have ever found yourself wondering if the depth or range of emotions you are experiencing toward yourself, your partner, or your child is normal then check out the public radio show, Here and Now, podcast Psychiatrist Explores the Dark Side of Motherhood.

Psychiatrist Dr. Barbara Almond calls it the hidden side of motherhood, and says mothers shouldn’t be afraid to be more open about it. In her new book,”The Monster Within: The Hidden Side Of Motherhood,” Almond explores mothers’ negative feelings about themselves and their children, and explains why those feelings need to be addressed and expressed.

If you have ever found yourself concerned about your “dark side of motherhood” it is a good idea to talk to other moms. Share experiences, stories, and tips. And never forget that mothering “the good, the bad, and the ugly” are all part of being human.

Separate and Secure: helping young children with separation anxiety

I couldn’t leave, and I couldn’t go far.

My oldest child is a “slow-to-warm-up”, “resistant-to-change” kind of kid. This made her transition from staying home with mom to preschool a very challenging one. We had 5-6 months of LONG minutes at the door of her preschool classroom, negotiating, crying, screaming, kicking, the whole nine yards. She exhibited just about every trait of separation anxiety ever researched. And there I was, teacher, parent educator, child development “expert”, and mommy feeling frustrated, emotionally tired, and a bit confused. I thought I was prepared for this phase, I had read and studied all of the literature. I had watched other parents navigate this phase. So why was I struggling? Why was I crying in the parking lot after each episode? Why was I second guessing my decisions, reactions, and ability as a parent. Where had I gone wrong?

Looking back, I can see now with perfect clarity that my “mommy” role was overriding my training. I was responding to this phase with my heart rather than my background knowledge. And that was perfectly alright. I just needed a little reminder, some tips, and some encouragement from other parents that would push me over the hump and give me the security that my child was searching for.

There are many things that parents can do to help their child move through the phase of development that is marked by separation anxiety. This becomes especially important if children are going to be at a daycare or preschool on a regular basis. And there are important life skills that parents can help their child develop during this normal phase of development. Check out this weeks QwikSheet, brought to you by parentingpress.com, for tips on preparing your child for separation of various kinds.

It’s normal for children to be anxious when a parent or caregiver disappears, especially when the child is very young, or the separation unexpected. This two-page downloadable explains how adults can prepare children for separation by creating trust, describing what each family member will do when apart, and the many ways children can comfort themselves if anxious. Ideal for preparing an infant or toddler for child care, and an older child for preschool, kindergarten or even a parent’s deployment.

Teen Pillow Talk

It’s 8:30pm and our house is winding down. My 4th grader and my 1st grader are getting tucked in and appear ready for bed: slow paced, eyes half closed, not resisting bedtime etc. My 7th grader, on the other hand, wants to have a full-on, lively conversation with me at about a mile a minute. She is wide awake (even if I am not) and nowhere near sleepy. Even when I can manage to coax her into the bed and she tries earnestly to go to sleep, she complains in frustration that she “can’t fall asleep”. Some nights are worse than others especially because she understands the value of sleep to her future functioning. In fact, she gets anxious when she can’t seem to fall asleep and this makes the situation worse.

Studies show that tweens and teens need 8 1/2 to 9 hours of sleep per day. Studies also show that adolescent sleep patterns are very different from child and adult sleep patterns because of the changes that occur during puberty. Biologically, teens are programmed to stay up later (as late as 11pm) and sleep later. Unfortunately, few public middle and high school start times are designed to accommodate this shift in sleep patterns for adolescents. So how can we help our teens adjust to this shift in sleep patterns given this set of circumstances? The article titled Teen Sleep: Why is Your Teen So Tired?, brought to you by the staff at the Mayo Clinic will expand your understanding of teen sleep as well as offer tips for helping your teen get the zzz’s necessary to function optimally the next day. Check out the article and remember to let your teen know that it is “normal” to have difficulty falling asleep at night because of the changes their body is going through. In fact, a nice way to help your teen wind down might be a 15 minute parent-child “pillow talk” or “check-in” about their day or the day ahead. My daughter likes this because it is a special time for her and I to reconnect after a busy day. And maybe, just maybe, it’ll sweeten her dreams a bit when she does finally fall asleep.

Not Everything is Abnormal

Why is he so distracted?

Why is she so intense about everything?

Why does she do that?

These are some of the questions parents (myself included) find ourselves asking about our children’s everyday behaviors. Oftentimes, when these questions persist they lead us to believe that we must seek answers from professionals. We forget to check in first with our parenting cohorts to find out what other parents are experiencing. Chances are that other parents are experiencing the same or similar behavioral characteristics in their children. Many of these behaviors are normal developmental childhood behaviors and others are temperament traits that will mature and become more socially appropriate as our children grow, develop, and experience life. The article below, brought to you by Parentingpress.com, is a great resource for further understanding of the current trends in understanding and working with our developing child’s unique behaviors.

If you’re a parent whose confidence in her child is being undermined by caregivers or teachers who hint of psychiatric problems, you’ll appreciate “Back to Normal,” by clinical psychologist Enrico Gnaulati, whose new book is subtitled, “Why Ordinary Childhood Behavior Is Mistaken for ADHD, Bipolar Spectrum, and Autism Spectrum Disorder” (Beacon Press).

In American society today, Gnaulati writes, there is a “pervasive tendancy” to “medicalize children’s behavior” and to “categorize an increasing array of normal childhood reactions to stressful life situations as proof positive of a psychiatric diagnosis.” He uses the introduction to the book to agree that, indeed, it is difficult to determine whether a developmental lag, a strong personality or trouble at school are normal or evidence of something serious. But given the incidence of kids labelled with issues such as ADHD, he’s convinced of over-diagnosis: “ADHD is thought to be as prevalent as the common cold, with 1 in 10 children meriting the diagnosis–about as many children who use cold remedies at any given time.”

Shocked? So are we. The psychologist goes on to explain what he believes is driving the high number of diagnoses:

* It’s easy to confuse many of the symptoms of psychiatric disorders with everyday behavior such as forgetfulness and fidgeting, poor eye contact and rigid food preferences, moodiness and taking risks.

* It can be “cool” to be diagnosed. “We pin diagnoses on ourselves as if they are faddish labels or give us outlaw celebrity status,” he points out.

* Pharmaceutical companies oversell the public on mental illness.

* Doctors and therapists are trained to think in terms of disease and disorder. They are, he says, often blinded “to humanistic, developmental, and commonsense explanations for children’s troubling and troublesome behavior.”

* Boys are judged by “standards of behavior applicable to the average girl, not the average boy,” making what Gnaulati calls normal “squirrelly,” messy, roughhousing behavior seem abnormal.

Given all this, what should parents do if they’re concerned about a child’s behavior? In general, this expert says, consider “family lifestyle changes, parenting interventions, play and talk therapy”–and patience. He has specifics to recommend, too, and we’ll look at those later. In the meantime, we recommend you check his blog or ask your library or bookseller for a copy of this book.