The simple way to find out what your child is worried about.

April 1, 2020

β€œCan you read me one more story?” β€œI’m thirsty”, β€œCan I go to the bathroom?”

Parents all around the world have heard these same questions right around the time that their kids should really be going to sleep! It can seem frustrating as you struggle to get your little one down and they get that second wind. 

The idea of having a few minutes to yourself seems so appealing yet your little one keeps on talking and asking for more. 

Tonight I’m encouraging you to stay a little longer and listen. 

There is something magical about that time just before bedtime. Kids will talk about so many things jumping from one topic to another. But – if you really listen closely, you will catch a glimpse into what their little minds are actually thinking about. 

Over the last few weeks, life has changed in ways that many of us could never have imagined. It has changed for our kids too and they feel it. Everything is different. No one is going to school, they can’t see their friends, school is perhaps on a computer now and there are no more playdates or get-togethers with friends. It is hard. Change is hard. 

Kids are not very good at expressing what they are feeling. (some adults aren’t either!)

They will complain of physical symptoms when they feel anxious or afraid. Other times they will misbehave or have tantrums. Pay attention to all of it. 

Kids are very good at eavesdropping on adult conversations and listening to the media. They make their own interpretations of what they hear. This can bring about feelings of worry or overwhelm. Sometimes they create ideas in their head that are not even real. Pay attention to what you say in front of your kids. They are listening. 

So tonight, when it’s time for your little one to go to bed, snuggle with them a little longer and lay down to listen. Listen with an open heart and validate their concerns and feelings. You don’t need to have all of the answers. Help them to understand what they are feeling and what they have seen and heard. You will learn a lot about your child in these few minutes before they fall asleep and they will know that you cared. You cared enough to listen. That is the greatest gift of all.

Have a wonderful Wednesday and stay safe and healthy

Elizabeth Vainder, M.D. 

The only thing guaranteed is change…

March 27, 2020

β€œIn the light of the moon, a little egg lay on a leaf….” -Eric Carle 

The Little Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle is one of the books that I loved reading to my kids when they were little. 

β€œOne sunday morning the warm sun came up and -pop! – out of the egg came a tiny and very hungry caterpillar.” 

The caterpillar in the story is so simple and has no idea of what the future will bring. It is born hungry and spends most of its time eating and crawling around. A simple life. One would argue maybe even insignificant. You wonder if it even thinks about the future. It just goes through life until one day….

β€œHe built a small house, called a cocoon, around himself. He stayed inside for more than two weeks. β€œ

You wonder what goes on in the mind of a caterpillar in this moment. Is it scared? Does it think that life is over? Does it think that it is dead? I imagine that all of these uncertainties and fears can be extraordinarily frightening for a little caterpillar. Yet, we all know how the story ends, 

β€œThen he nibbled a hole in the cocoon, pushed his way out and… he was a beautiful butterfly!”

The story of the Little Caterpillar is a story of change and of hope. The only thing ever guaranteed in this life is change. Nothing ever stays the same. This is true for all of us. Most of us, like the little caterpillar, go through life hungry for a deeper meaning of why but all the while feeling small or insignificant. A small voice in the howling winds. Perhaps afraid to take chances on becoming who we know in our hearts we want to be. 

So we build walls around us and we stay in there for weeks, months or even years, afraid. Comfortable in our cocoon.  Afraid to evolve, and frightened of the unknown. What a shame to be the caterpillar that stays in the cocoon. It will never know how beautiful it can be. 

So as we face the coming days of uncertainty and fear in our cocoons, I hope that we will use this time like the caterpillar and transform into our best selves with hope for better tomorrows. I hope that we can all become the butterflies we were always meant to be. 

Elizabeth Vainder, M.D.

Look for the helpers….

March 17, 2020

I can still remember as a little girl sitting hours watching Mr. Rogers Neighborhood. There was something about his calm voice that kept me glued to the television. Mr. Rogers would say, “There is only one person in the whole world like you, and people can like you just because you’re you.” He made you feel special. He also had a natural gift to make what were some of the most difficult or scariest of things seem manageable.

Here are some lessons that are just as important today as they were then:

1. Whatever is mentionable can be more manageable”. Helping children express their emotions can help manage their feelings. It helps us adults too…

2.You are special and so is everyone else in this world.” Everyone is special in their own way – the beauty is in finding what makes you and others special.

3.Did you know that when you wonder, you’re learning?”– Wondering can be the beginning of amazing things. We are surrounded by things all around us that began with a thought.

5. “I like to be told” – Mister Rogers was an advocate for preparing children when faced with moments of fear or anxiety. He would help children learn what to expect when visiting the doctor or the dentist. Telling someone what to expect helps with feelings of anxiety, especially if it’s from someone you love or trust.

6. Some things I don’t understand”– He wasn’t afraid to talk about difficult things that we face in the world. He gave us permission to accept that some things we just don’t understand. He reminded us not to be afraid of talking about what we are worried or thinking about. Journaling or talking to others can help us all with feelings of anxiety or worry.

So today, as we face this pandemic that is Covid 19, I ask that you stop and use Mr. Roger’s messages of hope as we navigate the next few days. Talk to your kids and encourage them to ask questions. Ignoring feelings do not make them go away. Trying to suppress feelings only help them to get stronger. It’s okay to be scared but we should always have hope.

I have faith that we will get through this together. The people of the United States will come together to fight the fight. Each of us with our unique talents will help us all make it through.

I have faith that we will prevail and be stronger and closer because of it.

Illness knows no color, race, religion or culture. Illness does not discriminate. We are in this together and we will get through it together.

So as we face the coming days, remember to keep looking for the helpers. They are always there.

Elizabeth Vainder, M.D.

-Quotes courtesy of misterrogers.org

Are you nurturing your child’s true self?

March 11, 2020

That genuine smile from a baby is enough to melt the toughest of hearts. You know the one…the one that always comes with that twinkle in their eyes. It’s funny because if you really pay attention to babies, you will see that each one is born with their own unique personality. It’s the nature vs nurture that we love to talk about. It’s when people say, “I wonder how those kids are so different, yet they were raised by the same parents!”

It’s funny because this is not the way it is at all! In fact I can tell the happy, smiley babies from the cautious more reserved babies from as little as 4 months. It is truly amazing to witness. I love to see a baby this little with their built in personality and watch them develop into the children and eventually adults of tomorrow. Of course parenting and the outside world influence the way these kids will grow and think, but I can tell you with complete certainty that babies are definitely born with their own programming. As parents, I challenge you and encourage you to be intentional in making sure that that innate programming is what you try to nurture from day one.

It is the little boy that wants to wear rain boots all day or the little girl that insists on dressing herself in whatever way she thinks. It’s challenging as a parent. It’s easy to get caught up in what the world thinks your child should be or how they should think or act. Instead, try to take a step back and allow your child to explore their creativity and uniqueness.

As children begin to learn to read and write, I think it is a wonderful idea to begin the idea of writing down their wildest thoughts and dreams. Even the ones about owning a zoo or world peace. Let their imaginations soar and do not put boundaries on what these dreams can be. Saying things like, “That’s ridiculous!” “That’s never going to happen!” or “Hahahah, that is not the way things are” are definite dream killers. What if parents instead created a wonderful notebook where the child could draw, write and explore these wild and amazing thoughts? Imagine the book you would have at the end of their childhood!

This book would be the perfect gift to give your child at the end of a milestone or the beginning of a new chapter in their life. It would be the gift of their true self. It would serve as a constant reminder of what makes them truly unique in this world and the innate passions that light up their souls. How awesome is that? How many adults do you know that could use one of these?

I can tell you that as parents, we hold the key to unlocking the potential that lives within our children. The world is constantly trying to encourage your child to “fit in” or live their lives based on strict guidelines. In fact, the reason most kids are suffering from anxiety and depression is because they realize that they are not like everybody else. The travesty is that they don’t appreciate that if they are not like everybody else, that is where their magic lies. If we are like everybody else, then we are not true to ourselves.

So the next time you child tells you the sky is purple, hand them some purple paint and get them a canvas. The world needs more purple skies and happy children.

Have a wonderful Wednesday!

Elizabeth Vainder, M.D.

Moms need friends too

March 4, 2020

Happy Wednesday!

I was recently reading that according to a study done in 2018 by the Global Health Service Company Cigna, 46% of adults in the United States reported feeling lonely and 47 % reported feeling left out. I don’t know about you but these numbers are not only sad but they are alarming. Here we are 2 years later and I wonder if these numbers are even higher than they were then!

I have definitely seen an increase in sadness, depression and anxiety in my patients and their parents. While we do not specifically ask patients if they are feeling lonely, I suspect that many would answer yes to that question.

We are living in a time where we are fooling ourselves into feeling connected via social media and chats but is it makes you wonder if it is really fulfilling our innate human need for relationships. Humans are social. We thrive when we feel included, loved and worthwhile. This is not just children, its adults too.

New moms often feel isolated as they find themselves for the first time home alone with one or more kids that depend on them for everything they need leaving little time to do anything for themselves. Feeling alone and with feelings of guilt for being sad when the world expects them to feel grateful all of the time for being moms. The problem is that along with those feelings of gratitude in parenting there are days that are just hard, and that doesn’t make you a bad mom.

When a mom is feeling sad or overwhelmed this affects her ability to show up as her best self day after day. This affects her relationship with her kids and sometimes results in yelling, frustration and impatience. The worst part is that usually when we lose our temper we feel terrible about it.

So try to put yourself out there. Join a mommy and me class if you can. Try to find another new mom that maybe you can walk with or meet up with once a week. You need to make it a priority in the same way that you make it a priority to take a shower. Relationships are what help our minds healthy and we need to prioritize this. Do not let motherhood isolate you from your friends or the rest of the world.

Even if you feel like the friends that don’t have kids just don’t get it, keep the friendships that mean something to you. You are still the same person you were before you had kids just with a lot more responsibilities. Don’t shut people out because they aren’t going through what you’re going through. Grow together and forgive each other when you make a mistake.

I know you know how important it is for your kids to have friends, so make sure you remember that you do too.

Have a wonderful week!