Like vs Love – There is a difference!

November 12, 2019

Those eyes! Its hard not to look into the eyes of a baby and immediately feel the intense love that comes from knowing that you had a big part in making this little person that is now completely dependent on you. It can feel overwhelming. You want to get everything right and that means no mistakes allowed. You read every book you can get your hands on and you prepare for the most important job of your life.

You look around at other parents and find yourself saying things like, “I would never do that!”, “I would never let my child do that!”, “Wow, how can parents be so mean?”, you get the idea. In your mind you think that if you love your baby that everything will just fall into place. If you find yourself thinking these thoughts, I urge you to pause. You do not know the story of that parent or that child and the complexities of a parent-child relationship. What you witness may be a five minute snippet of a deeper issue or situation, so do not judge.

Each parent is living their own unique life with individual circumstances that we may know nothing about. Focus on your relationship with your child instead and try to remember to keep an open mind. Life has a way of making you see things in a different light and perhaps even changing your mind. If you have two or ten children, each one of them will be “an original” and you will be a different mom for each of them.  You too will change as a person and grow as you parent each of your kids. Somehow the things that seemed so important with your first child seem almost insignificant with your third. The idea is to parent and embrace change. The only thing guaranteed in life is change. We have to accept change and use it as a tool to help us create new circumstances and opportunities.

In fact, as a parent, you will be challenged time and time again as your child makes his or her “mistakes” and comes to you for guidance. Some of their “mistakes” may even directly affect you. This is where the difference between like and love comes into play, so always choose your words wisely.

You can love someone unconditionally but not like what they did. You can love someone unconditionally and not like what they said. This is one of life’s lessons that can teach your child the importance of respecting others and their opinions even if you disagree.

So the next time your child does something that you disapprove of, whether they are three or sixteen,  remind them that you love them, but you didn’t like what they did. This will open up a conversation between the two of you that will help build a relationship based on love and mutual respect instead of leaving you both feeling judged or misunderstood. Communication is the key to a healthy and loving relationship. Chances are you will be the first relationship your child has, and teaching the difference between love and like is one of the most important.

Elizabeth Vainder, M.D., F.A.A.P

 

A healthy mind is the key to a healthy child.

October 22, 2019

It’s no secret that anxiety increases as we get older. Why is that? Why do we spend so much time dealing with anxiety and why is it so common?

If you look at a newborn or even a toddler you realize that their happiness comes from their needs being met. They are simple. If you feed them when they are hungry, respond to them when they cry, change them when they are dirty and help them to go to sleep when they are tired, they are for the most part “happy”. It is really that simple. Yet, millions of dollars are spent marketing to parents things to make their lives easier or more colorful. Marketing preys on the insecurities of the new parent as they stroll through the millions of options there are for car seats, high chairs, blankets, bottles, pacifiers, etc etc. The list is endless. Babies though, are happy with the simple. They don’t care what they are wearing or what stroller they are riding in. They really don’t. Yet parents spend a small fortune to keep up with what society has decided is cool or en-vogue. It’s fine I guess, if you can afford it and want to, but it is completely unnecessary.

Then come the childhood years when kids start going to school and begin comparing themselves to others. All of a sudden they become aware of the difference in each others appearances, homes, cars, clothes, etc. They begin to compare themselves academically, socially, and physically to their peers. It is during this time that the incidence of behavioral problems increases significantly. The reason for this could be because of these comparisons. All of a sudden, the child with the learning disability thinks they are stupid, or the child that acts silly realizes that this makes kids laugh so he/she does it more, or perhaps they feel like kids are excluding them in play groups or parties and they wonder if their is something wrong with them.

This is the window of opportunity that parents are given. This is when the window is open and all you need to do is reach in. If you think it is more than you can handle, seek help. Set up a meeting with the teacher, the principal, and gather information about your child and what they are observing in the school setting. Everything is important. Is your child going to the nurse everyday? Is your child giving you a hard time when you drop them off at school? Is your child struggling to read or having difficulty with math? Everything is important. Do not dismiss it or think that it is a phase or that your child just needs to mature. Your child’s social-emotional well being is developing during this time and just like you spend so much time worrying about what your child is eating and ways to ensure their bodies are healthy, we also need to pay attention to the health of their minds.

One of the best ways to do this is by encouraging kids to feel what they feel. Do not dismiss their feelings by saying things like, “you’re fine”, “you’re too sensitive”, “forget about it”, “get over it”, “stop crying”, etc. Instead, let your child feel what they feel. Hold them when they feel sad, explain to them that it is okay to be angry sometimes or to feel overwhelmed. There will most definitely be times in their lives when they are disappointed, upset or angry. Give them permission to feel those feelings in their entirety in their own way. Allowing a feeling helps lessen the intensity of that feeling. The opposite is also true. If you dismiss a feeling or tell them they are over-reacting, that feeling is still there, inside them, with no where to go. It needs a way out, so it presents itself with outbursts, sleep disturbances, physical symptoms,  behavioral problems, tantrums, or anxiety.

Anxiety is one of the most prevalent mental health disorders affecting society today. Many adults are dealing with this on a day to day basis. Some turn to drugs, smoking or alcohol to help alleviate their feelings of anxiety. Others take it out on those they love or closest to them (even their children). It’s the worst feeling ever when you lash out at someone you love or yell at your kids. This cycle of anxiety and anger is all too familiar in our society and one that needs our attention.

What if you actually admitted to your kids that you were having a bad day and really needed their help. What if you came home from work and told your kids that something at work upset you and that you wanted to go for a walk to clear your mind or talk to a friend. Modeling coping mechanisms that are constructive instead of destructive not only will help you but it will help your child understand that a) You are not perfect b) you have days that are tough and that its okay to feel upset c) How to support those that you love when they need you (empathy).

Encouraging communication with your children by sharing a story of something that has happened to you, is a great way to start a conversation. In fact, you may be surprised how much you will benefit from the talks with your kids as well. You will remember perhaps your childhood with its ups and downs and this will help you identify with your children even more. Kids love to hear stories about their parents! The realization that you too struggled with life’s issues is comforting to your child or teen. They probably never stopped to think about you that way. They are so worried about how life is affecting them that when we shift their thinking to something they can relate to, all of a sudden, their perspective changes.

This brings me to my last point. Most people spend 99% of their day worried about themselves and their immediate world around them. Perhaps they are thinking about work, home responsibilities, their health, their friends, their family, etc. Yes, the general population is trapped in their minds replaying the same thoughts day after day. Sometimes these thought are destructive and are filled with feelings of inadequacy. This is the foundation of anxiety, our thoughts. It is our responsibility to change our way of thinking and what we focus on. If you really stop to look around, you realize that most of what you worry about never even happens. What a waste! All that worry, all those sleepless nights and all that anxiety, for nothing!

What if, instead of just allowing our thoughts to control us, we actually actively thought about positive things throughout our day. What if we tried to see the good in people instead of complaining about the bad? We all have the power to do this. This is the secret to decreasing anxiety in your life. Teach your kids the power of gratitude, the magnitude of their thoughts and the gift of appreciation and empathy. A healthy mind is the key to a healthy child.

Elizabeth Vainder, M.D., F.A.A.P

 

Are you parenting in the GRAY zone?-maybe you should be…

September 24, 2019

Have you ever stopped to think about what you believe? I mean have you really stopped to think about it? Perhaps you believe something because your parents believed it too and taught you. Maybe you had a life experience that changed your view of the world. The truth is you are who you are because of what you believe, or have chosen to believe.

Did you know that there are approximately 7.9 Billion people in the world? Pretty amazing huh? What are the chances that each of those 7.9 Billion people believe the same things and live thier lives with the same values? ZERO.. Yes, that’s right zero.

I’m not telling you that you shouldn’t believe certain things or live your life according to what you believe, but I do want you to challenge yourself to opening up your mind to the fact that others can have different beliefs and its okay. In fact, it better than just okay, it’s what makes the world and relationships so interesting! Most wars, arguments and disagreements begin with just two people or two  groups of people having different beliefs.

It’s funny because one of the most valuable lessons I have learned in the years I have practiced Pediatrics is how similiar we actully are. Sure we may have different traditions or ideas, and of course we look different, but we all fundamentally want very similar things. I witness this every day when families from very different backgrounds come in asking the same questions and expressing the same concerns.

I’ve been thinking a lot about this with respect to the rise in violence and intolerance in the world today, the world your children are growing up in. It’s hard to watch the news without witnessing how extreme behaviors are influencing our youth. We need to do better. There is room in the world for all kinds of beliefs and ideas and we need to help our children understand this and live it!

As kids grow up they start to look for groups that they fit into. They may try out different friend groups only to find that they really do not fit in entitely into any. It can be tough as a teen to navigate these tight friendship circles! Sometimes kids start acting like their peers just to fit in and sometimes they make stupid decisions just to be accepted! These circles are often the beginning of hurt feelings, bullying and sometimes even violence.

Encouarge your kids to be open-minded when seeking out friends. We sometimes make so many assumptions about someone from the way they look or act that we don’t really give them a chance. (Adults do this ALL the time). It’s easy to talk to people that think like you and act like you. It’s a lot more challenging to try to meet people from different backgrounds, who may disagree with you, but really you are truly missing out! Staying in this black and white mind-frame is so limiting! Instead, try to encourage your kids to talk to different kids in school or at their after school actitivities.

Of course there is a chance that they don’t really want to hang out with that person  after school or invite them to their house, but it doesn’t mean that they can’t sit and have lunch together and enjoy each others company! Or, the exact opposite may occur and this could be the beginning of a real friendship. It doesn’t have to be black and white! Make your circle bigger and your joy in life will grow with it!

This is real life! Kids will grow up to be adults and will find themselves in the workplace surrounded by people from many walks of life. The earlier they learn about tolerance and living in the GRAY, the more well-rounded and happier they will be. Life is not a competition. Everyone has their own journey and ours can become a lot more colorful if we open up our minds to the GRAY zone.

Elizabeth Vainder, M.D., F.A.A.P

 

Are you parenting backwards?

September 3, 2019

Most of us are focused on everything that our children are doing. Are they hanging around with the right friends, are they studying, are they sleeping enough, are they exercising enough, are they practicing ways to stay calm and manage their emotions, are they eating what they are supposed to eat…the list goes on and on…it’s never ending really.

So as a fellow parent, I thought it would be imortant to stop and ask yourself if you are doing these things for yourself. Are you hanging around with the right people (do they love you and motivate you)? Are you still hungry to learn and continuing to better yourself and feed your curiosity? Are you getting enough sleep and exercising to take care of your body? Are you taking care of your mind to help it stay calm and peaceful? Are you eating healthy foods that energizes you and helps you to feel good?

The point is that most parents (me included) are not prioritizing these things for themselves and then get frustrated when their kids aren’t either. The part that we fail to understand as parents is that our words are empty if we and sad, unsure or feel bad about ourselves. The energy you bring into your home is more important than anything you say to your kids.

Do you nurture good frienships and model the importance of taking care of friends when they need you? Are you showing your children by example the importance of giving in a take-all-the-time world? Children learn more about relationships and friendships from their families than anywhere else. This includes parents, grandparents, siblings, cousins and family friends. What happens when you disagree with someone? Do you confront them and try to explain your feelings or do you avoid or reject? Well guess what, your children are watching and they are learning.

Do you make nutrition, exercise and sleep a priority in your life or are you driving through fast food restaurants and laying on the couch staring at your phone. Are you going to bed at a decent time or saying you’re tired all the time and yet you stay up late and look for pills or something else to help you fall asleep. Your children are watching and learning.

Are you able to stay calm in difficult situations or do you let your emotions get the best of you? This is often one of the most difficult. As parents when our kids are sad or angry, we immediately go into “Mama Bear” mode. The is often when we are confronational, do not have all of the information and act irrationally. I encourage you to learn to recognize this feeling and stop for a second before you react. I would guess nine times out of ten the next day you would not react the same way; so sleep on it. Yelling, screaming and “protecting your child” without all of the information is dangerous territory. We are teaching our children that they are never wrong. Perhaps it was a misunderstanding or maybe it’s not as big of a deal as your child is making it out to be. Encourage your child to explain in detail what they feel and what happended exactly. Ask questions that encourage empathy and “putting themselves in someone else’s shoes”. Reflecting on a situation is more productive than a knee jerk reaction. It’s kind of like an adult temper tantrum. When we learn to manange our emotions, we can help our children manage theirs.

It is ironic isn’t it? If we spend more time working on showing up for ourselves the way we know is best, our children will learn that with self care, strength and confidence they too can become their best self.

Enjoy your week!

Elizabeth Vainder, M.D.

 

 

Power in confidence: Helping your child deal with “difficult” kids or circumstances

July 27, 2019

As a parent it is hard sometimes to hold back when you think your child is being treated unfairly. It’s your job right? to protect your child always…. The problem is that by stepping in for every little conflict your child faces you are sending the message to them that they are weak and can not stand up for themselves. It doesn’t matter if its the fact that someone cut them in line in the playground or that a child said something mean to them or did not treat them “fairly”. The moment your child runs to tell you what happened your inner “Momma Bear” goes into fight mode. Who does this child think he is to talk to my baby like that? Who does he think he is not to share with MY child? I’m going to run right over there and set things straight!…Sound familiar?

I hear this over and over in the office. Complaints from parents about how their child is having trouble making friendships, crying easily in the classroom when things do not go their way and becoming more and more of an introvert. In fact, the other day a child (7 years old) told me that there was a “really mean” girl in camp that was bothering her and her mom quickly reported how she had to take her out of camp because of this “mean girl”.  Yes, this 7 year old girl could no longer enjoy the fun she was having in camp with the other girls she liked because of this one mean girl!   Running away from conflict or having you come in to scoop them up to safety is not doing your child any good. If you stop to think about it, you are essentially telling your child that when a mean person comes around, unfortately you can not participate in that activity anymore even if you are enjoying it. This is how we give all of our power away. Instead, empower your kids to have a voice and help them come up with solutions on how to best manage this situation in the future. consider these moments as “teaching moments” and help your child navigate through them when they are young so they have the tools they need when they are older.

Here are some ways that you can help your child:

First, understand that you are not in control of other people’s actions. Even if sometimes we wish we could, we simply can not. The only person you are in control of is yourself and how you chose to react.

Second, usually people that are nasty or mean are unhappy people. Think about it, if you are truly happy inside you would never be so mean or horrible to others.  This changes your child’s thinking about the person that they are focused on.

Thirdly, encourage your child to seek out the other kids in the class, playground or camp that are perhaps playing alone, or nice and have them try to start conversations with them. Have your child come home to tell you something new they learned about a couple of kids in their class. It’s funny because until you really start conversations with others you may not know how much you actually have in common! Make this a goal!

Lastly, teach them to act how they want to feel. If they want to have friends and be friendly then work on imagining what a friendly person would do and how they act. Do they come into a room and sit in a corner alone? Do they spend more time looking down at the floor than at others? No! Instead of waiting for others to approach you, try smiling a little more and maybe starting a conversation with a new student every week. Another way to do this is to try to be helpful. If a child is working on a project and is looking for markers and your child has some, encourage them to offer their markers. These gestures of kindness are always welcomed and in turn this can be the beginning of a real friendship.

In the end we want our kids to have meaningful relationships with others. This has been proven time and time again to be one of the keys to living a happy and fulfilled life. Learning how to deal with conflict and difficult situations will serve them well in the future when they have to deal with this as young adults and essentially forever! Give your child the gift of confidence and help them develop the skill of making friends. For some its easier than others but it is never impossible!

Elizabeth Vainder, M.D. , F.A.A.P

 

Self Worth is determined by YOU

December 4, 2018

The only person that can decide your self worth is YOU. It begins in infancy. You are born into a family and if you are lucky you are surrounded by people that love you and dote over you. Your family gives you praise, loves you unconditionally and encourages you to go out into the world as you walk into your first pre-k classroom. Parents worry that the world will hurt you or change you but they do it anyway. They know that with love comes risk and that the true job of a parent is to raise a child to be independent and to find a life that is meaningful to them. It is difficult sometimes since you never know the teacher your child will meet or the classmates they will encounter and it is scary.  There will be days that your child comes home crying because something wasn’t fair or someone said something that hurt their feelings. When these moments arise (and they will) remember that this is your opportunity to teach your child the greatest lesson of all. The importance of self-worth.

The truth is you can not change others behaviors. You cannot make people do or say what you want them to say. You can not control what they think of you. You only have control over your response to the situation and what you believe about yourself. The sooner you teach this to your kids the happier they will be. Do not give this power to someone else. Ask your kids what they believe about themselves and help them to find examples to back up their beliefs. Remind them of their behaviors and moments where they were kind to others and perhaps helped a friend. It seems that we are very good at remembering when we failed someone but not so good at recalling when we got it just right. It is important to forgive yourself when you make a mistake and understand that we all do.

Under the same circumstances, people have the option to decide how they want to respond and how they would like to show up in the world. Help your child to see those options. Imagine if you lived your life understanding that their are an infinite number of ways to respond to a situation and it all begins in your mind. When we give others the power to change your mind and how you see yourself you can be left feeling undeserving and not-enough. Instead, choose wisely the words and descriptions of yourself from those around you. Be selective about what you decide makes you who you are and show the world that you are important and you have something to contribute.

 

Elizabeth Vainder, M.D., F.A.A.P

Parenting: “Growing with your kids”

September 4, 2018

Good Morning! Today I want to talk to you about a topic that is very important. I am a parent, wife, a pediatrician and I am also myself. What I mean by that is that before I was any of those other titles, I was a person with interests, likes and dislikes, dreams and fears. It seems that more often than not when people become parents many of these things get shoved to the side to make room for this amazing new person that has come into your life…your baby. As a new parent, it is easy to be mesmorized by the soft, perfect features you see in your baby. You spend hours analyzing their face, their hands, their feet, caressing the softest skin you have ever touched. You marvel at the reality that this baby was created by you. It is truly a miracle.

When first time parents come into the office, they are nervous and are almost in a state of bliss; albeit exhausted! They want to do everything right. They come in with lists and ask many questions (the funny thing is that parents all have the same questions regardless of culture or race). They listen intently when I recommend something for the baby and take notes. They carefully take turns holding the baby and feeding him or her. Their entire focus is now on this baby. It has become a 24/7 “job” that we are immediately immersed in. It is the most important job you will ever have….

By the second or third week of parenting, the visits are a little different. Parents come in looking for tips to get their baby to sleep the entire night. They come in with bags under their eyes and forget to bring extra diapers and wipes (and of course the baby decides to poop in the office..). I remember those days of early parenting. They are difficult. You feel exhausted. Crying sometimes just comes naturally as you repeat your day over and over again with feeding schedules and diaper changes. It is over-whelming, but you push through and you keep trying to be the “perfect parent”.

I want you to know that there is no “perfect parent”. Be kind to yourself when you parent. Take care of YOURSELF too. In the beginning the idea of ME time is elusive but it is possible. If you are lucky enough to have someone other than yourself in the home, take 10/15 minutes to take a shower without a worry or simply just go for a walk alone to clear your mind. Don’t spend all day in pajamas day after day.. and don’t feel guilty about wanting time for yourself. Make time to talk to friends and friends even if it’s just a few minutes per day. Write down ideas about things you are interested in or dream about.

Make a promise to yourself that you will not lose yourself in this parenting journey. When you take care of yourself, spend time with those that you love, cultivate your interests and continue to dream, you will be happier. Being a good parent does not mean forgetting about yourself. In fact, the happiest moms that I see in the office are the ones that have their own interests outside of parenting.

I truly believe that one of the primary reasons women are depressed as their children get older is that they have lost themselves in the world of parenting. You don’t know who you are anymore. You sometimes lose your identity all together. Your days, weeks, months and years consist of playdates, school responsibilities and day to day parenting.

Please do not lose yourself to parenting. Make a conscious effort every day to do something that is important to YOU that is independent of your parenting responsibilites. Make it a priority. Schedule it into your calendar. It can be a short walk, meditation, practicing a hobby, reading, exercising…the possibilites are endless. Taking the time to take care of yourself will in turn make you a better parent. You will feel happier. Parenting should enhance your life not stifle it. Keep dreaming and becoming the best version of yourself. It is truly the best gift you can give your children. It will teach them to keep dreaming, to take care of themselves and to nurture their freindships and relationships. Grow with your children. Life is about  becoming the best version of yourself, and this includes YOU.

Elizabeth Vainder, M.D., F.A.A.P