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

 

When your child is different..

October 8, 2019

It’s probably safe to say that at some point in your life you have done something to fit in. Perhaps it was a hair style, the clothing you wore, the way you spoke,…you know what I mean. It seems that this becomes especially obvious in the teenage years. The tall kids want to be shorter, the short kids want to be taller, the kids with curly hair want straight hair and those with straight hair want wavy hair. The race to average is on. Maybe your child is struggling with their weight or maybe they don’t like the music their peers are listening to, but they do it anyway, all in the name of being accepted and flying under the radar.

Sounds like a safe place to be, until the realization hits that happiness is not found in the pretending to be something your not or acting as if you like something that you don’t. In fact, trying to be someone that you aren’t will probably put you in uncomfortable situations and draw you to people that you have nothing in common with. You can feel it. When you are around people that love you and you feel comfortable, its an awesome feeling. You feel relaxed and probably laugh and are not worried that what you say will be misinterpreted or used against you. It’s the best feeling ever.

This is why it’s so hard when your child doesn’t fit into the mold that society says is normal or is born with a disability that makes him or her stand out. You feel stuck and unsure about how to parent your child.

Yet, history shows that some of the most creative geniuses and creative people that we admire, went through a phase where they too felt like an outcast or were rejected by their peers. So, today I want you to focus on the differences in your child and look at them as strengths.

Hone in on those differences and nurture them. Encourage your child to follow their hearts and pursue their passions, even if the world isn’t ready for them yet. Creating a love of learning or creating will take them much further in life that riding in the middle of the pack.

We are all born with our own unique potentials, it is up to us to find what they are. Celebrate what makes you different, don’t hide it,  and find your true self (and true friends as well).

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

 

Play-It’s more important than you think!

As pediatricians, we frequently receive updates regarding topics of interest that the Academy of Pediatrics finds important for us to be aware of. Recently, a new clinical report from the American Academy of Pediatrics caught my attention. They are recommending that doctors write a “PRESCRIPTION FOR PLAY!”.

Yes, a prescription to play. It sounds so simple. Yet, from 1981 to 1997, children’s playtime decreased by 25 %. Children ages 3 to 11 have lost 12  hours per week of free time due to academic pressures and organized after-school activities. The pressures felt from parents to keep up with the daily-changing electronic games and digital devices is real. Kids whose parents cannot afford the expensive digital toys may feel left out and kids whose parents CAN afford them, think that allowing their kids unlimited access to these objects is healthy and promotes learning. New games and apps come in the guise of claiming to help your child learn his or her ABC’s, math skills and or other didactic academic skills. Yet, studies show that the truth is actually that the opposite of this is true. Children’s creativity and play is actually improved with inexpensive objects that are found in any household…boxes, spoons, balls, puzzles, crayons, boxes, pots and pans, etc.

The importance of play, it seems, has been lost. Sometimes play is viewed as frivolous or a waste of time. Parents are spending a small fortune and endless hours in a child’s life in organized sports and/or activities. The competition in the academic world is real. Parent’s want their children to be the best and this sometimes comes with the loss of free play. Yet the studies show that play actually leads to changes in the brain in the molecular, cellular and behavioral levels. It is believed that play can have lasting changes in the brain that help to improve execute functioning and help in processing social interaction. Executive functioning is the process of learning rather that the actual content.  It has been shown to help children with improved self-regulation and self-control, better problem solving skills, filtering of distracting details, and mental flexibility. In fact, countries that offer more free play see greater academic success among children as they mature.  It has even been shown that children have lower levels of cortisol (which indicate lower stress levels) when involved in active play. This is especially important for children dealing with significant toxic stress and adversity in their daily lives, but is also important for decreasing anxiety as well. In fact, countries that offer more free play see greater academic success among children as they mature.

So what can we do? What can we as parents do to help change this? The recommendations are clear. Encourage free play in your day to day life with your children. You do not necessarily need extra time to play. Incorporate play in your day to day life. Engage your children in helping at home with chores, which can in turn result in role playing or fun games. Let your child lead with their creativity. If your child gets a new toy resist the temptation to show them how to use it. Let them try to figure it our for themselves. They may actually teach you something you had not even thought about! Make free play a priority instead of viewing it as a waste of time. Relax and enjoy in watching your child run around yelling “I am a pirate” or “let’s play school”…Free play, without constant supervision, helps children come together. It often brings children from diverse backgrounds together as the make up rules to a game, role-play and learn empathy. Through play,  children learn what its like to lose and  they are encouraged to come up with strategies to improve their outcomes in up-coming challenges. These interaction help to evolve independent thinking and creativity. Some of my happiest moments as a mom, was watching my kids build a fort and create their own stories and/or games. It makes me smile just to think about it.

It is up to us as parents to bring free play back into the lives of our children. Our world is changing and our children need the skills necessary to compete in the 21st Century world. We need them to be creative, innovative and problem-solvers. These are the very skills that free-play encourages through the development of executive functioning.

Stop and look around you. Take a long hard look at your child’s life and what his/her daily activities involve. Perhaps you have been feeling over scheduled and stressed with parenting and “keeping up with the jonses”. Play with your kids. Act silly sometimes and laugh. Enjoy games you played as a child and help your child discover their interpretation of the world around them, free from  your interpretation. The truth is that free play will not only help your child but you as well.

 

Below are age-specific recommendations :

  1. 2-3 months-  Respond to your infants emergence of a social smile by smiling in response. It helps an infant learn the effects of their behaviors. (making a parent smile when they smile).
  2. 4-6 months- Encourage games of peek-a-boo, laughing, and encourage your infant to discover new objects on their own. Instead of teaching an infant how to use a toy, watch them discover it!
  3. 9 months- At nine months is when babies begin to develop separation anxiety and stranger anxiety. It is a time when infants begin to learn self-regulation as they begin to use their parents for social refrencing. Your baby is looking at you for guidance. Make sure your facial expressions are encouraging instead of fearful as your baby begins exploring the world.
  4. 12 months- At this age, infants really begin to lay the foundation of the development of social skills/interactions. They love the feeling of accomplishment and true joy as they take their first steps or say a new word. Encourage your child taking those baby steps in self-discovery. Again, remember that your facial expression is what your baby is looking for.
  5. 2 year olds- Everyone talks about the “terrible twos”. I believe that the reason this is a belief is that this is a difficult time for a toddler. It is a time of emerging independence and they undertand usually a lot more than they are able to communicate. This leads to frustration and tantrums. Try to provide your child with some independence while staying close by providing words of encouragement when they fail or fall. Resist the temptation to scoop them up when they fall. Watch to see what they do and how they begin to problem solve.
  6. 3 year olds- By 3 years of age, most children have begun to communicate more effectively and can understand  cause and effect. This is when it is critically important to model behavior for your child. Help your child deal with emotionally challenging situations. Guide and lead but do not be so quick to offer solutions. Let them come up with their own ways and help them learn why some solutions may be better than others. Encourage drawing, coloring and creating. Sit back and discuss how wonderful that their elephant is purple and flies, just because… Encourage creativity and take them to the park, beach or outside with no agenda.
  7. 4-6 year olds- By 4-6 years of age, most children have started some form of formal teaching in an academic setting. If possible, try to select programs that prioritize free play and recess in these early years. If your income is limiting take the time when possible to find local parks or community centers where your child can simply just play…
  8. 7-9 year olds- By 7-9 years of age, many parents are focusing their child’s talents on one sport or another form of specific after-school activity. Many children this age spend sometimes 10-12 hours a week practicing and developing a skill. The pressures to be the best are beginning to become real and many parents with lower means begin to feel that their children are not able to keep up with their more “economically-advantaged” peers. The increase in the use of electronic devices increases significantly in this age group. Yet, studies show that active play for 1 hour per day, allowed kids in this age group to think more creatively and multi-task. These kids were also found to improved social-emotional skills that later are found to correlate with improved academic and economic success. Third grade prosocial behaviors correlated with eighth grade reading and math better than with third grade math and reading levels. So, set up play dates at the park. Set up no-electronic times in your child’s schedule and let them be “bored”. Boredom sparks creativity and taps into their imagination. Do not over-schedule them.
  9. 10 and beyond-  After the age of 10, most kids are playing electronic games and or watching more TV and videos than interacting in free play. Make a point to go outside (with no electronics) whenever possible. Find activities in your community that encourage free play. Play decreases stress, fatigue, injury and depression. In fact, adult success in later life can be related to the experience of childhood play that cultivated creativity, problem solving, teamwork, flexibility and innovations.
  10. Parents-  The benefits of play for parents are too many to  list. If your child asks you to play, do it. Enjoy the joy in your child’s face when he/she discovers the world. Go back to childhood, when life was simple, days were long and troubles were few. Create a bond with your child that will only strenghten with time, and have fun doing it!

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

 

 

 

 

Raise your hand..

June 12, 2018

“It’s kind of fun to do the impossible”-Walt Disney

Perhaps you have been there. You are in a board meeting or a classroom and an idea pops into your head. Your thoughts are elaborate. You are imagining something so amazing it has your head spinning. Suddenly you stop, look around, realize that you are in a room full of people and your thoughts begin to go in a different direction. “What would they think of me?” “What would they say?” “They will think it’s dumb” “They will laugh at me.” Just like that, your thoughts stop and you again focus on the discussion in the room. You listen and participate in the topic of the day and are careful to chose your words carefully and keep your seemingly crazy ideas to yourself…

It is situations like this that are all too familiar. I am certain your child has felt it too. Perhaps in school, in a meeting, collaborating with friends, or maybe even at home. Yet, we are surrounded by amazing inventions and technology that if you really stop to think about it, I’m sure at some point seemed absurd. An airplane, a telephone,  a car, a computer, a cruise ship, a smart phone, face time…the list is endless. Stop and think about that. Imagine when the inventors of these amazing things we take for granted first said they had an idea. I imagine the laughter in the room, the finger pointing, the discouraging words and the whispers. Yet, for some reason these inventors continued to look ahead and imagined the impossible with perseverance. We know many of these inventions are the result of persistent failures. It makes me wonder what instills that drive in someone to continue to work on the impossible? What determines the person that will succeed?

I invite you to ask these same questions of yourself and your children. Push yourself in your next meeting to say what you are truly thinking about. Express your ideas and see where they go. Sit down with your children and role play. Give them a scenario like the one I described and encourage them to speak their mind. Embolden them to raise their hand. Remind them that usually those that ridicule or laugh are too afraid to speak up. The laughter is often a result of nervousness, personal doubt and “fitting in”.

It is exciting to imagine the impossible. It is intriguing to see where your child will go with his/her ideas. As parents, we need to be reminded that our dreams may not be those of our children. Listen to what your children are interested in or not interested in! Imagine the possibilities…they are endless.

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

What’s your child’s super power?

June 5, 2018

The question of who am I is one that we have all struggled with and perhaps may still be struggling with….Small children look to their parents for approval and sometimes are encouraged or discouraged by the comments of their peers to act a certain way, dress a certain way, and behave a certain way.

In the tween years of course this becomes even more evident. As parents,  what can we do to help foster the development of the true self? It seems that most parents start off strong in this commitment when kids are very small. It is easy to let a small child chose their clothes, wear rain boots on a sunny day, wear plaid with stripes and pants that are too small. In fact, society encourages these behaviors as on lookers often smile and wave at your enthusiastic child as he/she runs the halls of the grocery store with a super cape on. However, once kids reach the tween years, that once confident happy go lucky child you remember can begin to feel self concious about their hair, their size, their clothes, their background, their identity…Perhaps even YOU remember those feelings of self doubt.

This is where I believe parents can play an important role in developing the true self. Encourage your child to explore new fashion, new friends, new hobbies. Give them encouragement and affirmation. Tell them the beauty that you see. Tell them the talents that you see. Even if your tweens/teen seems as though they really don’t want to hear it and you get the eye roll in response, keep doing it. We all want to feel beautiful and loved. Remind them that what truly makes someone beautiful is who they are. Tell them to trust the voice inside them telling them if something is right or wrong. Build up their confidence with true unconditional love.

As your child grows, encourage them to volunteer and give back. Help them find a cause that has a special meaning for them. Putting forth effort into giving and volunteering can feel so good. It can give your child a sense of purpose. Often when volunteering, kids become aware of the situation that others are in (perhaps even their same age). This can help kids develop empathy towards others. Volunteering can also help your child realize that you are never too small to make a difference.

Lastly, help your child set a few goals, even if they seem completely out of reach. Have them try to do something that is not in their comfort zone. If they fail, remind them that most successful people fail many times along the way. True success is not obtained over night and requires hard work and dedication. No one posts on instagram and facebook the training that they do or the hours that they put into studying to get to where they want to go. Most people just post the trophy, the graduation, and their successes. The real secret is that with failure is when we truly learn the most. It’s what you do when you fall that will determine your outcome.

Life is full of choices. Help your child make the ones that  feel true. The world needs new ideas and confident people leading the way. We all have something to offer and the journey of life is finding what that is. No one can be YOU. Real beauty is found in our differences. Help your child notice and develop those differences. The possiblities are endless.

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

photocredit:www.dreamstime.com