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

 

Are you really living or is life just passing you by?

September 17, 2019

Remember when you were little and summer vacation seemed eternal? Those long summer days that you spent bored or with nothing to do? Remember also how the school year seemed so long and it felt like you would never finish the year?

It’s funny, it seems that once you become an adult, life seems to be in fast forward mode. The way January suddenly becomes December is almost cruel. You look at your kids and you remember the day they came home from the hospital with you and now they are off to college. It’s crazy!

I started thinking about this and began to wonder why exactly this happens. Time is time right? Why does time feel so slow when you’re little and quicker than the speed of light as an adult?

I really think this has to do with living life in the present. When you’re a kid you don’t spend your time thinking much about the past or the future. When you’re building a fort and planning a sleep over that’s pretty much all you’re thinking about! When you are playing hide and seek you are focused on making sure you don’t get caught and looking for your next hiding spot. It’s living in the now to the exponential power.

Somewhere along the road, we become adults and even though we are physically present somewhere our thought are somewhere else. Did I lock the door? What am I going to make for dinner? Will my son be okay today? Did I make the doctor’s appointment?

We spend so much time worrying about the future or regretting the past that we forget about what we are doing right now. It’s scary really.

Take the time to really focus on what you’re doing at least for a little while every day. Put away the phone and be really present. It doesn’t matter if you are making dinner, taking a shower, putting away dishes or doing laundry. Being present can make the most mundane things seem interesting.

The other thing is that we often fail to recognize how our thoughts change our mood. Worrying all day is certainly not going to feel good or help you feel motivated. Instead try making an effort to stay in the present. See how it feels and learn from your kids. Experience the joy of really living today and everyday.

Don’t let your thoughts and the constant notifications coming from your phone steal your life away. It’s truly amazing how much more you can get done when you really focus and are present. This week I challenge you to try this and see how you feel.

Remember that most of the things we worry about never happen anyway! (Parents worry about EVERYTHING!!) Don’t waste your time there! Have a great week!

 

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.

 

 

To Light the Fire, you have to be the Flame

August 27, 2019

It is sometimes hard as a parent to find the strength to be a “good” parent. Sometimes life is difficult and gets in the way of your intentions. You know the days I’m talking about. The days when you feel as though the world is against you and you feel like crawling back into bed and having a “do-over”. Well, guess what? We all have days like that. There is not one person in the world that doesn’t have a bad day and that’s the reality and the truth. The funny thing is that how you perceive your day is all in your head and the thoughts you are telling yourself about it.

So today, I’m asking you to press on the brakes and pause when you are having one of those days. Take a step back and look around you to see if things are really as bad as they seem. Did you get enough sleep last night? (those of you with newborns most certainly didn’t!). A lack of sleep can make the smallest of situations become the biggest of problems. Make sleep a priority in your life and that of your children. Teach them from a young age that a good night’s sleep is sometimes more important than cramming all night for that test. Your mind is clear and your thoughts more positive when you feel rested. Your body needs it.

Try to take a few minutes every day to do something that you enjoy. All that time you are wasting looking through instagram or facebook, you can be learning something new, spending time with a friend or reading about something you used to enjoy before you became a parent.

Remember the person you used to be? The person you were before you became a parent? The one that liked to play the piano? the one that liked to dance or paint? the one that enjoyed the theater or the career that perhaps you put aside to raise your little ones? That person is still in there. Don’t forget about them….

When you nurture who you used to be, you keep your flame alive. Your sense of purpose remains steady and your happiness will shine through. This happiness is what your kids are looking for everyday! Do you have it? That happiness that only YOU know, is your flame. It is the flame that will allow you to light the fire in the hearts of your kids as they journey through life and try to find their way.

So feed your flame, don’t lose yourself when you become a parent. Ironically being the best parent begins when you take the time to keep YOUR flame alive in order to help your kids light theirs.

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

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

 

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.