Parenting teens

January 29, 2020

It was a regular well visit for a young girl. She was 14 and there was clearly some tension in the room between mother and daughter. It is nothing unusual. The teen years often come with a lot of eye-rolling and resistance as the battle for independence is in full gear. This young girl was a little over weight and had some acne on her face. The mother pointed out that she was concerned about her acne, her weight and said her hair was brittle and thin. We proceeded with the physical exam and then I was able to speak to the young girl alone. In the office, I have the opportunity to speak to both parents and teens separately which is always something I find insightful. Usually the parents and the child are worried about very different things. It is frustrating. It is normal.

If you have a teen, you have experienced the eye-rolls, the quick short answer responses to your questions and the seemingly aloof attitude. It is as if nothing that you say really means anything or matters. I suppose over time this frustration can lead to a sort of “giving up” on talking or giving advice. These feelings can leave a parent  worried about their teen and what he/she may not be telling them. Battles for even the silliest of things ensue and the distance grows larger.

The sad thing is that most teens feel alone as they navigate what can be a new and scary world. They are trying so hard to fit in and they are not sure of who they are and what they stand for. Some seem to cruise through the teen years without a bump and others struggle. It is a time of self-doubt and self-exploration. Who am I? Who are my real friends? What is life really about? Teens live in the now. The present consumes them and they think if a certain group of kids doesn’t like them or they are not cool their world is essentially over. Some become obsessed with how they look, their weight or their “persona” on social media.

Parents on the other hand are looking at the overall picture. They have experienced life and want so desperately to protect their teens from the evils in the world. It can become all-consuming. The internet has become a quick resource for teens and they have access to much more information (with videos and images) than most parents have ever had in their lifetime. It is hard to keep up. It is also hard for some parents to remember what it is really like to be a teen. They are so focused on their role as a parent that they do not really stop to put themselves in the place of their teen. This is exactly what was happening with my patient.

When I sat in the room with the young girl, the first thing she said to me was, “my mom hates me”. I paused. She continued and explained that her mother was always telling her that she needed to lose weight, that her skin looked horrible and that her hair looked awful and thin. She told me that her mother was always yelling at her and proceeded to cry.

In the next room the mother was waiting. When I went into the room she started to cry. She explained that she was a single mom and was trying her best to work and provide for her family. She felt alone and worried and didn’t know what to do. She went on to tell me that she was worried about her daughter who was often crying and refusing to leave her room.

This scenario is not uncommon. This the perfect time to bring up the possibility of therapy. Explaining to a family that sometimes what we really need is a neutral person to talk to. Someone that will not judge you and will provide a safe place to speak your mind. I try to explain to teens that there is nothing wrong with them if they see a therapist. There are times in life when we can all use a person to really talk to without the worry of being judged or yelled at. It is also a wonderful time to learn about coping skills and how to find productive and useful ways to manage stress and difficult situations. Often these therapy sessions can also involve the parents when the teen is ready and can prove very useful in helping communication. The earlier intervention begins the better. Studies show that the earlier we provide help the better the outcome.

Do not be afraid to ask for help and do not let your teens lack of attention to your advice stop you from giving it. This is when they need it the most. Even though it seems that they are not listening, they are. Be careful of the words you use and remind your teen that the best way to get through the teen years is to stay true to themselves. Encourage them to find friends that are like them (even if it is only one) and to focus their energy on what makes them truly happy and feels genuine to them.

However, more often than not the best approach is just listening. When you feel like you just can’t find the right words to say, say nothing. When you are considering giving advice but feel that the moment just is not right, say nothing. Many times in life what we all need is just to know that someone really cares. Be that one person for your child.

Have a wonderful week!

Elizabeth Vainder, M.D. 

 

10 Strategies for getting babies to sleep through the night

 

January 22, 2020

Good morning! If you just had a baby and you’re wondering how you are ever going to make it through this parenting thing on such little sleep, you are not alone! Having a baby can bring with it so much joy but as the initial stage of bliss begins to wear off, the extreme lack of sleep really starts to break you down. Before you start thinking that you will never sleep again, I am writing 10 strategies to help you get your baby sleeping through the night when he/she is ready.

I will add that newborns need to eat small amounts frequently. It is not appropriate to think that your baby will be sleeping through the night from Day 1, and if they are then something is wrong. So the strategies I am listing below are to help you approach sleep with your baby from Day 1, keeping in mind that you and your baby will change along the way and you need to be willing. Just when you think you found the best way, the baby will do something different. As baby’s grow, their needs change and as they become more and more aware of their surroundings, so do their reactions to what we do in response. This is especially important to understand as it related to sleep.

1. Less is more. When you are setting up a bedtime routine, remember less is more. I know there are many gadgets, sound machines, lullabies, etc out there to get your baby to fall asleep but you need to make it simple. You may not have that gadget when you travel or as your baby grows so remember less is more

2. Establish routines from Day 1. Babies thrive in routines and sleep is no different. Although it is difficult with a newborn it is not impossible. Try to create a pattern that the baby can recognize. For example: Bath, Story, Bed.

3.Β  Create a quiet time 1 hour before bed. Studies show that it is more difficult to fall asleep and stay asleep when you use computers or electronics before going to bed. Establish this as a rule in your house from Day 1. This is the perfect time for reading and engaging your baby. (This means YOUR phone too…put it down)

4. Help your baby to fall asleep but do not put them to sleep. In other words, you can help your baby relax if he/she is upset but once they appear relaxed, just lay them down. Let them learn from the beginning how to fall asleep without you.

5. Once a baby is between 3-4 months old try to separate feeding from sleeping. You do not want your baby to associate falling asleep with breast feeding or even bottle feeding. Not only does this create a bad habit, but once a baby has teeth, you increase their risk of cavities if they fall asleep drinking milk.

Β 6. Try to create a clear difference between day and night in your home. Daytime is when we speak freely, sing, dance and our lights are on. In the middle of the night we do not sing and dance! (at least not with a newborn).

7. Do your best to not run to your baby with every little sound. Newborns make lots of sounds and even a slight cry when they are settling in or trying to fall asleep. Let them try to get to sleep without your help after you have checked all your boxes: a.full tummy b. clean diaper. (you will begin to recognize your baby’s cries as you get to know them).

Β 8. It’s never to early to introduce a “lovey” or a special blanket. While newborns can not sleep with blankets in their crib, older kids can. However, you can place a lovey or special blanket near your baby while you are helping them transition from day to night with your bedtime routine. Just don’t put it in the crib.

9. Say goodnight. Sneaking away from a baby will create anxiety. The earlier a baby learns that he/she is going to sleep alone the less anxious they will be about going to sleep. (imagine if you’re a baby and you fall asleep in your mother’s arms, thinking you are there all night, only to find yourself alone in your crib at 2 am!-ANXIETY!)

10. Setbacks will happen when a baby is sick or you travel. It is totally fine! Somedays you just have to do what you have to do to make it through. Just try to get back into your original routine as soon as you and your baby are ready!

Sleep is one of the most overlooked aspects of health that many of us take for granted. Our bodies need to sleep. Being proactive in creating healthy sleeping habits will not only help your baby but it will also help you. You will be a better parent with a good night’s sleep and it’s never too early to begin preparing for it with your new baby!

Happy zzz’s!

Elizabeth Vainder, M.D.

Pediatrician

DRVCARES

 

 

What makes a super parent?

January 17, 2020

What makes a super parent? What is a super parent?

I have had the privilege in my 20 years of practice to meet many super parents. I have seen parents at their lowest points. I have seen couples come in excited to start a family only to find that their spouse is cheating and now find themselves as a single parent. I have seen parents dealing with a cancer diagnosis in their child or themselves. I have witnessed a child being abandoned by a parent and left with only one parent to raise them unexpectedly. I have seen parents lose their jobs and find themselves with no health insurance. I have seen parents faced with extremely difficult diagnoses over these years. Some are physical health issues, others are mental health issues and many are facing social issues. I have been their ear when maybe they had no where to turn. Many of the parents I see in the office are living far away from their families and are essentially facing this parenting thing alone. I have watched and observed and I have learned many lessons.

  1. There is no stronger advocate for a child than a parent that truly loves them.
  2. Faith and hope is sometimes all you have to hang on to, so hold on tightly and never let go of it.
  3. Having a child gives your life new meaning and you will make it through anything knowing that he/she depends on you.
  4. Your child thinks you are amazing and loves you unconditionally. They do not see the extra pounds or the messy hair. They just see you and that’s enough for them.
  5. Sometimes when someone walks out of your life, they did you a favor. It may be hard to see in the beginning but I’ve seen this in many families and the one left behind always come out stronger and happier in the end.
  6. There are good people in the world. It doesn’t matter what someone looks like on the outside. On the inside we all want the same things, especially when it comes to our children. We want them to be happy and healthy.
  7. What can seem like an impossible obstacle to tackle can be taken down one brick at at time. Just ask a mom whose child has completed a cancer treatment.
  8. Internal guilt serves no one and I spend a lot of my time reminding parents of this. So many times accidents happen and parents blame themselves over and over and replay scenes in their minds of how it could have been different. This is so destructive. It serves no one. Accidents happen and all we can do is look ahead and face the results however difficult they may be.
  9. A diagnosis does not define you. In fact it may be what you need to make a life change or change your perspective.
  10. Sometimes you will feel like you don’t have the strength to make it through. Trust me, you do.
  11. Never give up on your child. No matter how hard some days may be, wake up and do it all over again.

We can all be super parents. It can happen as quickly as a change of mindset. Only you have the ability to change your perspective. Try your hardest to acknowledge feelings of self doubt and worry but never let them control you. Focus on the amazing unique child that you have and love them unconditionally. Success and achievement is not for the select few. It is for those that are open to believing they can happen.

Have a wonderful weekend!

Elizabeth Vainder, M.D.

Living with intention

January 8, 2020

The end of a year always brings with it mixed emotions. It often makes you pause and reflect on the year that passed. It is interesting how certain moments or specific events seem to stand out. I’ve always wondered why some things are given more meaning in my mind than others. I can experience something with someone and they may focus on completely different emotions and remember entirelyΒ  different things. So the reality is that a moment in time and the memories of the year that passed are created by the thoughts in our minds. It plays like a movie in your mind, but who is the director of that movie? Are you living your life or are you just going through the motions?

Sometimes, the thoughts are there and we barely take notice, and other times the ideas are all consuming. One thing I know for certain is that once you become a parent, the thoughts and ideas you play over and over in your head are almost replaced or overpowered by thoughts of your children.

This comingΒ  year, I challenge you to pause and try to live your life with intention.

1. Identify the moments in 2019 that made you happy.

2. Focus on the people that loved you and were there forΒ  you and seem to always be.

3. Think about what brings you a feeling of fulfillment and consider spending some time on whatever that may be.

4. Glance at your screen time (that your phone just loves to remind you of) and think of that the next time you say you don’t have time to do something.

5. Find 3 things you want to work on in the coming year and make a commitment to yourself to honor those promises you make to yourself.

Parenting can be overwhelming and all-consuming. It’s easy to get lost in the world of diaper changes, sick kids, feeding kids the perfect foods, school, homework, projects, setting up playdates and sleepless nights. I am encouraging you to dedicate 5 min, 10 min, 30 min, an hour every day…whatever you can to spend time nurturing YOU.

Your baby and your kids will benefit much more from a happy parent than a perfect one, so do things that make you happy and try to take life a little less seriously in 2020.

Try to repeat more of the moments that made you happy in 2019. Appreciate the people that love you and care for you (send a simple text – it’s better than nothing). Find things that bring you a sense of fulfillment outside of parenting and make the time to do this several times a week. You always show up when your kids need you.Β  Start showing up for yourself and begin living your life with intention.

Happy New Year!

Elizabeth Vainder, M.D.

 

Parenting Lessons Learned this year

December 27, 2019

It’s natural to end a year thinking of what the next year will bring and looking back at what the last year brought with it. It seems most of us look back as a critic. It is almost automatic that we look back and analyze how we maybe failed at a goal or did not show up the way we would have liked. This year, I am going to challenge you to look back with a different perspective.

Try looking back at this year with a loving heart. What were your intentions? Maybe someone misunderstood your actions and in return you felt as though you failed. The first lesson I learned this year was the importance of communication in relationships. More importantly practicing the art of listening instead of talking. The truth is our family and our friends and those we truly care about all just want to be understood. It goes much further when you actively listen to those you care about instead of jumping to give advice or solve their problems. This one I will continue to work on in 2020.

The second lesson I learned was to show up. Show up when someone needs you or invites you to a special occasion. These moments and these shared experiences are really what life is about. In fact, if I had to guess these will be the times you will truly remember in the future. (Not that you cleaned up your kitchen or made your bed). Forget the perfect house and just show up.

The next lesson is to take the time to take care of yourself. I know as a parent, it’s easy to put yourself to the side in order to take care of your kids. There have been many times that I would run myself ragged trying to be there and do everything for my kids and nothing for myself. It turns out that doing this only hurts your relationship with your family instead of helping. Those simple thirty minutes a day that you spend exercising, talking a walk, meditating or journaling (or whatever will bring you peace and closer to your goals) will make you a happier person and as a result a better partner and parent. Making this a priority and actually doing what you say you are going to do for yourself (instead of making excuses) is true self love.

The last lesson I learned and will continue to try my best to practice is to remember that my children are individuals with their own hopes and dreams. Each is unique and talented in different ways and has so much to offer the world. My job as a parent is to help guide them on their journey to adulthood while always celebrating their individuality and accepting their way of viewing the world. It is the hardest part of parenting. We want so much to protect our kids from disappointment and we worry about probably every single thing that could possibly go wrong on a daily basis, but the truth is that life is not just about the triumphs and the successes. It is through failure and disappointment that we truly grow. So the next time your child fails or feels like their world is falling apart, Β take a step back and keep your super cape away and just listen. Allow them to feel sad, disappointed or let down. Hold them and hug them and tell them that this too will pass but that its okay to feel sad, disappointed or let down. What is not okay is letting the fear of failure stop them from taking a chance again whether it’s on another opportunity or another person.

I look forward to the new year and I hope that I can take these lessons with me. I hope Β that you will continue to join me on this parenting journey in 2020.

Happy Holidays and Happy New Year.

Elizabeth Vainder, M.D.

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.Β  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,Β  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,Β  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